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In preparation for the New Year and Yom Kippur, we say what is known as Slichot. From the word 'forgive' we go through a process every year of saying beautiful prayers, asking Gd for forgiveness. These prayers of introspection and praise, asking Gd to show His Mercy, are usually said in the morning, before the Shacharit serivce, and I find myself showing up late.
As part of my repentance process, I hope it’s fine that I open up my heart to you. I'm good at the Shacharit daily morning prayer service, but I have to get better at my Slichot focusing abilities. Don’t judge me. Many share my issues.
Here are my excuses for not making it to Slichot on time and spacing out.
It’s Too Early
They do Slichot before the morning prayers, Shacharit. I can't get up for Shacharit. I don't know what the rabbis expect from me. I'm assuming they want me to prepare for the High Holidays without sleep. Something to do with repentance through tiredness.
Most of the community doesn’t show up for the morning service. And that's on Shabbat. I don't know if that's because of how early it is. It's at 9am. For the community, it might have something to do with when they're serving Kiddish. If you can't get danish, I also don't see the point in showing up before eleven.
Personally, I can’t wake up for the Slichot. I just got access to Netflix. I’m getting caught up in too many exciting series, and now they want me to be up at 6am?! Please don’t question my drive, enthusiasm, and commitment to our religion. I am very committed to catching up on Shtisel.
I Get Frustrated When It Takes Too Long
The Chazan, leader of the services, is focusing on the prayers too much. And I'm focusing on him.
I understand that I’m supposed to be thinking about bettering myself. I can’t do that when I’m thinking about why the Chazan added two notes to the Hebrew words for 'wicked attributes.' It's hard to do Teshuva, repentance, when you're thinking about hurting the Chazan. By the way, adding notes to a tune at 6am is a wicked attribute.
The Chazan has to read faster. If they’re going to lead me and the congregation at 6:15am, they have to stop thinking about the words. You lead the people at their level. Our level is thinking about when it’s going to be over. That’s what the congregation is doing until we start Shacharit.
Devout starts at 7:30am.
I Show Up and I am Falling Asleep
Allow me to reiterate. It’s early. Even if I do wake up, it’s 6:15am. I’m falling asleep.
I’m not to blame. I’m tired.
Proof that I’m tired? I fell asleep on the pew. Anybody that falls asleep on a non-cushioned wooden bench that sits you at an acute angle should be forgiven for falling asleep in shul. They need that sleep. I should not have been woken up.
I Have No Idea What the Words Mean
My Hebrew is so bad. I can’t understand half the words.
I’m good with the 'Avinu Malkeinu' prayer. We say the words 'Avinu Malkeinu,' meaning 'our Father our King,' every line in that prayer and I am all in on it. There, I know two words in each sentence. That gets me excited. If we had a prayer saying 'Todah' and that's it, I would be fully focused on that prayer, thanking Gd. It’s the poetic beauty of the prayers, the meaningful words of glory, that ruin it for me.
I feel so dumb when I'm saying the Slichot. Everybody else is saying them with such confidence; kind of like they're proud of their sins. I'm sitting there like a fool, trying to figure out how Aramaic turned into Hebrew. We need a first-grade level Slichot book; a Slichot book where I can trace the letters. That would give me something to do.
Who taught Eliezer HaKalir Hebrew? I have no idea what he is saying. There’s no way he was writing Hebrew. They don’t teach that at day school. I am lost all the way through Simchat Torah. Anything written in acrostic form, I skip it.
I Bought a Slichot Prayer Book That Translates Hebrew into Hebrew
I tried. I thought it would help. Catch this. It didn’t. The word “Ritzazta,” translation is “Nipatzta.” Now there are two words I don’t know.
I prayed to Gd that my not understanding any Hebrew should be my punishment. That was my prayer. Now, I bring a dictionary to shul. That's what I spend all of my time doing during Slichot. Ever tried finding the Hebrew root words? That'll keep you occupied for a few Slichot sessions.
I am Too Tired to Really Mean I am Guilty
I’m saying I am guilty, but I'm thinking about the fact that my car needs an oil change. I space out before 7.
I should be thinking about my possible sins. I probably slipped and said a bad word about somebody. Did I pay dues? Did I forget to give change when they purchased the book? I’m not thinking about that when I say 'we tooketh advantage of others willingly and not willingly... we spoketh evil and words of deceit.' I’m too tired to connect to the Hebrew spiritual wording of 'thou' and 'saidith.' The extra use of 'th' comprehension doesn’t happen for me before 7:30am.
I Like the Songs Too Much to Feel Bad
I say I’m guilty and I feel bad, but actually feel good about it. I love the song 'we have sinned, we have rebelled…' It’s a great ditty. I sing that song and I'm feeling great. I sing it at joyous occasions too. It’s spiritual and heartwarming. I love the part where we sing the melody of 'speaking deceitfully' to a 'Yay Nay Nay.' I’m hitting my chest in penitence of joy. It’s a great tune.
I am a Slow Reader
I can’t keep up. No matter how long it takes, I’m still behind.
They should’ve had Hebrew speed-reading classes in Jewish Day School. That would’ve got me praying right. Now, I go with the speed of the Chazan. He finishes, that means I am finished. That is why I get mad when he’s thinking about the meaning of the words. When he does that, I can't skip anything.
Speed-Hebrew abilities also gets less people mad at me with the unvowing the vows. I've been ousted from communities for reading that too slowly.
I Didn’t Do all The Sins
I take too much pride in the fact that I am not the 'evil' one in the community. I like to justify my showing up late with the fact that I didn’t give evil counsel this year. I also didn’t murder anybody.
I was looking right at Mike when I said “Nipatzta.” He knew what I meant.
After letting Mike know he was a sinner, I fell asleep. I feel like I did my part of the Slichot for the community that day.
Though I have trouble reading before 7am, I’m thinking about getting the Slichot with the English translation.
If they put out another good series on Netflix or Amazon, I have no idea if I'll show to Slichot. I want to be there to repent for the sins of the other people who messed up. Even so, a decent series will take priority, and that's on the streaming service. And yes, it's a service too.
I know, I have to learn more Hebrew. That should be one of the sins I repent for this year; my Hebrew reading comprehension abilities.
The Shofar Gets Me Mad
This does wake me up. I can't sleep through somebody blowing the ram's horn right next to me. Yes. I'm using this as a chance to vent.
Who thinks it's a good idea to blow the shofar two feet away from me at 6:30am? I understand it's a beautiful Mitzvah, but that's early. It's the right thing to do, but it hurts my ears. I know it's supposed to wake us up to do Teshuva, but it's giving me more reasons to want to hurt the Chazan.
I hope my rabbi forgives me for this article. Though, I did write it before 7:30am.
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He said he was only giving ten percent to charity. They called him a Mayser.
You get it? Miser. Mayser. Mayser is a tithe. They sound alike. If a Mayser was a type of person, it would work. He'd be a Mayser who gives Mayser. The Mayser would be a Miser.
Respect for our members of Hatzalah. What these guys are willing to do to drive a car on Shabbis... That guy on the right looks too comfortable to save anybody. The guy on the left is the one I would want showing up. He’s got more keys, and that’s the sign of a Hatzalah man that knows what’s going on... I respect them stopping and posing for the picture. It’s a great photo. I just hope the guy they were on their way to made it. (photo: hatzalah.org)