What is Selichot?
The final month of the Jewish year – the month of Elul, which directly precedes Rosh HaShanah – is intended to usher in a period of deep self-examination, the kind of self-proving that is best achieved when we can strip away some of the obligations that blur our vision of the ”bigger picture” in our lives. It is during this month that we observe Selichot, which in Hebrew translates to “forgiveness", appropriate for our saying penitential prayers. We are taught that the High Holy Days can be truly efficacious only when we have thoroughly prepared for them by peering intently and honestly into our souls.
The final days of Elul are our last chance to prepare. Jewish tradition holds that on the High Holy Days, one atones for sins committed against God. However, for wrongs committed against one’s neighbor, co-worker, parent, children, spouse… one must seek forgiveness directly from the offended. Many Jews devote the month of Elul taking this practice seriously, seeking to make amends through introspection, conversation and correspondence. Elul provides us with the opportunity to think about the previous year and plans for what we would like to do differently, to look at where we have lost track of ourselves over the past year, and to reset our course.