Shema Koleynu is one of the most powerful prayers on Yom Kippur.
“Hear us o God and do not leave us alone. Respond to us and do not forsake us!”
The High Holy Days are filled with prayers that invoke our need for God in our lives. But what about people who don’t relate to any form or concept of God? What does it mean for a Jew who doesn’t believe to stand up on Yom Kippur and say, “Hear our pleas, O God”?
Elizabeth explores this question through the lens of the High Holy Day “Shema Koleynu.”
In the age of doubt and true skepticism, the answer might be found in the strength of individuals who make up the diverse tapestry of a Jewish community.
Weekday Service September 13, 2020 with Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein and Hazzan Devorah Tucker-Fick with a special teaching by Karen November. [Click Here to Listen]
The 13 attributes of God, in Hebrew called the middot, can be found in Exodus 34:6. Two biblical chapters after the Israelites commit the grave sin of building a golden calf and worshipping in its midst.
The Talmud explains that God gave Moses a way to appease divine anger by reciting these attributes and since then, Jewish people have had access to a special way appeal to God to forgive our sins. We recite these holy words at auspicious times when we hope to find God ready to accept us with love.
However, we are not always in the right place to be loving. Devorah explores righteous anger that may be holding us back from forgiveness and a clean slate.
The 13 middot demonstrate that is not anger that we should be afraid of, but rather its excesses. As God models turning back from excessive anger, so too can we follow this example. The 13 middot show us the way.
Exodus 34:6 וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת ׀
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, [Sefaria]
Hashivenu....Return to us, and we will return to you. The Selichot / the Sorries begin Saturday night. There is so much on our plates this year but we need to take the time to hit the “restart” button in our souls. Return again to the land of our Souls.
Elizabeth reflects on a hard day at the intersection of Elul and the preparation for the Holy Days. We can’t control anyone’s actions but our own. Have compassion on us, our God, and help us to be better as we approach the High Holy Days.
Hineni.Space posts brief daily offerings (Elul meditations, reflections, poetry, and melodies). There is a tradition to hear the shofar every day of the month of Elul and to recite the verses of Psalm 27.