Tonight, I saw people streaming to say selichot at the Kotel, the Western Wall. Thousands upon thousands from all over Israel, from every background, dressed in every style, streaming to the Kotel and then standing together at a special time in a special place, opening their hearts.
I was standing next to a group that was looking at the words for the first time, and I envied them a little bit: “Our soul is yours, our body is your handiwork, have compassion on your creation”, “We have sinned before you, Be merciful towards us”. Sometimes the simple meaning of these familiar words is forgotten.
On the way to the Kotel I saw campaign posters, still hanging as before, of the election candidates explaining why only they are strong and good and why the others are not. The spiritual direction yesterday at the Kotel was just the opposite, appropriately preparing us for the coming campaign of Rosh Hashanah, the ten days of teshuva, and finally Yom Kippur: to search for what is lacking in me and not to hold others responsible for my own shortcomings; not to broadcast that I am the strongest and most powerful, but to acknowledge that I am weak and in desperate need of kindness and mercy. And yes, also to know how to admit that I am not perfect, that I made mistakes, and that I want to improve.
On Saturday night when Shabbat ends, Ashkenzim will join Sefardic Jews in reciting selichot. It seems to me that the timing this year is most appropriate for all of us.