Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saturday Sept 20

Passed day with almost
nothing visiting some


Just came back from
1st Slichoth, the first is
always very impressive to me

Even now in my house
I can hear the echoes of
the worshippers in the
synagogues surrounding
my house, they're still
at it.

It brings back old memories
when I and my father (olam haba)
went after midnight to

Those never to be forgotten


I think Papa meant to say he came back from the synagogue at 1 A.M. rather than 1 P.M., because the first Slichot -- that is, the first in a series of penitent prayer services leading into the Jewish New Year -- traditionally begins around midnight on the Saturday before Rosh Hashana and goes well into the wee hours. I've never participated in nor even known until now about this ritual (in fact, last Saturday night I spent first Slichot in a karaoke bar singing "Cracklin' Rose" and "Gin and Juice" after a friend's wedding reception) but I understand it to be one of the more moving, compelling services of the year due to its incongruously late schedule and the introspective, mournful nature of its prayers and chants.

Papa, of course, would have found the first Slichot especially wistful this year, his memories of attending services in the old country all the more bittersweet due to his father's recent death. His lovely account of the Lower East Side's atmosphere on this night, with sounds of prayer issuing from its myriad synagogues into the cool night air, the murmurs and chants cascading over its sidewalks and surrounding its lampposts and street signs and motionless carriages, leads me to question if, in fact, such a thing ever really occurred in New York City. Did those sounds really accompany him as he wrote this entry at his little table, or were the echoes he heard those of of his lost childhood, his father's voice, the world he was only just now realizing he would never know again?


Update 9/24/07

Cantor Robert Applestone, a friend of this site who has been in the business of singing Jewish prayers for 50 years, has been kind enough to let us record him singing a slichot prayer. Perhaps the echoes Papa heard sounded something like it:



There are a couple of informative summaries of Selichot at Wikipedia and Judaism 101.

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