Slichot סליחות Information

We relate to HaShem in different modes during our process of Teshuvah. One is:

As Father to a Son; and a Son to a Father

This takes place usually on Yom Kippur.

The father does not expect his son to help him to realize his goals. In a certain respect, he even expects his son to set out on a new path, and is curious to see how his own nuclear potential will find new expression in his son under different conditions and in a different generation.

However, the deepest insult to parents is to forget them. Often, children desire to shake off the ropes that bind them to their parents. This natural inclination is expressed in Genesis 2:24: “Thus a man shall leave his father and his mother and he shall cling to his wife….”

For a child to mature, he must necessarily disengage from his total dependence on his parents. For this reason the Torah commands us to always honor our parents. Even though a child must strive for independence, he is obliged to always continue to honor his parents and to give them weight in his life. In Hebrew, the word for “honor” is kabed, which shares a root with the word kaved, which means, “weight.” When a son continues to honor his parents, he gives them weight and recognition, and they remain eternally in his consciousness.

Solidity and Weight

The words for “father / son” in Hebrew are av / ben. When these words are written as an abbreviation they spell even, which means “rock.” Thus, the image of a rock creates associations with the father / son relationship.

The two main features of a rock are its solidity and weight. The father gives his children solidity — firm faith in God and in their heritage.

The children give their father weight. When the father sits as the Shabbat table surrounded by all his children, they add potency and mass to his very presence.

Our Relationship With God

Often a person senses that his main sin is not in actually transgressing, but rather in his ignoring and forgetting God. If a person does honest soul-searching,he realizes that at a certain point in his relationship with God, he has left Him and created his own world, in which God is not the focal point. He has fashioned his world into a fortress, where he can continue to safely live his life far from God (even while performing the commandments) — without the need to awaken the memory of where he came from and Who created him.

“Pardon Us”

When we ask God to forgive us for leaving Him out of our lives, we say, Selach lanu (“Pardon us”). The letters of the word selach — samech, lamed, chet – are the same as the word for “eradicate,” chasal. Deep in his heart, a person knows that he is the one who should be “nullified” to atone for his inclination to nullify anyone who impinges on his private world and demands his attention. We thus beg that God eradicate our haughty feeling of yesh, of being “something,” and will replace our rigid and contracted heart of stone with a soft, expansive heart that has room in it for another.

Even the common expression “pardon me” points to this concept. When we say, “pardon me” to another person, our intent is to ask the other not to be offended that we infiltrated his world, upsetting his feeling of infinite expansion. In other words, when we ask for pardon, we are expressing sensitivity to the reality of the other, giving him honor and a place in our world on his own terms.

When we ask God for pardon, we ask Him to forgive us for not recognizing His (all-encompassing) place in our world.

As a King to a Servant; and a Servant to a King

This takes place usually on Rosh HaShana.

The King/Servant Relationship

As we learned in the previous chapter, the father / son relationship is exemplified by the honor and recognition that the son gives his father. The king / servant relationship is different. The king does not need recognition from his subjects. It is even beneath his honor to request it. The king has a master plan. He desires to lead and to actualize, and demands of his subjects discipline and obedience.

It is specifically when we nullify ourselves to the king that we are able to be part of an endeavor that is beyond our own individual horizon — an endeavor that is a vital goal in the king’s master plan. Our discipline and devotion to our lofty and admired king means that we are channeling our lives to ideals above and beyond our personal reality. We understand before whom we live, and our very existence receives meaning and stability in our dependence on the king. We no longer live just for our own narrow and disengaged affairs. Rather, our entire life has a broad and driving purpose, which will compel us to give an accounting of our successes and failures back to the king.

The Sin Against the King

To sin against God, our King, is to rebel against Him. This rebellion is the demand of our own small ego to live our limited lives without boundaries. We demand to do whatever we please without considering the “big picture” — how our actions affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those that surround us, and ultimately the Divine plan for the entire world.

Making God Our King

When we relate to God as our King, we realize that only He can extricate us from the complexities of our lives, and bring us to a plane above and beyond our small, personal desires. When we fulfill the King’s directives, our lives become meaningful even when we do not grasp why certain events occur and where they are leading. Our lives have become lives of duty. Through God’s directives (pekudot) to us He connects to us and relates intimately to our lives (pekidah).

“Forgive Us”

When we ask God, our King, to forgive us, we say Mechal lanu, “forgive us.” To ask forgiveness of a king is to ask him to forgive a debt that was not paid. The King enters our consciousness from outside our world, demanding and commanding that we fulfill directives that do not always seem relevant to our private lives. He does not expect us to totally identify with His desires, and therefore exerts pressure and might. We ask of God to understand our difficult situation created by His pressure, forgo our debt to Him and to give us a fresh chance to serve Him.

Our relationship to God as King is intrinsically a relationship of some distance. When we ask the King to forgive us, we admit to Him that we do not have the strength or the courage to stand before Him on a constant basis. We ask Him to bear with us while we are distant from Him, and to be patient with us while we strive to serve Him with greater devotion.

As a Husband to a Wife; and a Wife to a Husband

This takes place usually on Succot.

The Husband/Wife Relationship

(Editor’s note: In order to simplify the text, we have referred to the mates in this chapter gender specifically. Certainly, the roles can be reversed.)

The sin against one’s spouse is the sin of insensitivity — the lack of willingness and openness to actively identify with him. What pains a spouse more than anything else is when the “rules” are being kept, and when consideration for his uniqueness is shown — but there is no real interest in his inner thoughts and deepest feelings. An outsider might be most impressed with the level of mutual consideration that the couple projects. Deep in his heart, though, the offended spouse desires more than just mutual consideration. He wishes to ascend to a point where he can truly share the intricacies of his soul with his beloved mate.

Married life, with it daily frictions and demands invites one to build walls around the depths of his soul — to define boundaries and to admit that his spouse is totally different than he and beyond his understanding. Furthermore, he adds, it is her privilege to be just the way she is. This approach is legitimate only if the separations are used as tools to release superficial tension and to unlock one’s inner world. If the couple identifies these separations as the strong foundation of their lives together — if they despair of immersion in the inner soul of the other — a persistent inner sadness will erode their feeling of “togetherness” and their love for each other will fade.

Exploitation and Enthusiasm

While the father /son relationship is defined by the tension between disregard and recognition, the relationship between husband and wife is defined by the tension between exploitation and enthusiasm. The spouse expects his mate to relate to him as he is dear to himself — to be excited to meet someone new and different who wants to immerse herself in his very being. The thought that his mate may see him as a depersonalized object conveniently placed for use in her life spiritually “kills” him.

Further, more than the spouse fears being exploited with total disregard for his inner experience, he fears exploitation of his inner experience, itself. He fears that his awakening toward his spouse and his devotion to her will be met with the cynicism of cool practicality.

God As Our Spouse

When we sin toward God as our spouse we may remain faithful to His commandments, without internalizing the experience of Him in our lives and without trying to identify with Him. We do not meet God with enthusiasm, allowing Him to permeate our very being, to enter into our deepest experience and to transform it. When we don’t relate properly to God as our spouse we also do not truly pray to Him. Deep down, we do not believe that He is actually interested in us and in our innermost desires.

“Cleanse Us”

This type of sin needs kaparah, ”cleansing”. Married life demands continual detailed cleansing and examination. Even a small insult reveals an internal, practically essential coldness and unwillingness to be “overly involved” in the world of the other. This coldness descends to the very depths of the other’s soul. He feels that his efforts to give of his essence to his mate have been exploited, while his spouse has not awakened in return.

On a deeper level, we can understand that God’s Divine Presence (Shechinah) dwells between the married couple. It is His Divine Presence that allows peace and affection to reign between the two diverse souls. If we are not sensitive to God’s Shechinah, it simply leaves. To merit His Divine Presence in our midst, we must constantly cleanse and purify ourselves, examining the intricacies of our actions and thoughts and creating a true dwelling place for Him in our world.

Slichot

The Slichot ritual is performed during the month of Elul. The Sephardim start on the second of Elul and the Ashkenazim start on the Motzei Shabbat after the last Shabbat prior to Rosh Hashana.

Most people think that Slichot is a request for forgiveness since the word Slicha means forgiveness. The Kabbalists teach a totally different understanding. The shoresh of Slichot is Slach סלח. The gematria of Slach is 98 which is Tzaddi Chet. Tzach (Tzaddi Chet) means cleansing. THAT IS WHAT THE SLICHOT RITUAL IS ALL ABOUT.

The tools of Cleansing used in the Slichot ritual are 1) the prayers are in the order of the Hebrew Alef Bet. 2) the lower 13 Attributes of Mercy. and 3) the Blowing of the Shofar.

  • This is a link to a sample of a simplified Slichot Service prepared by Kabbalah4All

  • Order of this particular Ritual

    1. All Slichot rituals start with the Ashrai Psalm (page 4). This psalm is based on the order of the Alef Bet and we have learned in Kabbalah that when we say the order of the Alef Bet we are putting our lives in order. The only reason that chaos continues in our life after this is said is because we do not permanently change ourelves with this procedure.

    2. When in a minyan say the Chatzi Kaddish which is used as an elevator to either rise as in this case or to lower ourselves ritually.

    3. Lecha HaShem, connects to the Sefirah of Binah, through the gematria of 50 of the first word which means either go or you. Binah acts as an energy store to provide the energy of cleansing.

    4. We say the 13 attributes of Mercy.

  • Here is a link for deeper understanding of the 13 Attributes.

  • 5. Shema Kolainu is a confession of our negative attributes and leads into the Vidui/stronger confession.

    6. An alternative translation of the traditional Vadui/confession

  • This is a link to an alternative translation of the traditional Vadui/confession.

  • 7. Next we say a prayer in the order of the Alef Bet. The prayer Name is Asei LemaAn.

    8. Aneinu / Answer Us is the next prayer. It is also in the order of the Alef Bet.

    9. There are three other songs that do not follow the Alef Bet.

    10. The Atanu Lechalot allows us to confront our own negativity.

    11. We again sing the 13 Attributes of Mercy.

    12. The Song Vayomer David is said while grounding our own negativity which is done by leaning our forehead on our left arms.

    13. The next song is Shomeir Israel - Guard Israel which is a request for the Creator's Mercy.

    14. Having prayed sitting standing and bowing down we no longer know what to do. After asking for cleansing and mercy we also do not know what else we can do. So we ask the Creator to do for us what is the correct thing for us to do.

    15. This is followed by the Kadish.

    In each step we can add additional prayers and that is the custom and minhag of many different communities. This ritual takes about 1/2 hour. Some communities especially the Sephardic this ritual takes upside of an hour.