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Imagine Doing This At 4am

Selichot — Hebrew for “forgiveness.”  Pre-Rosh Hashana ritual of gathering together to recite penitential prayers from midnight to dawn.

“I’m Sorry”

This is the kind of Selichot I yearn to see.

A husband steps up
close to his
wife’s ear and
with baritone sincerity
hoists up an “I’m sorry” from his
rattled depths through his chest
throat to lips.

And it sings
with such humility
A shir of sheer generosity
of spirit, selfless as dust
done for the sake of the other,
for the sake of the ‘us’.

A selichot strong enough
to rebuild the very gilding
of the sanctuary that shifts
and splinters between their feet.

The selichot I want to see
is the wife
who lies down
her prodigious pride
by the bedside
and recites a prayer-book worth
of an apology.

Who finally takes responsibility
for her own part
in the cycle
of coldness, inertia, abuse.
Done with the plagues of
resentment.
Done playing victim.

“Forgive me, my beloved, for my distance.
My face turned
away from you
is my greatest sin.”

Would that our synagogues
would teach us this kind of hymn.

Would that we would wake
in the drawn shade of night
for the sake
of begging this type
of forgiveness.

Give us a midnight straightening
of our most intimate
relationships
and the world would
be washed anew by dawn.

Walk not another step out the door
until you have implored
your spouse, your parent,
your child, your friend
for forgiveness for each offence.

And if you can not decipher
what damage you have done
then you have not yet done
your teshuva – have not yet
thought deep enough
nor felt full enough
into the anguish of your friend.

Before you raise your voice
to Hashem
bend your self
into amends.

Let your selichot be sung
in your bedroom
at 4am.