Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Selichos Haiku Rant

Okay, it's a little cynical... sorry. I do get a lot out of the words of Slichos. It's just that some of the other elements make it difficult.

I rise for Slichos
before first light, day’s re-birth
the dawn of return

I rise for Slichos
limning the day’s fresh slate with
pious commitment

I rise for Slichos
b'Ashmores haBoker
tie's knot like tzitzis

I rise for Slichos
socks don't match, surprised shoes do
left home without phone

I rise for Slichos
shul skips half the piyyutim
so unforgiven

I rise for Slichos
traverse tangled tongue twisters
catch speeding chazan

I rise for Slichos
cry Ashamnu, Bagadnu
transmute sleep to guilt

I rise for Slichos
in haste water bottle lost
spend the day in thirst

I rise for Slichos
clouded thinking, slow to grasp,
mind mired in drowse

I rise for Slichos
sleep-deprived, temper shortened
what is wrong with me?

I rise for Slichos
pre-dawn prayers change my world -
ruin night seder

I rose for Slichos
before first light, day’s re-birth
what a bust it was.


  1. I remember being chazan once and seeing some of these tongue-twisters and feeling like the author was trying to make my life difficult. Then I look down at the commentary who quotes ... Arugas HaBosem, I think: "the author of this poem sought only to tintinabulate the ear and broke every rule of grammar and verse, I am tired of trying to translate this." Suddenly I didn't feel so bad!

    While I'm on my cynicism rant: it makes me wonder how the rabbis of the Crusades era felt: "well you came in and slaughtered all my village?! Oh yeah! Well guess what?! I'm going to make my great-grandchildren get up at 5AM and read long undecipherable tongue-twisters! So take that!"

    (More seriously, I've seen Chief Rabbi Sacks writing about how we say G-d will provide justice, rather than us taking revenge ourselves; I accept that on a philosophical level. The above was just a sleep-deprived sentiment.)

  2. The worst part about selichot is that when you are the rav, everyone else gets to sit there and space out but you.

  3. Shalom-
    For me, the worst part is that I can see great beauty in many of the piyyutim - but not at that time and speed.

    Anonymous 6:33 PM-
    I was the chazan in my shuls for Slichos; no spacing out there, certainly.

  4. I agree with many of the sentiments you express, with one caveat and one suggestion to help solve the problem:
    first, the idea of getting up early certainly has its place within Judaism - I'm not even talking about the cabbalistic issues associated with saying selichos at certain times - but the idea of using at least part of the year to daven around sunrise, the ideal time for birchos kerias shema and tefillah, is certainly meaningful and shows true commitment, though I would agree that if someone's general avodat HaShem and mitzvot bein adam la-haveiro will be affected, that would defeat the purpose.
    From previous posts that I've written, you already know that I don't care for the length of the service in general and would support taking the less important parts out and spending more quality time focused on the main parts. If instead of going at a break-neck speed to finish all of the complicated piyyutim, each shul could put together a committee to decide on, let's say, three piyyutim per day, to precede the viduy and tahanun at the end, it would be much better. (As I understand it, the piyyutim are really to get you into the tahanun mood, so the tahanun would be the ikkar). In the middle ages, piyyutim were written for all sorts of occasions, and obviously it took generations for the specific order of piyyutim that Ashkenazim have to develop into what we have now. Which ones are said when and precisely how many should not be written in stone. Why not encourage flexibility on the issue?

  5. I rise for slichot
    So do seven other guys
    Still glad I got up

  6. Joseph-

    Quite satisfying
    when commenters get the joke
    and improve on it

  7. Rabbi,

    I'll take credit for getting your "joke" but not for improving upon it. My contribution was but an afterthought to your masterful exposition.

  8. I think saying and reading in English is the way to go. Then to think and think and write and write.

    Here are two haiku I wrote based on Slichot and a few thoughts I got from Artscroll - while saying Slichot slowly on the first night.

    You're the source of light
    By your light may we see light
    Please help us to glow

    Light of our light
    Till it shines like the morning
    Brighten our darkness

  9. Neil-

    R' Neil-
    Thanks for sharing those. I was just having fun with the topic, but I like what you did.