Sunday, September 25, 2011


HaShem, HaShem, G-d, Compasssionate and Gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in kindness and truth, Preserver of kindness for thousands (of generations),

Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin and error, and Who cleanses.

May You forgive our iniquities and our errors and make us Your heritage.
Forgive us, our Father, for we have erred;
pardon us, our King, for we have willfully sinned;
for You, are good and forgiving and abundantly kind to all who call upon You.

Tonight begins the prayer of Selichos, the time when we are under the spiritual microscope. It is the time for us to examine ourselves before the Day of Judgment, when Hashem examines us. As we speak the words of the prayers, our hearts are moved to do teshuva- the desire to repent for all our wrongdoings. Tomer Devorah tells us how.

The central theme of selichos is the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. It is the gift of teshuva given to the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf. Hashem was prepared to do away with Klal Yisrael. Moses was sure there no possibility for redemption. And then, Hashem appeared and said, "When Israel sins, let them recite the Thirteen Attributes in their proper order and I will forgive them."

The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy have been taught to us through the light and wisdom of Tomer Devorah by Rabbi Moshe Cordevero (for those of us blessed to be learning with Rabbi Miller).

The Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Cordevero) has revealed to us how to live a life of pure goodness, compassion and mercy. We have learned how to bask in the happiness of being an entity of pure endless and ever-flowing rachamim, which is the true Tzelem Elokim within us, the true image of Hashem.

At Selichos, the magnification process begins. We cry out to Hashem... compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth. And as Tomer Devorah taught us, so too should we; be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth. As we recite the prayer, we are under the microscope. It is time to look at ourselves and ask....
Were we compassionate and gracious or critical and impatient?
Were we slow to anger or fast to respond with a loud outburst?
Were we able to remain silent when insulted?
Were we kind and truthful or demanding and dishonest?

Selichos gives us time to prepare for Rosh Hashana. We have a chance to re-examine ourselves under the spiritual microscope. It is time to awaken out of our slumber so that we can be stimulated and elevated to become the person Hashem created us to be; a person of rachamim, mercy and humility. Tomer Devorah educates us, trains us and keeps us on its' path.

Yet as we look under the microscope at all our wrongdoings, we also discover something new. Rosh Hashana is the time for us to become aware of our tremendous potential.

Each one of us is a complete world endowed with a soul capable of reaching great spiritual heights.

Each one of us is a complete world. We are not living to our greatest potential. Often we hide behind our challenges. When we awaken and realize that the light of Hashem is within us, we can experience that we are tzelem Elokim (created in His Image). It is our essence, it is who we are. When we realize this and believe it, we know that each one of us truly is a spiritual luminary. Our light comes directly from the Creator of the Universe, the Source of all Light. He shines His light upon us. So too can we, shine our light unto others. We do this with compassion, grace, slow to anger, abundant kindness and truth. As Hashem is with us, so too should we be with others. We can emulate His ways.

Instead of criticizing or judging others unfavorably- when we recognize the Light of Hashem within us- we will turn our criticism to compassion and our harsh reactions to grace. When we feel the light of Hashem within us, we will turn our quick response towards anger and conflict into practicing how to "remain silent when insulted." The light of Hashem is always available to us, all we have to do- is get our of our own way- so that we can allow it shine. Our own character traits block the light of Hashem from shining within us. We cannot be spiritual luminaries when we are filled with judgement, criticism, anger, demands and expectations of others.

Now is the time to look under the microscope... to see what Hashem sees. The time for awakening and enlightenment is now. It is time to look at our wrongdoings, to ask forgiveness, to live by the Thirteen Attributes of Tomer Devorah and to get out of our way (of our own character traits that block us from growing spiritually) and open up our soul to the light of Hashem. Then, we too, can emulate Hashem and shine the light upon others.

May you be written and inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year!

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