In preparation for the New Year and Yom Kippur, Jews recite a series of prayers known as Selichot. From the word “forgive” these beautiful supplications ask God for forgiveness. They are usually said in the morning, before the Shacharit morning prayer service.

Selichot are beautiful prayers, but for some reason I always find myself showing up late. As part of my repentance process, I hope it’s okay that I open up my heart to you. Don’t judge me. Just let me share my issues with you and be a good listener.

Here are my issues and excuses for not making it to Selichot on time, and sometimes spacing out.

It’s Too Early

Selichot are supposed to be recited early. Really early. Before the morning prayers, early. Most of the community doesn’t even show up for the morning service but I do. And you don’t see my judging you, do you?

But 6 am?! I have a lot of commitments that make this very challenging. Something has to give. Don’t question my commitment. I am very committed… to staying up all night to binge watch Shtisel the night before.

I Get Frustrated When It Takes Too Long

The Chazan, leader of the services, is focusing on the prayers but I am focusing on him. I understand that I’m supposed to be thinking about bettering myself. I can’t do that when I’m thinking about why the Chazan added two notes to the Hebrew words for “wicked attributes.” And then looked at me.

My Chazan has to read faster. If he’s going to lead me and my congregation at 6:15am, he can’t be thinking about the words so much. You lead the people at their level. If we aren’t concentrating, you shouldn’t be either.

I Have No Idea What the Words Mean

My Hebrew is so bad. I can’t understand half the words. I have to learn more Hebrew. That should be one of the sins I repent for; my Hebrew reading comprehension.

I’m good with the “Avinu Malkeinu” prayer though. We say the words “Avinu Malkeinu,” meaning “our Father our King”; every line in that prayer I am all in on it. There I know two words in each sentence. That gets me excited. If we had a prayer saying “Todah” and that is it, I would be fully focused on that prayer. How can I go wrong with one word? It’s the poetic beauty of the prayers that trips me up. I need a first-grade level Selichot.

I Like the Songs Too Much to Feel Bad

I say I’m guilty and I feel bad, but I am sorry to admit that there are times when I feel good about it. Reason is, I love the tune to the song “we have sinned, we have rebelled…” It’s a great ditty. I sing that song at joyous occasions too. I love the part where we sing the melody of “speaking deceitfully” to a “Yay Nay Nay.” I’m hitting my chest in penitence of joy. It’s a great tune.

I am a Slow Reader

I can’t keep up. No matter how long it takes, I’m still behind.

They should’ve had Hebrew speedreading classes in Jewish Day School. That would’ve got me praying right. Now, I go with the speed of the Chazan. When he finishes, I am finished. Doesn’t matter if I just started. If he’s a speed reader and I have to sneeze or blow my nose, selichot just got abridged.

I Didn’t Do all The Sins

I take too much pride in the fact that I am not the “evil” one in the community. I like to justify my showing up late with the fact that I didn’t give evil counsel this year. I also didn’t murder anybody.

Most of the prayers in Selichot are written in plural form, saying “we sinned” as opposed to “I.” This is when I like to blame the other people in the congregation. I start looking around the shul picking out who lied to others in business. I say the words but I look at them. I hit my chest and stare right at those sinners. I look at the lawyers and think about who has “judged falsely.”

Selichot is the beginning of the yearly process of connecting with ourselves and our community, through repentance. I join the community in starting before the High Holidays, because I have to work on myself. We definitely have to work on ourselves as a community. I was looking right at Mike when I said “Nipatzta.” He knew what I meant.

We all have ways in which we can better ourselves as people. I’m trying to learn to be more penitent and forgiving to the people who lead in services too slowly. You may be working on not talking about other people or accidental murder.

I need to learn more Hebrew and show up focused with some good sleep, or I’ll never be forgiven. I hope my rabbi forgives me for this article. Though, I did write it before 7:30am.