a text version of my remarks before last night’s Selichot service –
In the spring of 1968 Simon and Garfunkel released their fourth studio album, entitled ‘Bookends.’ It was mostly a nostalgia tinged tour through the America of an earlier time, looking back to the days when things were less complicated, when our values and ideals held true, when we felt we knew who we were and what our purpose was. The album, with songs like America and At the Zoo, was on the one hand a pining for those times and feelings, but it was on the other hand a reckoning with what had come to be. Hence the record’s title: Bookends. A framing structure, both a beginning and an end, a looking back to the past and a vision of the future that together framed a coming to terms with the present.
Selichot eve is one of the bookends of the High Holy Day season. The Torahs, dressed in their yom tov white, are solemnly processed into the sanctuary, carefully placed in the ark. The service itself recalls the penitential liturgy of Yom Kippur, our appeal to the God of mercy to forgive us our sins, to accept with grace our imperfections. And perhaps more than anything else the melodies of the evening remind us that another year has come and gone, and that our faith once again calls on us to reflect on the nature of our lives. That process of intense reflection will end with the sounding of the shofar after the Ne’ilah service on Yom Kippur, another bookend. But it begins tonight as we gather together in this sacred space.
And we are blessed tonight, as community, to dedicate this space again – as we say during these sacred days, as we say in tonight’s service, חדש ימינו כקדם – renew our days as of old. May we look forward to a year that is filled with meaning, with family and friends, with light and life, with happiness and health.