Thousands at Kotel for Selichot
Thousands at Kotel for SelichotHadas Parush/Flash90

*Translated by Yehoshua Siskin ([email protected])

Why do we chant Selichot (penitential prayers) late at night or early in the morning?

In order to change not only our daily routine, but also ourselves. Just as we change the time that we pray, we hope to change our character.

At the Amit Eitan High School in Ma'ale Adumim, the decision was made to institute another change: A boat at the port of Ashdod was rented and set sail so that the teachers together with their students could chant Selichot at sea.

Rabbi Shlomi Dahan explained the purpose of this excursion as follows: "In life, we experience both calm waters and stormy seas. At sea -- just as in our souls -- there can be both tranquil and tempestuous moments. In a generation attached to the screens of digital devices, we need renewal and inspiration more than ever. As educators, our task is to try to create an experience that will leave a lasting impression on the student."

"On Yom Kippur we read the story of Yonah (Jonah) the prophet, who is tossed about at sea. The captain of his ship shouts words at Yonah that constitute the opening words and central message of our (Sephardic) Selichot: ''Man! Why do you sleep? Rise and cry out to your God!'

"This is the message that we try to transmit. All of us are somewhat asleep in our daily routines. During these days, I recommend that everyone look for a way to break their routine in order to be awakened to the possibility of change."