by Arlene Berg

SELICHOT – pronounce the "seli" as "slee" to rhyme with "me."  The "chot" rhymes with "float," but remember that the "ch" is the Hebrew guttural sound from the back of the throat.  The accent is on the second syllable;  seli-CHOT.


SELICHOS – Since the last letter of SELICHOT can be pronounced in Hebrew as either an "s" or "t," SELICHOT can also be spelled as SELICHOS.   The "seli" again is pronounced as "slee," and the "chos" has the Hebrew guttural "ch" and rhymes with "miss."  With SELICHOS, the accent is on the first syllable;  SELI-chos.

SELICHOT are the penitential prayers for forgiveness that Jewish people, mainly the religious, recite before Rosh HaShanah, or the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Since Jewish people know that their sins must be forgiven on Yom Kippur, they are thinking of their sins and of forgiveness during these days before Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  Hence, they begin saying many Selichot, or prayers for forgiveness.

Sephardic Jewish people (those of Spanish, Portuguese, Western European, Israeli descent) begin saying Selichos one month before Rosh HaShanah and also during the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  Rosh HaShanah in 2006 is sundown, September 22 – sundown, September 24.   Hence, they have already begun saying Selichot.

Ashkenazic Jewish people (those of German, French, Hungarian, Eastern European, and Russian descent) begin saying Selichos on the Sunday before Rosh HaShanah and also during the 10 days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.  If Rosh HaShanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday, they will begin reciting Selichos on the Sunday of the preceding week.

Selichot are recited every day after midnight or at daybreak since these times of the day are considered special times of Divine compassion.  The Talmud, the foremost Jewish commentary, states that the predawn period is a time of grace when God’s Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, hovers over the earth.  Many of the Selichot are beautiful and moving, as is illustrated in the following prayer taken from the Selichot Prayer Book.

"Not with virtue, nor with good deeds, do we appear before thee, but like the poor and needy we knock at thy gates."   "There is none that calls in righteousness, the best of men is like a briar…"   "…how can I find favour with my supplication, when I am deficient in virtue and replete with sin?"

Won’t you pray that God will open the eyes of the Jewish people during the predawn period, that special time of God’s grace according to Judaism, when they are reciting many Selichot!  How we long for the following prayers, taken right from the Selichot Prayer Book, to become a reality in their lives!  

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord;  though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;  though they be as red as crimson, they shall come as (white as) wool."  (Yesha’yahu, Isaiah 1:18).

"Rise, you who sleep in the cave of Machpelah, to strengthen me, for I am vile, and can show no good deeds;  intercede and pray to God with me, and offer gifts from your substance on my behalf."

How we long for the Jewish people to, indeed, come to Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah, who offered the greatest Gift, His life, on their behalf!

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