A brisk walk that soon becomes a slow-paced feast of the senses. White lights against white stones, and the sweet air brings the sound of selichot. A feast of the soul on a star-studded night. Powerful yet gentle. Feel the breeze, loosen your grip. Selicha.
The majestic hills covered in pines are there, but right now they are nowhere to be seen, only felt, only smelled. Softly perceived through the whitest moon, the dark green slopes of this City of Seven Hills carry the music of closeness and cleansing. Swing with it. Pizmon.
As your steps carry you, notice the windows, the peeping heads, the voices — piercing, symphonic, mighty, humble. The collective introspection in this magic, dark hour is moving, but it´s always darkest before the dawn. For me, there is no walking inside, not even peeking, in this kingdom of soul-searching and modest rules. However, I don´t need to see it with my own eyes when the possibility of a better world is palpable, it’s in the air. Akeidah.
How can we open our mouth before You, who dwells in the stretched-out heavens? In what way can we pour out prayers?
This song of the City of Seven Hills and the Thirteen Attributes rise up the white, tall apartment buildings. The different melodies and voices fill the air. Chatanu. Up they go, from the entrance on the lower floor, they climb the long flights of stairs, jumping one at a time. They exit through a much higher place, several floors above, to follow other steps. The unusual topography of this devout home is the spiral of the soul. In Elul, the King is in the field and we can change ourselves for the better. The shofar reverberates. The Kotel might be a long bus ride away, yet on a night like this the message that you would insert in the cracks becomes a deep wish, a positive resolution, a heartfelt prayer that the wind will blow to its destination. Techinah. Guaranteed to arrive on time.
And in this Elul, several countries far removed from the Judean Hills, I wonder:
What is the sound of selichot in Har Nof in this first Elul without Rabbi Twersky, Rabbi Levine, Rabbi Kopinsky, Rabbi Goldberg and Master Sergeant Zidan Saif?
From where I am, all I am told is that like every Elul, selichot in Har Nof are being said at the darkest time of the day. Which is just before sunrise. And I imagine that our brothers would have wanted us to believe that dawn is not far off.