Jerusalem is a magical place all year long, but there is a unique atmosphere to the special days that begin during the month of Elul and up to Simchat Tora. It is during this period of the Jewish calendar that prayers are made for forgiveness, ceremonies dedicated to cleansing your soul are performed, and relationships between friends or foes and between man and God are rebuilt and strengthen.
One of the most popular rituals during this time of the year is the custom of Selichot (penitential prayers) – a manner of asking forgiveness and redemption for our sins during the past year. The liturgical poems and prayers are chanted and repeated by worshipers for it is believed God is listening and forgiving of our sins and misdemeanor during this time.
The Sephardic Jews begin the Selichot prayers during the month of Elul, while Ashkenazi orthodox Jews begin their period of repentance from Rosh Hashanah up to Yom Kippur. You can pray and sing the special Selichot words at any time of the day, but it is believed to be most accepted and best timed to be said at night, after midnight and before the morning prayers, when the body and mind are not busy with work and prayers can be sung with great passion.
Some believe these are the hours God is most merciful. These days, this deeply profound custom has turned into a social group gathering that brings together different people from all parts and streams of Judaism. For the past few years specially crafted guided tours have transformed the custom of Selichot into a wonderful get together in which believers experience Jerusalem in a new mystical light as they follow the path of Jewish heritage imbedded in this wonderful city.
Here are a few recommendations for a special night walk through the city, that will elevate your soul and introduce you to a side of Jerusalem only you will feel privileged to have experienced.
The Jewish Quarter
The narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and a roof top point of view of the city is a perfect location for your night walk through the old city. During this time of the year the Jewish quarter is filled with tourists and worshipers walking the streets of this ancient neighborhood.
The Gabbai (Shamash) personal call for people to come into the synagogues and sing the prayers of redemption. A real throw back to a hundred years ago.
Located in Nachlaot and Established in 1901 by Jewish immigrates from Aleepo, Syria, this synagogue attracts many visitors all year long due to its unique liturgical style and carefully crafted interior design. Walking through the streets of Nachlaot and entering the doors of this spiritual worship house is a part of your tour you wouldn’t want to miss.
Tower of David
Located near the Jaffa gate, the tower is an entry point to the old city of Jerusalem. At night the lights and winds of Jerusalem make it easy on the visitors to imagine themselves as part of the residents who once lived in ancient Jerusalem.
The Western Wall
Most guided tours finish their route at this historical point. The western wall is considered by many as the most sacred site to Jewish religion .It is a sight well beyond words to witness tens of thousands of people praying at the wall during the high holidays season. There are few spiritual moments who can match the elevation of the wall as you turn your prayers and special songs of repent to god and ask for forgiveness.
For further Selichot tours suggestions, please contact us.