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.