This Saturday night, the start of the week of Rosh Hashanah, Selichot services are held. These are special prayers said during the High Holy Day period. The importance of saying these prayers is described in the Midrash (Tanna D'bei Eliyahu):
"King David knew that in the future the Temple would be destroyed and the offerings would cease because of the sins of the Jewish People. King David was troubled because he didn't know how the Jews would gain atonement for their sins.
"The Holy One said to King David, 'At the time that troubles come to the Jewish People because of their sins, let them say before Me the order of the Selichot Prayer (the 13 Attributes of God's Mercy) and I will answer them."
The Selichot prayers are the warm-up for the entire Teshuvah (repentance) process. Since we have fallen far short of our potential in the past year, we need to ask God to overlook our prior shortcomings as we rededicate ourselves to putting forth a maximum effort to do better in the coming year.
The Sages designed Selichot to bring us into the right frame of mind for asking forgiveness and doing Teshuvah.
Selichot Services are at 11:30pm at the North Shore Jewish Center this year.
Best wishes for a Happy and Health New Year,