The Hebrew month of Elul provides us with ample time to prepare for the High Holidays. One service in particular is designated as the public launching pad for the season, both musically and liturgically, to get us into the religious mood.

The month of Elul reflects the opposite mood of its predecessor, Av. During the month of Av, especially on Tisha B’Av, the Jewish national day of mourning, we suspend our appetite for merriment and celebrations, and focus on the political fallout of Jewish history.

During Elul, we focus on forgiveness, weighing our thoughts, avoiding divisive actions and political distractions.

The Selichot service — which will be held this Saturday evening, Sept. 21st, following Shabbat — offers the rare opportunity to attend an hour-long service that presents a Reader’s Digest–style abridged version of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

At Chizuk Amuno Congregation, I will be blessed for the 23rd consecutive time to introduce the haunting melodies that bring the sacred liturgical texts of the Selichot service to life. We once again have engaged the finest instrumentalists and singers to join with our esteemed choir director, T. Herbert Dimmock. (This year, we will host a string and vocal quartet.)

Remarkably, it’s Maestro Dimmock’s 19th season with us. We are grateful to the congregation’s president, Sandi Moffett, and senior rabbi, Rabbi Joshua Z. Gruenberg, for inviting us back one final time.

If you have never attended a Selichot service, please attend the synagogue where you belong. If you are unaffiliated, find a shul you’ll feel comfortable praying in.

Selichot, which is the equivalent of the first Torah portion, Bereshit, the beginning of the High Holiday season, culminates with V’zot  HaBerachah, the last Torah portion and the ending of Yom Kippur at Ne’ilah.

Enter the opening gate so that when the gate closes at Ne’ilah on Wednesday evening, Oct. 9th, you are warm and comfortable with God dwelling inside your soul and heart.

With a prayer in my heart,
Shana Tovah!

Hazzan Emanuel C. Perlman is Hazzan Emeritus of Pikesville’s Chizuk Amuno Congregation and CEO and founder of Destination Peace (http://www.destinationpeace.org/), a global movement which strives to connect people around the world through a common language transmitted through music.