Post Selichot Post
Just back from Selichot. Poetry, largely acrostic. That's what I noticed tonight.
We start with Ashrei, which goes through the Alef Bet.
The opening Selichah goes through the Alef Bet.
The second one goes throught he Aleph Bet twice, each line, in order using the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in it's first and second half.
Selichah Number 3 goes through the Aleph Bet backwards, with each line using the letter twice, once in its first half and then in its second.
Number Four goes again from Alef to Taf (with a refrain between every three letters/lines).
Soon after the fourth and final Selicha of the day we go through the Ashamnu, listing mistakes we made from A to Z (Alef to Taf) three times.
Then we ask G-d, in his Mercy and Grace to forgive us for the sake of things from Alef to Taf (Aseh Lema'an Amitach, Britach, Tif'artach, etc.)
Finally we ask G-d to answer us in His capacities from the first letter of the alphabet to the last. (Aneinu Avinu, Aneinu Bor'einu, Aneinu Goaleinu, etc.)
It has been suggested that the use of the Aleph Bet signifies the completeness of our need for religious overhaul, complete restructuring from A to Z. it has also been suggested that there is so much to say on the subject that had the poets not contained their words within the framework of the alphabet they would have flowed on with no end.
It is my contention that the holy authors of these poems used the alphabet for the simple reason that it opens a poet up and inspires one to write. People say that they can't write a poem. Ask anyone to write a line with each letter of their name. Anyone can do it. Anyone can write a poem, I think that the rabbis were modeling for us how we can and must write our own poems, as they did.
Besides what we are saying with the content, with the form of Selichot we are telling G-d and ourselves that, whatever else we are, we are a poetic, artistic, creative people. This seems to me to not be irrelevant to Selichot and Teshuva. Not only is the poetry of our prayers of return not beside the point, it may be the point.