Four Worlds Selikhot Ritual: Casting Off and Gathering In

Selikhot is a time when we prepare to enter the gates of the yamim nora’im, the High Holy Days that are soon approaching. Here is a ritual created to honor this sacred time of introspection, of seeking forgiveness, of repentance and return. The ritual below provides an opportunity to do this spiritual work in Four Worlds: within ourselves, between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the planet, and between ourselves and the Divine.

“Return Again” musical refrain (from YouTube or a recording of appropriate music) plays as we begin and end and in between each of the Four Worlds as we prepare to ritualize the earth, water, fire, and air.

We create sacred space together as we honor this very holy time: a time of homecoming and return, of repentance, of casting off negative patterns, action and behaviors and interactions within ourselves, with others, with the planet, and with the Divine. It is as well a time of hope and opportunity. We can create more positive interactions in all Four Worlds that we inhabit.

We gather for this ritual either indoors or outdoors. We sit in a circle and surround ourselves with candles or small tea lights and set a beautiful altar in the center of the circle on a table top or elsewhere, or on the ground. We cover the surface with a beautiful cloth and place the required ritual items on the cloth. The “Return Again” refrain or other music appropriate to this time of the year can play in the background.

Ritual items needed by participants: This Four Worlds ritual for Selikhot calls for a vial of earth, a vial of water, a candle, matches or a lighter, two small bowls and a jar of bubbles with a bubble wand.

The Ritual:

We sprinkle some earth from the vial into the bowl and say: As we spill this earth, let us also cast off those negative behaviors, actions, and thoughts within us that impede a positive energy flow between us and the world around us.
Ask and discuss, people respond: In thinking about your own bad habits, negative/unhealthy behaviors or repetitive, thoughtless actions, what would it mean for you to “come home” to yourself now and take the opportunity to welcome a new beginning in specific areas of your life?
We take the vial of water and sprinkle it into another small bowl and say: As we spill these living waters, let us also cast off those relationships that no longer serve us, nurture us, comfort us or bring us joy.
Ask and discuss, people respond: Can you recall a time when your sincere teshuvah failed to successfully heal a wounded relationship? In recalling a relationship in your life that needs mending, what is one first doable step you might take on the road to healing that relationship?
We dip our bubble wand into the bubbles and blow them out into the universe and say: As we cast these bubbles into the air, let us also cast off those habits and behaviors that are detrimental and harmful to our immediate environment and to the planet.
Ask and discuss, people respond: Can you think of examples of when you missed the mark in your relationship with the environment around you or the planet in general? What opportunities might you have or create in the year ahead to live more gently on this planet?
We take a lit candle and say: As we cast our eyes upon the burning fire and raise our thoughts from the mundane to the holy, let us also cast off those qualities that hold us back and separate us from growing closer to the Divine.
Ask and discuss, people respond: Can you think of ways in which your behavior or actions might have “missed the mark” this past year? What would it mean for you to personally return/come home to G-d at this time?
Final blessing: Creator and Sustainer of All Life: Grant us the insight to become the persons we have the potential to become. Teach us to resist temptation, to conquer self-destructive habits, to overcome selfishness and pettiness. Help us grow in compassion for others, for ourselves, and to act with more mercy toward this aching fragile planet. Give us the humility and the courage to repair relationships that pride has destroyed. Show us how we can bring hope and healing into this world. Please inscribe us and those we love in the Book of Life: let it be a year of health, blessing, love and peace for all your children.
Extinguish the candle. End of ritual.
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