Selichot are Not Outcries

My teacher, Rav Soloveitchik taught that the selichot prayers are an outcry to God, a form of prayer that is out loud and hence a blatant public event. Outcry prayers he says, are different from more ordinary request prayers, more dramatic and more emotional.

The obvious repetition in those liturgies makes sense to the Rav because outbursts expressing needs and drama and emotion are repeated.

I disagree. Outcries ordinarily are one-time events. Only in utter desperation are they repeated. We who recite this prayer are not in utter desperation.

The repetitions of Selichot are way too numerous to make sense to me as outcries. And the label of “outcry” or “outburst” is hardly a category bearing significant cognitive meaning, deep theological content or any distinctive personality.


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