This childhood memory goes back nearly 30 years. Am I really old enough for that?

I am around 10 years old.

It is the middle of the night, and my father is shaking me awake. I am tired, I want to roll over and go back to sleep. It feels cold outside of my blankets and I don't want to move. I hear my siblings stirring too. Apparently everyone is getting up now. But is it still dark outside?

My mind wanders to the day prior to try to make sense of it all. It had been Shabbat. I can't recall anything out of the ordinary about that Shabbat. We had gone to shul, ate our meal, played, read, acted wild, and after Havdalah, we were sent to bed.

Ah, there it was. That was when we were told something is different. We were told to get to sleep, since tonight after midnight we would again go back to shul. We would meet up again to say Selichot.

We dress ourselves as best as we could in the dim light. No one talking; we are all too tired to say anything. I wonder, “Did my father sleep and wake us up, or did he stay awake?”

Downstairs, my father hands me a fresh crisp book. (I still have that copy and I still use it. Though there are many printings since then with sharper text, that one connects me to my first Selichot.)

We sit silently as we ride to shul. All I remember is thinking, “Why is the air conditioning on? It’s so cold.”

In shul, the lights are bright, and the crowd has filed in. With pride, I note that my father will be leading the service.

For a few minutes, we crack some smiles as we see our friends, who also look like they were freshly plucked out of bed. We mumble greetings to one another.

The page is announced. “Selichot for the first night can be found on page 12.” A moment later, my father calls out, “Ashrei yoshvei veitecha…

It has begun, the imminent countdown to Rosh Hashanah. The great day is upon us. Time to get a little more serious. What does a ten year old have to worry about? I don't recall, but I was moved by the reality and awesomeness of the moment.

Within in a few minutes, the haunting melodies begin to work their way into my system.

I’m vacillating between trying to say the words and being lulled back to sleep, I am battling my 10-year-old battle, of sleep versus experience, the easy route or the rewarding route. The story and the battle of life.

The rest is a blur.

Somehow we've gotten home and back to bed and now it is morning. Sunday is filled with cranky exhaustion.

If you asked me would I give up the experience, the answer would be a resounding “no!”

Folks, this is Selichot.

This is the connector piece from the past to the future. This is how Jews begin to Rosh Hashanah (if I may turn it into a verb). Effort, haunting melodies, transporting ourselves to a higher plane, to a deeper connection with G‑d. To a reality that eludes us all year round.

This is Selichot.