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I have always had a problem connecting with the selichot. In my shul they are said in a very rushed, impassionate fashion, mainly due to the need for people to get to work. I don't understand most of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time or, frankly, the inclination to read through the English translation of each day.

I am looking for practical advice on how to make saying selichos more meaningful.

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The answers to this related question may be relevant here. This question is about the Vidui part in particular. See also the following questions about various aspects of concentration on prayers in general: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26698/2 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9961/2 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5489/2 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1780/2 –  Isaac Moses Sep 3 '13 at 16:21
    
Are you reciting Ashkenazi style Selichot, Sefardi style, some other style? –  Double AA Sep 3 '13 at 18:17
    
@DoubleAA ashkenazi –  please remove my account Sep 3 '13 at 19:20
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"It is better to recite few supplications attentively than to recite many inattentively" (Shulchan Aruch, OC 1:4). –  Fred Sep 3 '13 at 22:36
    
@Fred the Gemara preceded that Shulhan Aruch :) –  Hacham Gabriel Sep 4 '13 at 2:58
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

(Assuming that finding a slower Minyan is not an option, and that you are using the Ashkenazi/Chassidich version.)

Take a 2-pronged approach:

  1. Prepare
  2. Don't plan on saying it all

Prepare the shortest chapter of that day; very often it's the Pizmun - the one towards the end recited by the congregation and Chazzan.

Spend a few minutes before Selichot (or while the congregation is saying the first pieces) to understand what it says.

Then say it at your pace - irrelevant of where the congregation is holding.

The parts you should say with the congregation are the 13-Middot (Hashem-Hashem, etc.) and the 4-5 Pesukim right after, which are the main Selichot. The "long" Selichot were introduced later.

If you pencil in the translation/meaning while you are preparing, then over the period of a few years you will have most of the Slichot under your control.

BTW: Once you get the hang of the language, you will find that you understand most Selichot even without preparing, as the themes are recurring.

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if you don't understand the words, then it should not be surprising that they are meaningless. First thing is to understand what you're saying.

Rabbi Elyah Lopian zt'l (beginning of Lev Eliyahu parsha Bereishis) says:

"To fulfill the obligation of kavana (concentration) in prayer according to all opinions, one must have two things in mind: 1) What you are saying and 2) to Whom you are talking."

So, it seems to be top priority to work on these two things, even if one does not have the patience, otherwise they will be doomed to be meaningless.

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