Those of you living in Israel might have noticed that in the last few days some people around you look more tired than usual, yawning their way through the day.
You might think this has to do with the recent social protest: people sleep in tents and march in demonstrations, so they’re understandably more tired. Or perhaps it has to do with kids going back to school on September 1st; that morning rush to get everybody up and ready on time is rather tiring. Or maybe all the news about the Palestinian declaration of independence and the Turkish declaration of insanity is getting us all down.
But the real answer lies elsewhere. September 1st was the second day of the Jewish month of Elul. Sephardi communities start their selichot, special prayers said in preparation for the new year, on this day. The custom is to say these prayers before dawn, so people rise early to get to synagogue on time (5 to 5:30 am). Another custom is to say them after midnight, staying up late and finishing well after 1 am. In either case, the result is less hours of sleep and more yawning during the day.
Full disclosure: I don’t look that tired (not more than usual, anyway) because I found a group of people that say selichot at 7:30 am, bypassing the customary hour due to extenuating circumstances: who in his right mind would willingly get up at 5 am every day for 40 days?!