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Why is the verse about old age specifically read aloud in Selichot?
During the Slichot that are said leading up the Yamim Noraim, there's a section where the Aron is opened and some verses are said, the first few responsively. These are said responsively:
שמע קולנו ה' אלוקינו חוס ורחם עלינו וקבל ברחמים וברצון את תפילתנו:
השיבנו ה' אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם:
אל תשליכנו מלפניך ורוח קדשך אל תקח ממנו:
אל תשליכנו לעת זיקנה ככלות כחינו אל תעזבנו:
אל תעזבנו ה' אלוקינו אל תרחק ממנו:
עשה עמנו אות לטובה ויראו שונאינו ויבשו כי אתה ה' עזרתנו ונחמתנו:
Hear our voice, HASHEM, our God, pity and be compassionate to us, and accept — with compassion and favor — our prayer.
Bring us back to You, HASHEM, and we shall return, renew our days as of old.
Do not cast us away from Yourself, and do not remove Your holy spirit from us.
Do not cast us away in old age, when our strength gives out do not forsake us.
Do not forsake us, HASHEM, our God, be not distant from us.
Display for us a sign for good, so that our enemies may see it and be ashamed, for You, HASHEM, will have helped and consoled us.
(translation by Yaakov Lavon, from the Complete ArtScroll Selichos)
Almost all of these verses are immediately applicable to everyone in the congregation - with the exception of one. The line about "eit ziknah", old age, always struck me as a strange choice for the particular ones to read aloud. Why specificaly this line about old age instead of one of the following verses that would be more applicable to everyone in the congregation?
Why was this specific verse chosen to be read aloud?
Rashi there (Tehillim 71:9) understands "eit ziknah" not as a chronological age but "If I have aged with sins, meaning, I have sinned exceedingly."
So the speaker is asking for Hashem not to abandon him even if he is mired so deeply in sin (at any age) that he feels he has a lack of strength to return to Hashem.
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