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Selichot prayer leaf (c. 8th-9th century) discovered in the famous Mogao Caves of Dunhuang, Gansu province, China in 1908 by Paul Pelliot.

Selichot or slichot (Hebrew: סליחות‎; singular selichah (סליחה)) are Jewish penitential poems and prayers, especially those said in the period leading up to the High Holidays, and on Fast Days. God's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy are a central theme throughout these prayers.

Selichot of the High Holidays[edit]

In the Sephardic tradition, recital of Selichot in preparation for the High Holidays begins on the second day of the Hebrew month of Elul. In the Ashkenazic tradition, it begins on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. If, however, the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday or Tuesday, Selichot are said beginning the Saturday night prior to ensure that Selichot are recited at least four times. This may be because originally the pious would fast for ten days during the season of repentance, and four days before Rosh Hashanah were added to compensate for the four of the Ten days of Repentance on which fasting is forbidden - the two days of Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah, and the day preceding Yom Kippur - and, while the fasts have since been abandoned, the Selichot that accompanied them have been retained. Alternatively, the Rosh Hashanah liturgy includes the Biblical phrase, “you shall observe a burnt offering”, and like an offering which needs to be scrutinised for defects for four days, so too four days of self-searching are needed before the day of judgment.[1]

Selichot refers to both the poetic piyyutim that compose the service as well as to the service itself. In most modern Sephardic communities, Selichot services are identical each day. However, some North African communities still recite a different Selichot every day, following the order in Siftei Renanot.[2] In the Eastern Ashkenazic tradition, although the text and length of specific prayers varies from day to day, the overall format remains the same and is prefaced by Ashrei (Psalms 145) and the Half-Kaddish. In the Western Ashkenazic tradition, there is similarly an overall format, but it begins with Adon Olam or Lecha Hashem Ha'Tzedaka, and the Half-Kaddish follows the first set of the thirteen attributes.[3]

Selichot are usually recited between midnight and dawn. Some recite it at night after the 'Arvit service or in the morning before the Shacharit service due to the convenience of synagogue attendance at these times.

Arguably the most important and certainly most popular night of Selichot in the Ashkenazi tradition is the first night, when many women and girls as well as men and boys attend the late-night service on Saturday night. In some communities, the hazzan wears a kittel and sings elaborate melodies. In some congregations, it is not unusual for a choir to participate in this first night's service. In the Eastern Ashkenazic tradition, this night also has more Selichot than any other night prior to Rosh Hashanah eve. The other nights are more sparsely attended and those services are often led by a layperson, rather than a trained musician, and with melodies that are less elaborate than the first night.

Categories of Selichot[edit]

Categories of Selichot in the Ashkenazic tradition may include:

  • Selichah (סליחה) — Hebrew for "forgiveness." This is the default Selichah and comprises the vast majority of the Selichot service.
  • Pizmon (פזמון) — Hebrew for "chorus." These central Selichot vary according to the day and contain a chorus which is repeated after each stanza.
  • Akeidah (עקידה) — Hebrew for "binding", a word which specifically refers to the Binding of Isaac. This Selichah contains the theme of the Akeidah as a merit for God answering our prayers. It begins to appear on Rosh Hashanah eve and is placed immediately before or after the Pizmon.
  • Chatanu (חטאנו) — Hebrew for "we have sinned." Starting on the evening before Rosh Hashanah [and in the Western rites, even on the first days] and continuing through Yom Kippur, this Selichah is said after the final recitation of the Thirteen Attributes and before the Vidui confessional. It contains as its refrain, "חטאנו צורנו סלח לנו יוצרנו", "We have sinned, our Rock, forgive us, our Creator". Perhaps the most famous Chatanu Selichah is the Eleh Ezkera Martyrology recited during Musaf on Yom Kippur or at other times in other rites, though the recitation of the aforementioned refrain is not always followed in this particular Chatanu.
  • Techinah (תחינה) — Hebrew for "petition." This Selichah begins to appear on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in the Tachanun section and other days in some rites, at the very end of the Selichot service.

Selichot of Fast Days[edit]

On minor fast days (besides the Fast of Gedaliah, whose Selichot are preempted by the Selichot of the High Holidays), some communities recite Selichot after the conclusion of the Shacharit Amidah.[4][5] The content of these prayers is related to the specific fast day. Western Ashkenazic communities insert the recitation of the Selichot of minor fast days in the middle of the blessing for forgiveness (סלח לנו כי חטאנו) in the repetition of the Shacharit Amidah.

Selichot are not recited on the major fast day of Tisha B'Av.

Selichot rites[edit]

There are at least thirteen printed rites for selichot:[6] The following eight are variations of the Western Ashkenazic rite: 1) Ashkenaz - This includes most of Germany, including Frankfurt. 2) Alsace 3) Furth 4) Worms 5) Fluss 6) Cologne 7) Switzerland 8) Italian Ashkenazim

The follow five are variations of the Eastern Ashkenazic rite: 1) Polin (Poland) 2) Lita (Lithuania) 3) Bohemia (Hungary) 4) Posen 5) Old Shul in Prague.


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selichot — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

883 news items


Fri, 28 Aug 2015 09:08:21 -0700

You're going to have to clue me in on this one, Rabbi. I've been reading up on Selichot (penitential prayers), and the schedule seems so strange to me. First of all, why are there different possibilities of when to begin? There are some years, like ...


Sat, 05 Sep 2015 14:00:53 -0700

Hundreds of thousands of Jews in Israel and abroad, members of the Ashkenazi communities, began the Selichot rituals on Saturday night - one of the most characteristic expressions of the season of repentance ahead of Rosh HaShana. Follow Ynetnews on ...

Jerusalem Post Israel News (blog)

Jerusalem Post Israel News (blog)
Mon, 25 Apr 2016 03:52:30 -0700

We hold Selichot services, light Chanuka candles, read the Megillat Esther on Purim, and we have prayed during the intermediate days of Sukkot and during the year to commemorate yahrzeits and other life cycle events of our members. This year we wanted ...


Wed, 02 Sep 2015 13:45:35 -0700

Selichot (Jewish penitential prayers) tours go through a variety of ways and sites. We've put together a number of must-see sites one should visit during a nightly visit. Note that one can reach them independently and free of charge, so anyone can just ...

International Business Times

International Business Times
Fri, 04 Sep 2015 11:03:44 -0700

Selichot, the singular of which (selicha) means "forgiveness" in Hebrew, are penintential prayers and poems that are often recited in Jewish communities starting on the Satuday night before the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, all the way through Yom ...
Thu, 21 Apr 2016 13:19:02 -0700

The effect of Yom Kippur – extended into the prayers of much of the rest of the year by way of tachanun (supplicatory prayers), vidui (confession), and selichot (prayers for forgiveness) – was to create a culture in which people are not ashamed or ...


Thu, 03 Sep 2015 06:36:12 -0700

The first Selichot service is held very early Sunday morning, approximately an hour after midnight. The subsequent ones are held around dawn before morning services on the days that follow. (Sephardic Jews begin saying Selichot three weeks earlier, at ...

Arutz Sheva

Arutz Sheva
Mon, 17 Aug 2015 02:10:24 -0700

Thousands of worshipers crowded the Western Wall (Kotel) Plaza Sunday evening for the first recital of selichot, the series of penitential prayers recited in the run up to the Jewish High Holy Days. According to the Sephardic rite, selichot prayers are ...

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