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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) 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. Sephardic Selichot services are identical each day. In the 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 (Psalm 145) and the Half-Kaddish.

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. 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. 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 the Pizmon.
  • Chatanu (חטאנו) — Hebrew for "we have sinned." Starting on the evening before Rosh Hashanah 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, 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, 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.[2][3] 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.


  1. ^ Rabbi Raymond Apple. "Soul Searching in the Selichot". oztorah.com. 
  2. ^ Rabbi Naftali Silberberg. "What are "Selichot" and when are they recited?". AskMoses.com. 
  3. ^ ""Selichot", Basic Questions & Answers". ou.org. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selichot — Please support Wikipedia.
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551 news items

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 10:48:14 -0700

AUGUSTA — Temple Beth El will host an innovative Selichot program Saturday to prepare for the High Holidays, beginning with a brief family friendly service at 7 p.m., during which the Torah covers will be changed to white. After services a time for ...
Cleveland Jewish News
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 05:11:15 -0700

Beth Israel-The West Temple will host a Selichot program and service led by Rabbi Enid Lader and Larry Sheir at 8 p.m. Sept. 20. Guest speaker Louise McKinney, member of the board of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, will present “Let the Sound of ...
Arutz Sheva
Sun, 14 Sep 2014 11:56:25 -0700

Around 1,000 residents from all over the country participated in tonight's (Sunday) mass Selichot tour through the streets of Jerusalem's Old City as part of the "Foucs - Putting the Nation at the Center" program. (Selichot are special prayers for ...

Boulder Jewish News

Boulder Jewish News
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:33:45 -0700

We traditionally begin the penitential prayers of Selichot after the Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah. The word selichot means pardon or forgiveness. In Arabic, there is a word from the same root, sulha, which is often used to describe reconciliation. For ...
The Jewish Press
Sun, 07 Sep 2014 02:42:16 -0700

Africa Israel Residences, part of the Africa Israel Investments Group led by international businessman Lev Leviev, will present 7 leading projects on the The Israel Real Estate Exhibition in New York on Sep 14-15, 2014. Home » News & Views » Photo of ...
Cleveland Jewish News
Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0700

“Hadesh Aleinu: A Concert and Service of Renewal for Selichot” will be led by Nichols, the temple's clergy and its Hava Nashira Youth Choir at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. The event begins with a dessert reception, followed by singing, praying and preparing for ...


Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:07:30 -0700

LIVINGSTON, NJ - On Saturday, Sept. 20, beginning at 9:00 p.m., Temple B'nai Abraham, Livingston, will hold its observance of Selichot. Selichot, literally “forgiveness,” is the service held on the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashanah to help usher us ...
Cleveland Jewish News
Fri, 19 Sep 2014 05:00:00 -0700

AGUDATH B'NAI ISRAEL: Meister Road at Pole Ave., Lorain. FRI. Meal followed by service 6 P.M; SAT. 10 A.M., Refreshments 8 P.M., Selichot Service 9 P.M.; WED. 7:30 P.M.; THURS. 9:30 A.M.; FRI. 9:30 A.M., Tashlich 6:30 P.M. 440-282-3307.

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