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Selichot

Selichot

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Image: High Holiday Prayer, by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman
Image: High Holiday Prayer, by chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman

King David was anguished when he prophetically foresaw the destruction of the Holy Temple and the cessation of the offering of the sacrifices. “How will the Jews atone for their sins?” he wondered.

G‑d replied: “When suffering will befall the Jews because of their sins, they should gather before me in complete unity. Together they shall confess their sins and recite the order of the Selichot, and I will answer their prayers.”

Midrash

With the imminent approach of the new year and the Days of Awe, our preparations for the High Holidays move into highest gear. Several days before Rosh Hashanah we begin to recite the Selichot, a series of penitential prayers and liturgy.

According to Ashkenazic custom, the first Selichot are recited on Saturday night after halachic midnight,1 and a minimum of four days of Selichot must be observed. Therefore, if the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday or Shabbat, the Selichot start on the Saturday night directly preceding the New Year. If Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday or Tuesday,2 then Selichot commence on the Saturday night approximately a week and a half before Rosh Hashanah. Following the midnight service, Selichot are recited daily (except on Shabbat) before the morning prayers, until Rosh Hashanah (aside for the Sunday morning immediately after the first Selichot, which is covered by the midnight recitation several hours earlier).

Sephardim recite Selichot throughout the entire month of Elul.

It is important to attend synagogue for Selichot, as its text contains several important passages which may be said only in the presence of a minyan (quorum of ten Jewish men).

Most Jewish communities continue reciting Selichot throughout the Ten Days of Repentance (the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). According to Chabad custom, however, Selichot are not recited during these days (with the exception of the third of Tishrei, when Selichot are recited as part of the commemoration of the Fast of Gedaliah).3

The story is told about the fourth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch, who once asked his illustrious father, the Tzemach Tzedek, regarding the reason for this custom. “My son,” he responded, “now is no longer the time for words. Now we must translate words into deed . . .”

Click here for the complete Selichot prayers in Hebrew.

In 2014, Selichot (according to Ashkenazic custom) will begin after midnight of Sunday morning, September 21. Contact your local Chabad-Lubavitch center for the exact time and location of local Selichot services.

FOOTNOTES
1.

“Halachic time” varies depending on the season, and usually doesn’t concur with our clocks (see Hours). According to Jewish law, midnight is exactly halfway between sunset and sunrise. In the USA, because Rosh Hashanah is observed during Daylight Saving Time, “midnight” is often closer to 1:00 than to 12:00.

2.

Due to technical calendar reasons, the first day of Rosh Hashanah cannot fall out on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday.

3.

Selichot are also recited on Jewish public fast days. The fast-day Selichot are incorporated into the morning prayers.

Painting by Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman.
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Discussion (30)
August 25, 2014
High Hols.
yes, we must make ourselves fit ,holy and sinless to humbly praise & pray to Holy Ha-Shem. Amein.
Mark Alcock
Umhlali
September 2, 2013
todá, david!
bea
August 31, 2013
Finding English Translation of Selichot
Thank you, David! I was able to find the English translation on hebrewbooks.org.
Lisa
Australia
August 27, 2013
English translation - David
Thank you David, your instructions were clear and I have the download.

My first Selichot. Blessings to you Chabad for providing this beautiful spiritual tool.
Galit
Adelaide
July 23, 2013
Re:
The study behind the meaning and spiritual power of Elul begins at the beginning of the month as does the working on Teshuva. There is also a custom of adding in three chapters of Psalms daily.

It is only that the Selichot themself are not said until later.

One reason given to the (minimum) of 4 days of Selichot:

With regard to all Biblical Festivals the Torah says "you shall offer an Olah (offering)", whereas with regard to Rosh Hashanah it says "you shall make an Olah." Our sages say that on Rosh Hashanah we need to make ourselves fit for an Olah. And just as every offering was inspected four days before it was offered, so too we must inspect ourselves for (at least) four days before Rosh Hashana
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
July 21, 2013
slichot
I wonder why chabad/ashkenazic practice is to wait so long to start saying slichoth? Wouldn't it make sense to ramp up to the intensity of the High Holidays slowly and steadily over the whole month of Elul? I am thinking of trying to find the kind where you start right after Rosh chodesh Elul this year.
Lewis Brinin
The swamps of Florida
September 16, 2012
download Selichot available true
thank you so very much for this wonderful resource.
Kidron del Oeste
Zapote, Costa Rica
September 15, 2012
thank you
Thank you for the info! Good to know
sheila montoya
Montgomery Village, MD
September 7, 2012
Selichot English translation
Thank you for sharing it in English, my Hebrew is very poor, what a blessing!
Sandra Osorio Mangini
Miami beach, Fl
September 2, 2012
English Shelichot
Thank you for posting the directions for the English. This is a great help for me as my Hebrew is poor and understanding what I am saying is very meaningful to me.
Sarah Beth
Los Angeles
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