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Selichot

The recitation of Selichot -- a series of penitential prayers and liturgy recited daily in preparation for the Days of Awe -- reaches its climax with the recitation of the "Zechor Brit" ("Remember Your Covenant") Selichot on the day before Rosh Hashanah. (Click here for more about Selichot.)

This day's Selichot, which is slightly lengthier than the preceding days', is customarily said in the very early hours of the morning. In most synagogues, the Selichot are immediately followed by the morning prayers.

Click here for the Hebrew text of the Selichot.

Tachanun

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the tachanun (confessional sections of the prayers) is omitted from the day's morning prayers, as is done on all festive dates on the Jewish calendar. After all, it is the day before a holiday, and we are confident and certain that G‑d will judge us favorably and bless each and every one of His children with a sweet and happy new year!

When Satan sees that we are so confident, he loses confidence in his carefully prepared caseShofar-less

The shofar is not sounded on the day before Rosh Hashanah (as it is every day throughout the previous month of Elul), to separate between the shofar soundings of the month of Elul -- which are a minhag, or "custom" -- and the Rosh Hashanah soundings, which are a biblically ordained mitzvah.

Another reason given for not sounding the shofar on this day is in order to confuse Satan, the supernal prosecutor, as he prepares his case against us for tomorrow's Day of Judgment. The blowing of the shofar is a great weapon in our arsenal, as it is symbolic of the horn of the ram which was sacrificed in stead of Isaac, and thus evokes the merit of our holy Patriarchs and the sacrifices they made out of their deep love for G‑d. When Satan sees that we are so confident that we will be victorious on the Day of Judgment that we don't even find it necessary any more to sound the shofar, he is utterly confounded and loses confidence in his carefully prepared case.

Annulment of Vows

After the morning prayers, it is customary to perform a ceremony known as Hatarat Nedarim ("the annulment of vows") to repeal certain vows which one has taken upon oneself so that one can begin the Day of Judgment free from the sin of unfulfilled vows.

Certain vows which one has accepted upon oneself can, legally, be repealed by a court of three people. Many communities, including Chabad, have the custom of doing so before an assembly of ten individuals. The person approaches the panel and declares that he had possibly accepted vows upon himself, but had he known that he would be unable to fulfill them, he would never have accepted them upon himself. The person is then told three times that his vows are annuled.

It has become customary to recite the formula that is printed in the prayer books, for that formula describes in detail the various types of vows and the manner in which they can be repealed.

The basic hatarat nedarim procedure: four (or eleven) men convene. One of them stands up and faces the remaining panel of "judges," who are seated, and asks for them to annul his vows, which they do. That person then is seated, becoming part of the panel, and the next individual asks for annulment, and so on until all have had their vows annulled.

It is not customary for women to do hatarat nedarim.

(In Sephardic communities, it is customary to repeal one's vows twice each year: forty days before Rosh Hashanah, on the 19th of Av; and forty days before Yom Kippur, on the 1st of Elul.)

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Reuven Modiin, None September 16, 2012

heter nedarim What should one do about heter nedarim if he misses shacharit minyan? Can he do heter nedarim sometime later? Reply

Anonymous Istanbul September 28, 2011

vow charge my understanding is that the husband, father, or otherwise charge of the woman stands in her place. he is in charge of confirming or voiding her vows on a day to day basis. if he confirms them, he is the one who needs to be released from them, not her. if he voided them, there's no need. Reply

J. Chicago, IL September 8, 2010

women and hatarat nedarim (anullment of vows) There are certain circumstances where women need to do hatarat nedarim (anullment of vows). I am a woman, and I did hatarat nedarim before a beit din on erev Rosh Hashana some years ago. You shouldn't imply that this is never done -- sometimes Halakha requires it.

It is true that women are not usually at Shacharit on erev Rosh Hashana, so most women don't have the minhag to do this every year. But women can and should still do hatarat nedarim if they have a specific need.

You should also have clarified that this refers to release from personal, spiritual vows such as the vow to fast voluntarily. It does not apply to release from vows made to another person, such as business agreements.

Shana Tova to all! Reply

Gerson September 8, 2010

To Anon in Toronto I think that the annulment of vows is mostly for the ones that we take accidentally, and do not necessarily even remember making. Reply

Anonymous Toronto, Canada September 7, 2010

Vows annulment? Why should we be allowed to annul our vows. When our vow when not completed can show lack of focus spiritual or otherwise.. Why should we be let off, shouldnt we be called higher. Reply

Irene Alhanati Cardillo Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 19, 2010

annulment of vows Why can´t women pledge for annulment of vows? How are we going to be forgiven? Reply

Tzvi Freeman September 28, 2008

women and hatarat nedarim We looked into this and haven't come up with anything of certainty. Customs aren't instituted, they arise, and the form they take often has more to do with circumstances under which they arose than with intentional reason.

Kol Nidrei on Erev Yom Kippur was instituted for the annulment of vows in a public forum. But there were those who did not want to wait until then, wishing to enter the new year free of vows. So they gathered three or more men together at shul on a weekday, forming a bet din, and asked for an annulment of their vows.

Since vows cannot be annulled on Shabbat, and women do not usually attend shul on weekdays, women simply were not there when this happened. Nevertheless, they are of course still included in the annulment of vows at Kol Nidrei. Reply

Anonymous cincinnati, ohio September 28, 2008

Hatarat Nedarim If it is not customery for a women to do Hatarat Nedarim, how should a women be releasd from her vows? Reply

Anonymous newton, ma September 2, 2008

Hatarat nedarim Why it isn't customary for women to do hatarat nedarim? Reply

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