Tachanun (literally “supplication”) refers to the penitential prayers recited following the morning and afternoon Amidah (“Silent Prayer”) on non-festive days.

The exact formulation of this prayer varies by community. As it is practiced in Chabad,1 there are four major landmarks:

  1. Viduy: The traditional confession of sins, listing a sin or deficiency for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet. At each one, we gently strike our chest with a closed fist.
  2. Yud Gimmel Middot: The 13 Attributes of Mercy, as told to Moses by G‑d on Mount Sinai, which are said only in the presence of a minyan.
  3. Nefilat Apayim: The “Falling [on] Face,” this is the heart of Tachanun, in which a Psalm2 is said while the head is lowered upon the arm (for more on this, see Why Put Your Head Down?).
  4. Avinu Malkeinu: This litany of requests, each beginning with “Our Father, our King,” is a familiar part of High Holiday and fast day services. A truncated version is also found in the daily Tachanun.

On Mondays and Thursdays, which are particularly auspicious days to find Divine favor, morning Tachanun is significantly longer, running several pages3 (for the fascinating history of this prayer, read Why Is Tachanun Longer on Mondays & Thursdays?).

Tachanun is not said on holidays or even in the afternoon leading up to these joyous days, nor is it said for the entire month of Nisan and most of Tishrei (see below), since these months are full of holidays and other happy events.

It is also omitted on joyous occasions, like in the presence of a groom or (the host of) a circumcision.

When Tachanun is not said, there are several other sections of the morning service and nighttime Shema that are omitted as well, since their supplicatory tone is not consistent with the more joyous day or occasion.

When Shabbat coincides with a day when Tachanun would not be said, we omit the brief mournful paragraph starting with the word Tzidkatecha on Shabbat afternoon.

List of Days When Tachanun Is Not Said

Tachanun is omitted on Shabbat, beginning from Friday afternoon, and every Rosh Chodesh, also starting on the afternoon of the day before.

Tachanun is also commonly omitted:

The following are dates when Tachanun is omitted by those who follow Chabad custom:6

(It is not the Chabad custom to omit Tachanun on anniversaries of birth or passing of righteous individuals and rebbes.)