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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays S'lichot

Selichot- When & why

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Question: When & why do we recite Selichot prayers?

Answer: There are different customs for saying the S'lichot prayers, a Minhag initiated by King David as a way of confessing our sins prior to asking Hashem for forgiveness. Sefardim began to say Slichot each morning in Elul, just as the Shofar is sounded each day. Ashkenazim begin S'lichot on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashana (that is, this Sat. night) so long as there are at least 4 days before the Chag (just as a korban was prepared 4 days before its offering, so do we prepare ourselves).

Why is it customary to begin on a Motzei Shabbat? One idea: Usually, we read Parshat Nitzavim on the Shabbat before S'lichot. The opening words of the Parsha, "Atem Nitzavim Hayom," are equal in Gematria to, "la'amod l'slichot – rise to say Slichot." Selichot, recited either morning or evening, is usually said either very early or very late - to demonstrate our urgency in seeking G-d's mercy.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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