Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • S'lichot
To dedicate this lesson

Selichot- When & why


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 21 5780
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.
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