Beit Midrash

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

When and why do we recite Selichot?


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Elul 18 5782
Answer: There are different customs for saying the Selichot penitential prayers, a Minhag initiated by King David as a means of confessing our sins prior to asking Hashem for forgiveness. Sefardim say Selichot each morning in Elul, just as the Shofar is sounded each day. Ashkenazim begin saying Selichot this Motzei Shabbat (s opposed to the Motza"sh just before Rosh Hashana) as there must be an interval of at least 4 days before the Chag (just as a korban was prepared 4 days before its offering, so we prepare ourselves at least 4 days prior). Why do we always begin on a Motzei Shabbat? One suggestion: We often read Parshat Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Selichot. The opening words of the Parsha, "Atem Nitzavim Hayom," are equal in Gematria to, "la’amod l’slichot" - rise to say Selichot. Selichot, recited either morning or evening, is usually said either very early or very late to demonstrate - by virtue of the unusual hour - our urgency in seeking G-d’s mercy.
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