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This question will collect Q&As, formatted for the book, for Days of Awe - Mi Yodeya?. We're breaking this up into five posts for easier management. This question collects material for the Selichot section.

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What parts of selichot can be said without a minyan?

Daniel asked:1 Suppose attending a minyan for selichot is impossible during the time it is said (in the week before Rosh Hashanah for Ashkenazim; from the beginning of Elul for Sefardim). Which parts of selichot can be said without a minyan, and which parts must be omitted?


Gershon Gold answered: If someone is unable to attend a minyan for selichos he would not say the Shelosh Esrei Midos (13 attributes). In addition, Ashkenazim would not say the words that are in Aramaic, however for Sefardim there are those that permit it. There are also those that permit saying the Shelosh Esrei Midos if it is done to the tune we read the Torah.

Sources: Mishna Berura 581:4, Hilchos Chagim (Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, page 206), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Yalkot Yosef 581:15.

Aryeh answered: For Sephardim, the Orot Sephardic Selihot (by R. Eliezer Toledano) writes the following:

One who is reciting the Selihot without a minyan must say the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy with the cantillation melody used when reading from the Torah (Shulhan Aruch 665:5). He may not recite those portions of the Selihot that are written in Aramaic (e.g., Marana D'vishmaya..."); cf. Kaf Hahayyim 581:26.

For more detail, see Yalkut Yosef, siman 581:14:

הסליחות שנתקנו בלשון ארמית [תרגום], כגון ''רחמנא'', ''מחי ומסי'', ''דעני לעניי ענינן'', ''מרנא דבשמיא'', אין ליחיד לאומרם, מפני שאין מלאכי השרת מכירין בלשון ארמי, ורק אם יש מנין בבית הכנסת אומרים אותם, שהצבור אינו זקוק לעזרת מלאכי השרת, שהשכינה עמהם. [ראה בקול תורה אלול תשס''ג עמוד ז]. ולכן כשעדיין לא באו עשרה להשלים מנין, ידלג השליח צבור רחמנא ושאר קטעי סליחות הנ''ל, וכשיבואו עשרה יאמרם. ונכון לנהוג כשטרם באו עשרה לבית הכנסת לסליחות, לומר אחר שבט יהודה בדוחק ובצער [קודם אל מלך]''רבונו של עולם אתוודה על עבירות'', וכו', והוידוי ושאר תחנות שבלשון הקודש, וכשיופיע העשירי לסליחות יחזרו ל''אל מלך'', ויעבור, רחמנא, אנשי אמונה, ושאר הסליחות שדילגו. ואם הזמן מצומצם בכל זאת יאמרו אל מלך, ויעבור, אנשי אמונה וכו', וידלגו ''אם אפס'' ויתחילו ''זכרון לפניך בשחק''. וכן ידלגו ''בזכרי על משכבי'' וכן ''אליך ה' נשאתי עיני'' כפי הצורך, כי מעלת אמירת י''ג מדות עולה על חשיבות הסליחות הללו. ואם אין תקוה שיגיע מנין במשך זמן אמירת הסליחות, אז יאמרו כל הי''ג מדות במקומם, עם טעמי המקרא, כמי שקורא בתורה. [וראה בשו''ת יביע אומר ח''י בהערות לרב פעלים חאו''ח ח''ג סי' מא בענין סדר ז' כורתי ברית בתפלת רחמנא שאומרים בסליחות].

The selichot set in the Aramaic language [Targum], such as "Rachamana", "Machai U'Masai", "Deanei Laaniyei", "Marana D'vishmaya" are not said by an individual, because the ministering angels do not understand the Aramaic language. Only if there is a minyan in the synagogue are they said, as the community doesn't need the help of ministering angels since God's Presence is with them [see B'Kol Torah Elul תשס"ג Page 7]. Therefore, when ten have yet to come to make a minyan, the chazzan skips "Rachamana" and the other selichot mentioned above, and once ten arrive they say it.

When ten have yet to arrive to the synagogue for selichot by the end of "Shevet Yehudah B'Dochak Uvtzaar", it is proper conduct to say [before El Melech] "רבונו של עולם אתוודה על עבירות" (Master of the Universe, I will confess my transgressions), etc., as well as the Viddui (Confession) and the rest of the sections that are in the Holy Tongue, and when the tenth man arrives to selichot they return to "El Melech", "Vayavor", "Rachamana", "Anshei Emunah", and the rest of the selichot that were skipped. And if time is limited anyway, they say "El Melech", "Vayavor", "Anshei Emunah", etc., and they skip "Im Afes", and start on "Zikaron Lefanecha Baschak". And they skip "Bezochri Al Mishcavi" and "Elecha HaShem Nafshi Esa", as necessary, since the virtue of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy take precedence over these selichot. And if there is no hope that a minyan will appear during the recitation of selichot, they then say all of the Thirteen Attributes in their usual place, with cantillation melody, as if reading from the Torah. [See Responsa Yabia Omer Helek 10, in the notes to Rav Poalim Orach Chaim Helek 3, Siman 41 on the order of the 7 covenants in the prayer "Rachamana" that are said in selichot.]


  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/18972

Contributors:
Aryeh mi.yodeya.com/u/1865
Daniel mi.yodeya.com/u/1713
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200

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  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE – Scimonster Jul 22 '15 at 18:48
  • I tried to make the opening less specific to Ashkenazim (week), as the second [longer] answer is completely Sefardi, but i'm not sure how clear it is now. If anyone wants to reword that, feel free. – Scimonster Jul 22 '15 at 18:58
  • Thanks @Scimonster. I made a minor tweak that I think improves clarify; if anybody disagrees, feel free to adjust further. – Monica Cellio Jul 22 '15 at 19:46
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How can I find meaning in saying selichot?

please remove my account asked:1 I have always had a problem connecting with the selichot. In my shul they are said in a very rushed, impassioned fashion, mainly due to the need for people to get to work. I don't understand most of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time or, frankly, the inclination to read through the English translation of each day.

I am looking for practical advice on how to make saying selichot more meaningful.


Fred noted: "It is better to recite few supplications attentively than to recite many without concentrating" (Shulchan Aruch, OC 1:4).

Danny Schoemann suggested: Assuming that finding a slower minyan is not an option, and that you are using the Ashkenazi/Chasidic version, I recommend you take a 2-pronged approach:

  1. Prepare
  2. Don't plan on saying it all

Prepare the shortest chapter of that day, which is very often the Pizmun -- the one towards the end recited responsively by the congregation and the leader.

Spend a few minutes before Selichot (or while the congregation is saying the first pieces) to use a translation to understand what it says.

Then say it at your own pace, irrelevant of where the congregation is up to.

The parts you should say with the congregation are the 13 Middot ("Hashem-Hashem" etc.) and the 4-5 verses right after, which are the essential part of Selichot. (The "long" poetic Selichot were introduced later.)

If you pencil in the translation/meaning while you are preparing or just after the service, then over the course of a few years you will have most of the Selichot under your control.

By the way: Once you get the hang of the language used, you will find that you understand most Selichot even without preparing as many of the themes are recurring.


  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/30901

Contributors:
please remove my account mi.yodeya.com/u/3120
Danny Schoemann mi.yodeya.com/u/501
Fred mi.yodeya.com/u/1442

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