Tonight: First Night of Selichos for Ashkenazim


daveningIn anticipation of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, special prayers, known as Selichos, are said in the early hours of the morning (Preferably at the end of the night, before Alos HaShachar,daybreak, although most Shuls say it a half hour or so before the regular time for Shacharis) to beg Hashem for forgiveness for our sins of the past year, and to beseech Him to inscribe us all in the book of the Tzaddikim Gemurim, for life.

Some communities (including the Sephardim) have the custom to begin to say Selichos from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur.

Others begin saying Selichos from the 15th of Elul until Yom Kippur.

The prevalent Minhag, however, is to begin saying Selichos from the Sunday morning before Rosh Hashana. However, if Rosh Hashana falls out on Monday or Tuesday, then Selichos begins a week earlier. Thus, tomorrow morning – or tonight, Motzei Shabbos, as is the custom in many shuls – Selichos will be said.

The reason for this is that we require at least 4 days of Selichos before Rosh Hashana. A Korban (sacrifice) in the Bais HaMikdash required 4 days of examinations to ensure it was blemish free and acceptable for the Mizbeach (altar). So too each Jew should consider themselves as a Korban Olah on Rosh Hashana and be ready to sacrifice themselves in atonement before Hashem, and thus utilize these 4 days (or more) to examine their deeds and do Teshuva for their sins (blemishes) and thus be pure when approaching Hashem on Rosh Hashana.

When one rises early for Selichos, even though it is still before daybreak, he must still wash his hands and recite the blessing of “Al Netilas Yadayim” as well as the rest of Birchas HaShachar. (Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zt”l and others mantain that if one knows that he will need the bathroom after Selichos, before Shacharis, he may wait until then to recite “Al Netilas Yadayim”)

Birchos HaTorah should also preferably be said before Selichos, as many of the Selichos contain references to Pesukim.(Some Poskim maintain that even though we are saying Pesukim, it isn’t considered Torah learning, rather prayers, and thus no Birchos HaTorah is required. It is best to be stringent.)

{Halacha for Today/}


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