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Selichot are special prayers for forgiveness, said on fast days and also during the period preceding Yom Kippur.

What do people do?
At the Selichot service, worshipers begin to examine their deeds of the past year, seeking forgiveness from God and promising to improve their behaviour in the New Year. The prayers are specifically tailored to help worshipers direct their hearts and minds to the process of teshuvah (Hebrew for repentance).

In the Sephardic tradition, Selichot are said from the beginning of the month of Elul (the month before the Jewish new year), while in the Ashkenazic tradition Selichot are begun from the Sunday (often the Saturday night) before Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur. If Rosh Hashanah begins on a Monday or Tuesday, however, Selichot begins on the Sunday of the week before Rosh Hashanah, to make sure that there are at least three days of Selichot.

In general, the proper time to say Selichot are at the end of the night, just before the morning, since this time is considered, according to Jewish Mysticism, as especially favorable in terms of the presence and closeness of God. Hence, Selichot are typically recited in the early morning, before the daily shacharit service.

The first night of Selichot is different from the other days. First, it is customary to say Selichot the first night before going to sleep, and, since the first part of the night is considered a time of judgment, the Selichot are not recited on the first night until after chatzot, relative midnight. A person should consult a Jewish calendar or their rabbi to determine the specific time of chatzot for their area.

How do we celebrate at Westminster Synagogue?
We follow the Ashkenazi tradition in holding our Selichot prayers just over a week before Rosh Hashanah (which this year falls on Monday 30th September). We will be holding a Selichot service on Saturday 21st September. More information to follow shortly. 


Thu, 11 August 2022 14 Av 5782