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However remote the prospect of acquittal, a Jew must never give up. God commands us to challenge indictment with prayer. And the rabbis urge us to confront sentencing with hunger strikes. And so, the Midrash tells us, when Moses stood before God, at a loss for words with which to defend the sin of the golden calf, God Himself donned a tallit, took to the prayer stand, and showed Moses how to pray and what to say:
“And God passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, [His Thirteen Attributes]: The Lord, The Lord, mighty, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in love and truth; He remembers deeds of love for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; He does not forgive those who do not repent…”
The Midrash continues, “that day, God covenanted with Moses that whenever and whatever their sin, Israel will always be forgiven if they recite the Thirteen Attributes.
Accordingly, religious leaders in the past would combine the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with ten days of fasting and prayers for forgiveness. However, because, fasting is prohibited on four out of the Ten Days of Repentance – namely, the two days of Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat Shuvah and Erev Yom Kippur – they would begin to fast and to recite Selichot four days before Rosh Hashanah.
These four days of fasting and prayer are known as the “Days of Selichot.” When Rosh Hashanah occurs on a Wednesday and Thursday, Selichot begin on the Sunday of the same week. When Rosh Hashanah occurs before Wednesday, Selichot begin on the Sunday of the week preceding the week of Rosh Hashanah.
Today, few people fast during the Days of Selichot, but the custom is to rise early to recite Selichot. Another reason for observing the Days of Selichot is that a person’s status before Rosh Hashanah is compared to that of a sacrifice about to be offered up in the Bet HaMikdash. Four days prior to its offering, each sacrifice underwent close examination to ensure the absence of any blemishes that would disqualify it for sacrifice. We, too, should examine ourselves during the four Selichot days for any defects that would render us unacceptable to God on the Day of Judgment.
In addition to the Thirteen Attributes, there are seven categories of Selichot prayers. These are: introductory prayers called petichot, prayers in the form of refrains called pizmonim, two-stanza prayers called sheniyot, three-stanza prayers called shelishiyot, four-stanza prayers called shalmoniyot, prayers recalling the binding of Isaac called akeida, and prayers for grace called techinot. Many of the Selichot prayers contain verses or phrases culled from the following scriptures: Exodus 32:11 and 34:9; Numbers 14:13-19; Psalms 25:11; 1 Kings; 8:36; Amos 7:2; Daniel 9:4-9 and Nehemiah 9:31-37
According to one opinion in the Talmud, at midnight God rises from His seat of judgment and occupies the seat of mercy from which He sustains the world. Midnight, therefore, according to this opinion, is the best time for Selichot. According to another opinion, God rides His Chariot through our world during the last three hours of the night. According to this opinion, the best time for Selichot is the last three hours before dawn. If one rises before dawn, he should recite Birchat HaTorah before reciting Selichot and the chazzan should wear a tallit without reciting the tallit blessing. Selichot may be said after daybreak. Selichot written in Hebrew may be recited by an individual in the absence of a minyan, but Selichot written in Aramaic may not. The Thirteen Attributes may not be recited in the absence of a minyan, but they may be read in the absence of a minyan with the tune used by a ba’al koreh when reading the Torah in public.
The Tur points out that a person on trial for an offense carrying capital punishment would don dark clothes and be in a general state of mourning. We, on the other hand, are so confident of God’s mercy that we wear white and festive clothes and celebrate the Day of Judgment.
Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
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Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea
Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.
Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.
How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?
Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.
“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.
Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.
The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”
And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).
Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”
Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory
Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus
Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.
A more difficult situation arises when there is no evidence placing the missing husband at the site of the death.
When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.
The child of a Jewish mother from a union with a non-Jewish father is not a mamzer.
Although the conversion ceremony involves more than circumcision and immersion, these are the two essential requirements, without which the conversion is ineffective.
If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.
What if, at the moment of the late brother’s death, the surviving brother cannot effect yibum because the widow is a niddah?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/selichot/2012/09/05/
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