Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Question: On most mornings, after the Amidah we recite Tachanun. It seems that there are many days, including the entire month of Nissan, when such is not the case. My question is, what are those days and why don’t we recite on those days?

M. Solow
Via email



Answer: Tachanun, “Supplication,” is a prayer that is prefaced with the viduy, the confessional prayer that would properly be recited in the afternoon as well, at the conclusion of the Mincha Amidah. However, when Mincha is prayed toward the end of the day near evening, which might often be the case, many congregations opt to not recite at that late hour.

In his encyclopedic work Otzar Erchei HaYahadut, Rabbi Yosef Grossman, zt”l, notes regarding Tachanun, “In earlier times this was an individual’s private prayer that was recited by him silently after the congregation’s recitation of the Amidah, when he would sequester himself with his Creator and pour out his heart in search of salvation and Heavenly mercy. However, as generations passed, Tachanun became an integral part of the congregational prayer, with a set text.”

He explains why the poskim refer to the Tachanun prayer, Tachanun as Nefilat Appayim: “Because when reciting it one places one’s head [facing down] upon one’s arm. At Shacharit, however, when one dons tefillin [upon the left arm, unless one is left-handed – iytur yad, then he does the opposite], one rests upon the right arm, as a sign of respect to the tefillin. However, at Mincha, when one does not don tefillin, one rests upon the left arm.

“The name Nefilat Appayim [lit. The falling upon one’s face], he explains, “represents that in times of old one would completely prostrate himself [upon his hands and feet and fall on one’s face before Hashem, as we find in the verse (Deuteronomy 9:18) where Moses says: “And I prostrated myself before Hashem.” We also find a verse (II Samuel 24:14) where King David speaks similarly: “And David said to Gad, ‘I am greatly distressed, let us fall into the hand of Hashem, for He is abundantly merciful, but let me not fall into the hand of man.’” Euphemistically, the falling King David refers to is Nefilat Appayim, meant to be a full prostration [on hands and feet] before Hashem.

“On Mondays and Thursdays, the prayer V’Hu Rachum, known as the ‘long V’Hu Rachum,’ as opposed to the short V’Hu Rachum that prefaces the Maariv prayer, is added, with additional supplications [as to why this is recited, that is the topic for a further discussion]. Now, one only ‘falls’ in a place where a Sefer Torah is present, and support for this is found in the following verse that speaks regarding Joshua (Joshua 7:6): ‘And he prostrated himself before the Ark of Hashem …’ However, if there is no Sefer Torah, then Tachanun is recited but without falling.”

He notes as well: “Nefilat Appayim – falling upon one’s face – is a remembrance of the Holy Temple, where they would prostrate themselves when they would recite the confessional. Each would cover his head with his hand [at the same time] so that one not hear the others’ confession. According to the Gemara (Megillah 22b) this same procedure was followed even later in Babylonia in the times of the Amoraim.”

Rabbi Grossman is quick to add, “This same procedure was followed even in the times of the Rambam.”

Rabbi Grossman lists the days when Tachanun is omitted. “It is not said on the Sabbath and the Festivals [and even at Mincha on the day preceding, which includes the eve of both Chanukah and Purim], Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, the 15th of Av, the 15th of Shvat, Purim Katan [on a leap year] and on Purim two days [Purim and Shushan Purim], Lag B’Omer, Tisha B’Av, the eve of Rosh Hashana, It is not said the entire month of Nissan, as well as from the eve of Yom Kippur until Isru Chag of Sukkot [on the day after Simchat Torah, however, currently it is customary to omit it until the conclusion of the entire month of Tishrei], it is not said from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until Isru Chag of Shavuot [the day after Shavuot].”

The reason for excluding all of the above is that they are joyous days when we are not to display any sign of distress, and the Tachanun recital is a prayer that evokes distress. Now, we cannot fail to notice that one of those days is surely not joyous but is the saddest and most tragic day on the Jewish calendar – Tisha B’Av, a day of lament that represents the culmination of the destruction of both the first and second Temples, and yet it is included. How so? This is so because of the implicit reference in Megillat Eicha (Lamentations 1:15): “Koroh olay moed – refer to me as moed – [a festival].”

We find similar verses elsewhere in Eicha as well, each understood as relating to the time of the final redemption when Tisha B’Av will be transformed “mi’yagon l’simcha – from a day of lament to a day of joy.”

(To be continued)


Previous articleRussian Security Report Neutralizing Terrorist Who Planned to Attack Moscow Synagogue
Next articleAbout Time: Israel Expels British, French Anarchists Who Breached Security Area
Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.