Selichos-Summary of Laws and Customs


  • Selichos is said starting from the Sunday [Motzei Shabbos, immediately after midnight], of the week of, or the week prior to Rosh Hashanah. Being we need to say at least four days of Selichos before Rosh Hashanah, and we always start on Motzei Shabbos, therefore when Rosh Hashanah falls on Monday or Tuesday we begin saying Selichos from the Motzei Shabbos of the previous week. However when Rosh Hashanah falls between Thursday-Saturday we begin to saying it from the Motzei Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah.
  • Aseres Yimei Teshuvah: The Chabad custom is to only say Selichos before Rosh Hashanah, while during Aseres Yimei Teshuva Selichos is not said. This is with exception to Tzom Gedalia in which the typical fast day Selichos is recited.
  • Chasan: If there is a Chasan present by the Minyan, Selichos is recited without the confession prayer [of Ashamnu] and without Nefilas Apayim. Practically, the Chasan is to be asked to leave the Shul in order to allow Ashamnu to be recited, although he himself is to omit it.
  • Baal Bris: If Selichos is being recited prior to Alos and a Baal Bris is present, then the Selichos is recited regularly, together with the confession prayers. If Selichos is being recited after the time of Alos then it is disputed as to whether the confession prayer is recited, although the remainder of the Selichos is recited according to all. This dispute applies also when Selichos is being recited past sunrise.
  • Niggun of Daled Bavos: The days of Selichos were one of the auspicious times that Chassidim would sing the Niggun of Daled Bavos.
  • When: Selichos is to be said by “Ashmuras Haboker” [which corresponds to the last three hours of nightfall]. Practically, the custom today is to say Selichos before Shacharis, after Alos Hashachar. The custom of the Rebbe was to recite Selichos in the morning much time after Ashmuras Haboker and sunrise.
  • Motzei Shabbos: On the first night of Selichos, which is Motzei Shabbos, the custom is to begin Selichos immediately after midnight. On Motzei Shabbos, Selichos is said while still wearing one’s Shabbos clothing.
    • Farbrengen: It is customary to hold a Chassidic gathering on Motzei Shabbos in the hours prior to Selichos.
  • Nighttime: According to Kabala it is forbidden to recite Selichos at night [prior to midnight].
  • After Shacharis: If one could not say Selichos in the morning before Shacharis it may be said throughout the entire day, such as prior to Mincha.
  • Concentration: Selichos must be recited slowly and with concentration. It is better to recite a lesser amount of supplications, but with proper concentration, then a larger amount without concentration. Those that are accustomed to hastily recite the conclusion of Selichos are to nullify their custom.
  • Mikveh: One is to try to immerse in a Mikveh before Selichos. One who was unable to do so is [not to delay reciting Selichos with a Minyan and is rather] to immerse in a Mikveh after Selichos, before Davening.


The 13 Attributes of mercy:

  • How to recite: It is forbidden to recite the thirteen attributes without proper concentration.
  • It is to be recited slowly and carefully. It is to be recited aloud.
  • Some are accustomed to count the Midos with their fingers. Some are accustomed to picture each letter of each word in their mind while reciting it.
  • One is to make a break between the words Vayikra Besheim and Hashem, and between the two names of Hashem Hashem.]
  • The custom is to stand while reciting it. One is not to lean while reciting it unless he is old or sick.
  • One is to recite the 13 attributes with his back slightly arched forward.
  • Minyan: The 13 attributes may only be read together with the Minyan. Some write that this applies also for the entire paragraph of “Keil Melech Yosheiv”.
  • If one is behind the Minyan and the congregation has reached the 13 attributes of mercy the custom is to stop and read the 13 attributes together with the congregation, as is the law by Kaddish and Kedusha. This applies for everyone in the Shul, even if one is not part of the Minyan for Selichos. Nevertheless, if one is in the midst of prayer, and is in an area that he cannot make an interval, then he is not to say it.
  • If one is Davening with a Minyan and the congregation has already recited the 13 attributes of mercy he may not recite it when he reaches that point, as the 13 attributes of mercy may only be recited together with the actual Minyan.
  • It is permitted to recite the thirteen attributes in the Torah reading tune even if one is reciting it alone. Nevertheless, many are accustomed to avoiding doing so and they thus completely omit it when a Minyan is not present. Practically, the recorded Chabad custom is not to say it.

The Seder of Selichos:

  • The Nussach and Seder of the Selichos according to Chabad custom was arranged by the Rebbe based on a directive of the Rebbe Rayatz. The Chabad Nussach of Selichos follows the Nussach of the Machzor Kol Bo and in general is similar to the custom of Lita, Risan and Zamut. The order of Selichos is similar to the order of Davening. First one recites a psalm of praise [Ashreiy] which is followed by half Kaddish. The Selichos are then begun which corresponds to Shemoneh Esrei. The Chazan recites aloud the end of the first paragraph starting from the words “Haneshama Lach”. At the conclusion one recites Kaddish Tiskabel which corresponds to the Kaddish recited after Shemoneh Esrei.
  • It is not our custom to perform Nefilas Apayim during Selichos.
  • The custom is to open the ark and stand for the recital of Shema Koleinu. It is recited verse after verse with the congregation repeating after the Chazan. It is said in this format until the verse of Al Taazveinu.
  • The Chazan recites the full Kaddish Tiskabel at the conclusion of Selichos. This applies even if the Minyan plans to Daven Shacharis immediately afterwards.
  • One is to learn Torah prior to saying Selichos. The content to be learned is matters which pertain to practical Halacha. Likewise, one is to study the Mamar of “Lecha Havayah Hatzedaka” [printed in the beginning of the Selichos] or at the very least its beginning and end. On the first night of Selichos this to be learned prior to midnight.
  • One is to give charity prior to Selichos. On the 1st night of Selichos this is to be done only after midnight.
  • The third day of Selichos is an auspicious occasion and should be utilized appropriately.
  • The custom is to stand while reciting Selichos. This especially applies when the ark is open, when the thirteen attributes are recited [and upon saying Ashamnu]. Nevertheless, if it is difficult for one to stand, then he may be seated with exception to when the thirteen attributes [and Ashamnu] is recited.

A Minyan:

  • The congregation is to delay beginning Ashreiy until a Minyan has gathered, in order to be able to say the Kaddish before Selichos. If they cannot wait for a Minyan to arrive then they are to recite Ashreiy, omit Kaddish and begin Lecha Havaya Hatzedaka.
  • If one is saying Selichos without a Minyan, he is to omit the 13 attributes of mercy. One is to omit the words starting from Vayaavor. Some write that one is to also omit the entire paragraph of “Keil Melech Yosheiv”.
  • It is not our custom in such a case to recite the 13 attributes of mercy in the tune of the Torah reading.
  • One is to omit the Aramaic parts said within Selichos.
  • One does not omit the verse of “Uzechor Hayom Bris Shlosh Esrei” upon saying Selichos without a Minyan.
  • If a congregation did not have a minyan when Selichos began and later they achieved a Minyan, they are to stop to say Kaddish upon the arrival of the Minyan.
  • If the congregation began Selichos with a Minyan and upon finishing they no longer have a Minyan, they are nevertheless to say Kaddish with Tiskabel so long as there are at least six people which have remained.


  • The Chazan is to recite Selichos with a Tallis. This applies even if a Bochur is the Chazan for Selichos.
  • If it is still before the allowable time to say a blessing over a Tallis, the Chazan should borrow a Tallis from another person and wear it without a blessing. Thus on the first night of Selichos, which is recited at night, the Chazan should have another person bring a Tallis to Shul and he should borrow it from him. He should not use the Shul’s Tallis. If the only Tallis available is the Tallis of the Shul or a Tallis that he owns then he is to wear it without a blessing. If the time of Alos arrives in the midst of Selichos then the Chazan is to stop and recite a blessing over the Tallis, shaking the fringes of the Tallis prior to reciting the blessing.
  • When saying Selichos during the day, the Chazan is to recite a blessing over the Tallis prior to wearing it. If however the Chazan borrows the Tallis from another person he is not required to recite a blessing. If however one borrows the Tallis of the Shul then a blessing is to be recited.


  • An Avel that is within Shiva may not leave his home to recite Selichos with the Minyan. The above however is with exception to Erev Rosh Hashanah.
  • At the house of an Avel, Selichos is recited without the confession prayer [of Ashamnu] and without Nefilas Apayim.

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