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MBY 581:1-4 Selichos and Erev Rosh Hashana (abridged)
MBY 581:1-4 Selichos and Erev Rosh Hashana (abridged)

Ed. As I look through my Rosh Hashana MBY files, I find myself in the familiar position of seeing many sections completed but still with many holes to fill. With your permission, I would like to re-use the familiar solution of excerpting (and sometimes paraphrasing) from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (KSA), which covers the main halachos we need to know. I will be using the Metsudah edition, translated and annotated by Rabbi Avraham Davis.

We begin with KSA siman 128 “Laws Concerning the Month of Elul”, pp. 267-282 (For brevity, I will use the acronym RH for Rosh Hashana and YK for Yom Kippur, OK?)

1) The days from Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Yom Kippur are days of Divine favor and acceptance. Even though throughout the entire year the Holy One, blessed is He, accepts the repentance of those who return to Him wholeheartedly, nevertheless, these days are unexcelled and most suitable for repentance, because they are days of mercy and favor. For on Rosh Chodesh Elul Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Second Tablets; he remained there for forty days and came down on the tenth day of Tishrei when the atonement was completed. From then on these days have been designated as days of Divine favor and acceptance, and the tenth day of Tishrei as YK (Day of Atonement)… It is written (Devarim 30:6) “And Hashem your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your children”, the initials of the words ‘es levav’cha v’es levav’ form the acronym E-l-u-l. Also, the initials of ‘Ani l’dodi v’dodi li’ (“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” – Shir Hashirim 6:3) form the acronym E-l-u-l. Also the initials of ‘ish l’rei’eihu u’matanos l’evyonim’ (“…one to another and gifts to the poor” – Esther 9:22) form the acronym E-l-u-l. These acronyms are an allusion to three things: Repentance (Teshuva), Prayer (Tefila) and Charity (Tzedaka) which must be practiced zealously during this month. The first alludes to repentace, the second to prayer (for prayer is the song of love) and the third to charity.

2) It is customary to blow the shofar during this month. Beginning the second day of Rosh Chodesh, we blow each day after the Shacharis prayer tekia, shevarim-terua, tekia, except on Erev RH when the blowing is discontinued, in order to make a distinction between the voluntary blowing of the shofar and the blowing shofar in fulfillment of the mitzvah. The reason for blowing the shofar during this month is to arouse the people to repent; for the shofar has the quality to stir the emotions and to inspire awe, as Scripture says, (Amos 3:6): “If a shofar is sounded in a city will the people not tremble?” It is also the custom, beginning with the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul until (and including) Shemini Atzeres, to recite each day after the morning and evening prayers, Psalm 27 ‘L’Dovid Hashem Ori ve’Yishi’ (“Of David, Hashem is my light and my salvation”. This is based on the Midrash: “’Hashem is my light’ – on RH, ‘and my salvation’ – on YK, ‘for He will hide me in His shelter’ – alludes to Sukkos…

5) Beginning with the Sunday before RH and thereafter, we rise early for Selichos, special prayers for forgiveness. If RH occurs on Monday or Tuesday, we begin to say Selichos from the Sunday of the preceding week…

6) … It is proper to stand while saying the Selichos, but a person who finds it difficult to stand should at least stand while saying ‘Keil Melech Yosheiv’ (“G-d, King Who is enthroned”) etc. and the ‘Sh’losh-Esrei Midos’ (“Thirteen Attributes of Mercy”)…

9) A person who says Selichos privately is not permitted to recite the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy as a prayer or as a plea, but as if he were reading them from the Torah, with the appropriate cantillation chant (‘trop’)…

14) On Erev RH it is the universal custom to fast until after Mincha (Ed. In my yeshiva, we broke our fast at ‘chatzos’/halachic midday’. Footnote #17: Magen Avraham writes that if one is even slightly ill, he should not fast.), at which time you may eat something so that you do not welcome the Yom Tov in a state of affliction.

15) You should bathe and have your hair cut (Note: haircut should be before midday) on Erev RH in honor of Yom Tov. You should immerse yourself in the mikvah (i.e. men). We wear our Shabbos clothes on RH to indicate that we trust in the kindness of Hashem, blessed is His Name, to bring forth our judgment as a shining light. (Footnote #18: Mishna Berura says that you should not wear overly fine and expensive clothing.)

16) It is customary to do ‘hataras nedarim’ (to annul certain vows) on Erev RH… A person who does not understand shat he is reciting in Hebrew should say it in a language he understands.

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