Rabbi Mordechai Willig
Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Tefilla of Yomim Noraim: Texts, Times, & Tunes

  • The preferred time for selichot is between midnight (chatzot) and dawn (alot hashachar). Selichot may be said before shacharit, even after sunrise, but not at night before chatzot. If necessary, selichot may be recited before or right after mincha. In most shuls, selichot are said before shacharit and invariably end (and usually begin) after dawn. In such shuls tachanun and all that follows can be omitted on Erev Rosh HaShana.
  • It is proper to pause slightly between b'sheim and Hashem. The words vayaavor-vayikra should be said by the tzibbur and then, aloud, by the chazzan followed by the thirteen middot which are the centerpiece of the selichot.
  • Mussaf on Rosh HaShana should extend beyond midday (chatzot). In most shuls this is done even when Rosh HaShana falls on Shabbat.
  • The shul's customs regarding piyutim and nigunim must be preserved. Changes may confuse the congregants and are considered a serious offence. The traditional nigunnim for Borchu, Kaddish, and Kedusha should be used.
  • Rav Soloveitchik zt'l explained that the tenth pasuk of Malchuyot-Shema Yisrael- essentially belongs to the subsequent bracha. To demonstrate this, the chazzan should conclude the paragraph with the traditional nigun, followed by the tzibbur's nigun between paragraphs., before Shema and should not pause between Shema Yisrael and the bracha.
  • The Rav zt'l questioned the pasuk, "zecher assa" which does not reflect the theme of Zichronot, namely that God remembers. He recommended that the two pesukim- zecher, teref...yizkor (Tehillim 111:4-5) be combined in one veneemar and that another pasuk be added. In our shul, we add "zachor leolam berito" (Tehillim 105:8).
  • In Shofarot, the Rav zt'l noted that there are ten pesukim , without Tehillim 150, which, therefore, must be understood as a special shira recited when one is lifnei Hashem. In our shul, this perek is sung with a nigun reflecting this idea.
  • During Aseret Yemei Teshuva, most siddurim and machzorim conclude Besefer Chayim with oseh hashalom. The Rav zt'l was strongly opposed to this change.
  • The standard text of Kol Nidre refers to vows which were pronounced next year. The verbs (dindarna, etc) can and should be modified slightly to reflect future tense.
  • Most machzorim omit selichot from shacharit, mussaf, and mincha on Yom Kippur. The Rav zt'l, as the Aruch Hashulchan before him, bemoaned this ommission and insisted that selichot be said in chazarat hashatz before zachor rachamecha (in yaaleh veyavo, in mussaf after the avodah). In our shul, a special booklet is distributed containing selichot collected from various machzorim, and the thirteen middot which are said five times for each tefilla.
  • The avodah is a critical component of chazarat hashatz of mussaf. As such, the Rav zt'l ruled that it must be said aloud by the chazzan. In our shul, the chazan begins with altzu trom and continues until vekidushim asara.
  • The Chaye Adam notes many errors in the nusach ashkenaz seder avodah. In our shul, we say vekach haya moneh four times instead of two. We reverse the order of the four and seven sprinklings of dam on the mizbach hapenimi, and the order of the second linen dressing and washing of the Kohen Gadol. The other "errors" of the Chaye Adam can be justified.
  • The starting time for mincha and neila should be determined based on past experience, before Yom Kippur. The phrase hashemesh yavo veyifne must be said before sunset. In this way, neila can be said with proper kavana and still end on time.

Copyright © 1999 by The TorahWeb Foundation. All rights reserved.