[Avodah] What is the preferable time to say selichos?

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Mon Aug 23 06:08:24 PDT 2021

>From today's OU Kosher Halacha Yomis

Q. What is preferable? To wake up early and recite Selichos before dawn (a.k.a. alos hashachar, which is 72 minutes before sunrise), or to stay up late and recite Selichos after chatzos (midnight)? What about saying selichos after alos or after neitz hachama (sunrise)?

A. Rav Yitzchak Zylberstein (Chashukei Chemed, Yoma 22a) writes that the preferred time to recite Selichos is before dawn. This can be inferred from the Rambam (Hilchos Teshuva 3:4) who writes that it is customary to awake at night and recite Selichos until the morning. In addition, Mishnah Berurah (581:1) writes that the end of the night is an eis rotzon (a propitious time when G-d is receptive to prayer), implying that the early morning is the most appropriate time for Selichos. Finally, the She’arim Metzuyanim B’Halacah (Yoma 22a) notes that Selichos recited in the early morning is more effective, since it is recited through greater sacrifice; it is more difficult to wake up early than to stay up late.

May Selichos be recited after sunrise? Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Divrei Si’ach, vol. 134) holds that it is preferable to recite Selichos after Chatzos than to recite Selichos later in the day after sunrise. On the otherhand, Rav Elyashav and Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach take an opposite opinion and write that it is better to recite Selichos in the daytime (even after sunrise) than to say it after chatzos (quoted in MB Dirshu MB, 581:1). Similiary, the Aruch Hashulchan writes that it has been customary to say selichos in the morning after sunrise for many generations.

On the other hand, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igros Moshe OC, 2:102) writes that kabalistically, the period after chatzos is as much an eis ratzon as early dawn, and for this reason, for many generations, it has been customary to recite Selichos at night after chatzos. This is also the opinion of the Minchas Elazar (the previous Munkatcher Rebbi), as recorded in Divrei Torah (141:76).

Even those who recommend saying selichos in early morning before sunrise agree that on the first night of Selichos, on Motzei Shabbos, it is preferable to recite Selichos after Chatzos. This is because we wish to combine the merit of Shabbos together with the first Selichos. Therefore, we begin Selichos after Chatzos, and do not wait for the early morning (Chashukei Chemed, ibid.).

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