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Why is it that there appear to be more different nuschaos of Selichos than other tefillos? I have heard of Askenaz, Sfard, Lita, Polin and Ungvar.

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Saying slichos is a custom. Therefore, what one says depends on custom. There are many slichos that were composed, but which ones to say are up to local custom. Praying is a law, therefore one does not have so much legroom to pick and choose what one prays. –  Shmuel Brin Sep 20 '11 at 20:25
    
As the answers given state, you might ask all the more so why there are so many variants of Shemone Esre... –  yoel Sep 20 '11 at 20:36
    
...as it is not just a matter of Ashkenaz, Sefard, Ari, Sefardi, Edot Hamizrach, Parsi, Teimani, etc. but many many variations among each of these. –  yoel Sep 20 '11 at 21:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Selichos is a prayer service that was not formalized until late in the Gaonic period. This means that there was already greater geographic diversity before any of the prayers were established.

Before the gaonic period, only the viduy and 13 middot were 'required'. This is different than most other tefilot which already had a basis before the vast dispersion of Jewish communities.

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The first b'racha before "Sh'ma" in the morning has

  • those who say "konam" and those who say "konehem";
  • those who say "m'ore or sheasisa" and those who say "m'ore or sheyatzarta";
  • those who say "umamlichin" and those who say "umamlichim".
  • Some include "v'hiskin m'oros...",
  • some include "l'ose orim...", and
  • some include "or chadash..." (and of the latter, some say "chulanu m'hera", some "chulanu bimhera", and some "chulanu yachad bimhera").

I don't know how many of the possible combinations exist in practice, but that's just one b'racha (and I haven't listed all of its variations!): I have no reason to think there are fewer nuschaos of shacharis than of s'lichos.

Perhaps fewer nuschaos of shacharis have distinct names assigned by publishers than nuschaos of s'lichos do, though, and if so then I don't know why.

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