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Rama 581:1 says whoever leads s'lichos should lead the rest of the day's prayers, and Magen Avraham, followed by others including Mishna B'rura, says this is due to "hamaschil b'mitzva om'rim lo g'mor", "whoever starts fulfilling a command, we tell him to finish", and includes shacharis, mincha, and maariv (although which maariv is unclear; see Machatzis Hashekel). (Incidentally, Aruch Hashulchan notes that this was not the custom in his area at his time. In any event:)

My question is, why s'lichos specifically? Why don't we say, for the same reason of "hamaschil b'mitzva...", that whoever leads shacharis any day should lead the rest of the day's prayers?

Update: I see that the L'vush gives a different reason. [Apparently, in his time and place, a set chazan would lead shacharis every day, and whoever led shacharis on a s'lichos day would fast.] Thus, he writes, have the s'lichos leader lead shacharis also, instead of the usual shacharis leader, [and, I gather, vary the s'lichos leaders from day to day,] in order that no one person need to fast every day.

However, this doesn't answer my question on the Magen Avraham and those who quote him, who don't give that reason.

(Note also that the L'vush's reason would seem not to apply nowadays, when the s'lichos leader does not AFAIK fast (and when we don't necessarily have the same leader daily, although many synagogues do de facto, as there is a mourner leading). But that's another issue.)

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I'm sorry, but what are Selichos? –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 18:07
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@AdamMosheh, see judaism.stackexchange.com/tags/selichot/info. This question is about the Elul-Tishre ones specifically. –  msh210 Jul 22 '12 at 18:16
    
@msh210 - Thank you. I assume that those recited on fast days are in somewhat of a different categorization, since they don't have Ashrei preceding them. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 18:17
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Nit'ei Gavriel (footnote 12 in the link) asks of this practice: What do we mean by המתחיל במצוה אומרים לו גמור? Aren't the following Shacharis and Mincha and (previous and/or following) Ma'ariv seperate mitzvos?

He answers that s'lichos is actually a prelude and preparation for the other t'fillos of the day. For example, if one says s'lichos, but then leaves and neglects to pray shacharis and mincha, he has not fulfilled the obligation of s'lichos either. It must be that the s'lichos are connected somehow to the other t'fillos of the day. (I'm not so sure about the connection to ma'ariv. It's unclear.)

According to this, the answer to your question seems pretty clear. On a regular day, each t'filla is a separate mitzva, and each can have a different ba'al t'filla. But on a day with s'lichos, the s'lichos are connected to the other prayers of the day. (That is, even though shacharis and mincha are seperate from each other, they are both connected to the s'lichos of that day.) Thus, the rule of המתחיל במצוה אומרים לו גמור becomes relevant for each seperate remaining prayer of the day.

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Althoug Ashkenazi Slichos are said before Rosh Hashana they are actually prayers for Aseret Yemi Tshuva. The days Slichos are said before Rosh Hashana are to make up for the 4 days missing from the ten.

That being the case this Minhag, keeping "hamaschil...", would just be another special Minhag that was Noheg only during these ten days. Keeping a Minhag for only ten days is itself a Minhag. I recall that one example is the refraining from Pat Akum even if one does not hold that stringency all year.

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So your answer is that keeping "hamaschil..." at this time is an example, like keeping pas akum, of taking upon extra stringencies temporarily. Sounds plausible, but do you have a source for it? –  msh210 May 2 '11 at 16:40
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No source. I figured leaving none would be sign enough that this was just my creative thinking :). After opening the MB it seems likely that the Minhag was to avoid Machloket over who would be Shliach Tzibur. The aim was to have all the days of Slichot a Shliach Tzibur accepted by the whole community. This "Maschil" Shliach took precedence over all other Chiuvs ... I think this fits in not bad with my original answer –  David Perlman May 2 '11 at 17:50
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