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In most Ashkenazi versions of the selichot* for Elul and Yomim Noraim, the day's selichot begin with Ashrei**. This seems rather weird, especially considering that some (including Jekkisch authorities and the Gr"A) consider the recitation of Baruch Sheamar to be a berachah on reciting tehillim.

What is the earliest source for the recitation of Ashrei at the beginning of Ashkenazi selichot and what other versions, such as beginning with Adon 'Olam are attested to in Rishonim ?

*Versions consulted were the Minhag Russia (Chaba"d), Polin and Lita (Artscroll), and Anglia (Rosenfeld/Judaica Press).

**In my own rite, the Frankfurter minhog, we begin with Adon 'Olam, see R' Shimon Schuster's edition here.

  • I thought it was basically performing the same function as Ashrei before mincha or musaf or neilah, which doesn't get a bracha. – Heshy Sep 25 at 21:42
  • Have you checked Beurei Hatefilah site? I vaguely recall that there is some article explaining the history and reasoning behind Ashrei. – DanF Sep 25 at 21:45
  • @Heshy, By ne'ilah, the recitation is the third Ashrei of the day, taking the place of minchah, as nothing is said before petichah – Noach MiFrankfurt Sep 25 at 21:53
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The Levush explains in his commentary on Orach Chayim 581 (page 204 in the PDF linked here) why the selichos service concludes with kaddish shalem, which is normally reserved for after shmoneh esrei.

אע״ג שבכל ימות השנה א״א תתקבל אלא אחר תפלת י״ח שכן הוא משמעות לשון צלותהן שפירושו תפלה וסתם תפלה ר״ל תפילת י״ח שאני סדר הסליחות שנתקנו כולם על סדר התפלה של כל היום כי הפסוקים שקודם דסליחות הם כנגד פסוקי דזמרה והסליחות עם הי״ג מדות שאומרים בין כל אחת וא״ הם במקום תפלת י״ח שעקר התפלה הוא י״ג מדות. ואח״כ נופלין על פניהם כמו אחר כל התפילות ומסיימין ואנחנו לא נדע לכך אומרים אחריהם קדיש שלם עם תתקבל כמו אחר גמר כל התפלות השנה.‏

Even though the rest of the year we do not say "tiskabel" except after shmoneh esrei since the word "tzelosehon" means "prayer" and unspecified usage of the word "prayer" means shmoneh esrei, the order of selichos is different because it is established according to the order of the tefilah of every day. The verses before selichos are in place of pesukei dezimra and the selichos themselves with the 13 attributes of God which we say between each one are in place of shmoneh esrei. And afterwards we fall on our faces (tachanun) like after all other prayers and we finish with va-anachnu lo nedah; therefore we say afterwards kadish shalem with tiskabel like after all other tefilos of the year.

(my own translation)

In summary, the selichos service mimics the regular order of tefilah.

The Lekutei Maharich elaborates on the Levush. He explains the reason for saying ashrei at the beginning of selichos according to the reasoning of the Levush. Because the pesukim at the beginning of the selichos service are like the pesukei dezimra of selichos (so to speak), we say ashrei because ashrei is the main piece of pesukei dezimra.

  • If everything that is a form of prayer has to begin with ashrey, why don't we say it before the evening prayer? – b a Sep 25 at 23:54
  • I will refrain from voting until a new revision, but currently this is a -1, for lacking sources and being more of a comment than a true answer – Noach MiFrankfurt Sep 26 at 0:14
  • @Daniel, I figured, but I'd also seen an earlier edit, so I wanted to leave constructive feedback, rather than a downvote – Noach MiFrankfurt Sep 26 at 1:42
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt I've updated my answer. – Daniel Sep 26 at 2:52
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    @Daniel It seems more as if he's comparing selichot to the morning prayer than to prayer in general – b a Sep 26 at 9:32

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