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I've seen a couple of little quirks at the beginning of tachanun and I'm looking for sources... They may or may not be related.

  1. Just before putting their head down, I've seen some people who give their chest a single hit. Is there any source for this?
  2. Also, it seems that most people put their head down before saying ויאמר דויד אל גד. This is what a sample of artscroll siddurim seem to say. However, I have seen other siddurim that have that passuk before the instruction to put your head down. This alternative minhag seems to somewhat correspond with us saying "נפלה נא ביד השם" and then subsequently falling on our heads. Are there sources for these different minhagim?
  • Q1 - This may be related to those who say Ashamnu (Selichot) at the beginning of Tachanun. Q2 - Very good question. I'll try to post answer from beureihatefilla.com, tonight or tomorrow, B"N. It explains exactly where Nefillat Apayim begins. In short, it is after Vayomer David - contrary to what most people believe. – DanF Sep 25 at 22:02
  • @DanF Q1 - from memory, I see it being done mainly by those who daven nusach ashkenaz, ie those who don't do viduy with tachanun – Moshe Steinberg Sep 26 at 11:33
  • The David verse is a late addition not practiced in all Ashkenazi communities and that's why it's in small font before the main Tachanun since many don't say it. The Lithuanian custom was not to say it, as was the German custom. Probably others too. – Double AA Sep 26 at 13:25
  • I would venture to say that striking the chest comes from nusach sefard. Right after saying the שלש עשרה מידות, there is a paragraph that includes the sentence, סְלַח לָנוּ אָבִינוּ כִּי חָטָאנוּ. מְחַל לָנוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ כִּי פָשָׁעְנוּ. I have seen people strike their chest as they would during the amida. This paragraph is said immediately before nefilas apayim. – ASL Sep 26 at 17:48
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Indeed, according to “Guidelines” on Tefillah by Rabbis Jaeger and Barclay, one does not put his head down until after the “Vayomer David el Gad” pasuk.

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