In Ashkenazi Selichot, the following set of verses from Tanach (patterned around the opening verb ז.כ.ר.‏ to remember) appears towards the end of the Selichot service (there may be some slight variations depending on the particular Nusach):

  1. זכור רחמיך יי וחסדיך כי מעולם המה
  2. זכריני יי ברצון עמך פקדיני בישועתיך
  3. זכור עדתך קנית קדם גאלת שבט נחלתך הר ציון זה שכנת בו
  4. זכור יי חיבת ירושלם אהבת ציון אל תשכח לנצח
  5. זכור יי לבני אדום את יום ירושלם האומרים ערו ערו עד היסוד בה
  6. זכד לאברהם ליצחק ולישראל עבדיך אשר נשבעת להם בך ותדבר אליהם ארבה את זרעכם ככוכבי השמים וכל הארץ הזאת אשר אמרתי אתן לזרעכם ונחלו לעולם
  7. זכור לעבדיך לאברהם ליצחק וליעקב אל תפן אל קשי העם זה ואל רשעו ואל חטאתו

The things is, verse 4 is not actually a verse in Tanach. What is the origin of this 'verse' and why was it placed here in Selichot?

  • @msh210 I copied the text off of an OCRed pdf of Selichot. I tried to fix the typos that came with it but there was no specific intentions that went into it. In retrospect it probably would have been quicker to just type it.
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 20:06
  • Is there anywhere else in Tanach where the Chibah of Yerusholayim is mentioned?
    – Yehuda
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 21:03
  • @yehuda: the word Chibah does not appear anywhere in Tanakh.
    – Aryeh
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 21:45
  • 1
    @Matt More likely I would think it's a remnant of a long-forgotten Piyut which was inserted there. (It would be uber-cool if it turns out to be a preserved original Hebrew snippet from Jubilees or Ben-Sira!)
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 17:02
  • 2
    It seems like the Rokeach (Peirushei Siddur HaT'filla §96) may have a version of the Midrash Rabba (Sh'mos 18:5) that says the shom'rim in Y'sha'yahu 62:6 (cited in Aryeh's answer) are the angels Michael and Gavriel who beseech HaShem with this formulation.
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 2:45

5 Answers 5


Seconding @Aryeh that this is an excellent question. I did some research on the subject and this is what I've found on the matter:


First of all, it seems that the composer of this non-verse is, sadly, unknown. The only source I've currently found who attempts a suggestion on the author's identity is from Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Shapira of Dinov in his book Regel Yesharah, pg. 207, where he states that it was composed by the Men of the Great Assembly. Personally, though, as I have yet to find any other source stating this, and not even the Yaavetz states this, I believe this was the Rebbe of Dinov's own idea, based on how anonymous prayers are generally attested to the Great Assembly. The idea in itself is not entirely implausible, given how ancient this non-verse is (see below), but the fact that other sources are silent makes it more questionable.

The composition of the non-verse:

Prof. Yehudah Ratzhabi in his essay "סדר רחמין מתקופת הגאונים לעשרת ימי תשובה", Sefer Aviad, pg. 317-369, writes that he believes that the oldest manuscript of Selichot we currently have is MS Heb. e.69 and Heb. d.68 (the manuscript fell apart and was accidently put into separate folders), dating to before Rasag's time (!). In e.69/54b, the nusach of the verse is:

"זכור ה' חרפת ירוש'"

Prof. Ratzhabi explained that Selichot during that time weren't as organized as they are today, with no properly-set nusach. At the time they were called "Rachamin" and were made of a mixture of piyutim, verses, verse targums, verse "embellishments" (e.g., הביטה ענינו ה' אלוקינו instead of הביטה ענני ה' אלוקי (Tehillim 13:4) and folk-compositions.

This particular manuscript, according to notations left by the scribe, was copied from the community's main siddur. This Seder Rachamin was essentially a collection of suggestions of things to say. Many of the Rachamin are written in shorthand because at the time most people remembered all of the lines and verses by heart, or could at least complete when given the first couple of words. Anything that one might happen to not remember could be checked in the main siddur.

Therefore, this line probably was not just short for "זכור ה' חרפת ירושלם" but for the entire non-verse (i.e., the shortening of ירושלם signified more than just that word).

The question is, what's the original version: "חרפת ירושלם" or "חבת ירושלם"?

To that extent, I examined a number of manuscripts. There are six Genizah MSS with variants of this non-verse. Variants (including extra letters) are underlined:

table of manuscripts and verse-versions

As can be seen, there's only one MS with "חבת" in it, in full spelling: "חיבת". According to the Genizah catalogue, this MS is that of Italian nusach selichot that were found in the Genizah. Though not dated, I believe that the MS is significantly less older than most Genizah MSS, because the script style looks almost modern:

JTS ENA 2050.9 Italian selichot

As opposed to this Italian MS, Parma 3536, dated to 1297:

Parma 3536 MS Italian selichot

If anyone is more knowledgeable on dating script styles, I'd be happy to hear more info.

Therefore, I believe that the Italian MS is not evidence that the original was "חבת" and not "חרפת".

So far, the other oldest European MS that I've found that have this verse are Harley MS 7618, f58v, an Ashkenaz (Germanic) nusach:

Harley MS 7618, f58v Ashkenaz selichot

thought to be dated to somewhere in the 13th century, Harley MS 5701, f074r, also an Ashkenaz (Germanic) nusach:

Harley MS 5701, f074r, Ashkenazi selichot

thought to be dated from the 13th-early 14th century, and Machzor Worms (Ashkenaz), vol. 2, pg. 146:

Machzor Worms

dated to 1280.

In short, we have four European MSS (three Ashkenazi and one Italian) from the 13th-14th centuries that attest that in Europe, the version was "חיבת ירושלם". In all likelihood, it was from here that it evolved into the modern version used by Ashkenazim "זכור ה' חבת ירושלם אהבת ציון אל תשכח לנצח" (the Yod in חבת was taken out).

However, most Genizah MSS attest to "חרפת ירושלם", which leads me to believe that this was the original version, while a later European Jew wanted to make the two parts of the non-verse parallel one another (as can be found both in many Tanachic verses and in many lines in piyutim and songs) and changed "חרפת" to "חבת", to match the "אהבת" part.

Though to us it seems that חבת would make more sense as the original version of the verse, there's actually at least some sense to חרפת. Prof. Ratzhabi explained in the above-mentioned essay that many of the Rachamin of d.68-e.69 mention decrees against the Jews, some having been thwarted, but perhaps not all. As there are similarities between some of the decrees and decrees set against the Yemenite Jews over the centuries, and the scribal notations are in Arabic (but none of the Rachamin themselves), it seems that the חרפה mentioned here may be a reference to fairly-recent (to the time of the composition) events that happened in Yerushalayim. Consider that the Temple Mount was not a place significant to Christians, so it was mostly left alone by them. However, the Arab Conquest of Israel changed the status of the Mount, as it was deemed holy by them as well, which led to the building of mosques on it (see here). This was a great tragedy, which may be what is referenced here. If it's as ancient as the Rebbe of Dinov wrote it was, then perhaps it came from a now-lost text and was dusted off and placed in the Rachamin, because of said-recent events.

Now, you might have noticed that some of the European versions feature an extra Vav before "אהבת ציון", forming "ואהבת ציון". As most MSS don't have the extra Vav, and none of the Genizah ones either, I'd guess that the original version didn't have a Vav and adding the Vav was probably later scribal error.

Another variant is a change from "אל תשכח לנצח" to "אל תזנח לנצח". It is difficult to tell which version is older. The oldest dated MS, as we saw, is only a short-form of the non-verse and doesn't have this section.

Lastly, ENA 1968.22 says "זכור ה' חרפת עבדיך אהבת ציון אל תשכח לנצח". In some MSS, the verse "זכור ה' חרפת עבדיך שאתי בחיקי כל רבים עמים" (Tehillim 89:51) appears directly preceding this non-verse (though I believe it is no longer said in any modern nusach), so I think that in this MS's case, the scribe accidently skipped part of both lines, merging the verse with the non-verse.

The Tanachic roots of the verse:

As to what verses it might be based on, Dov Sadan wrote an essay on the subject of this non-verse - "פכים קטנים, ד. חיבת ירושלים ואהבת ציון", Sinai 87, pg. 282-287 and brought several suggestions for the Tanachic roots of the verse:

"זכור ה'" (Tehillim 132:1; Tehillim 137:7; Eicha 5:1), "אל תשכח" (Tehillim 10:12; Tehillim 74:19) and the Genizah variant "אל תזנח לנצח" (Tehillim 74:1-3; Tehillim 44:24) and similar phrasing in Tehillim 9:19; Eicha 5:20; Amos 8:7.

Sadan, though apparently unaware of the Genizah variant of "אל תזנח לנצח...", thought that this was the original ending of the non-verse. It's possible, though as I said, it's difficult to know which one is older.

Other verse suggestions were brought in the book Areshet Sefateinu, pg. 265.

Lastly, Prof. Nachum Meir Bronznick in his book "פיוטי ייני - ביאורים ופירושים", vol. 2, pg. 22, wrote that he thinks this non-verse was based on "יבחר לנו את נחלתנו את גאון יעקב אשר אהב סלה" (Tehillim 47:5), however he writes this based on the "חבת" version and makes no mention of the "חרפת" version. He finds parallels between סלה and נצח and suggests there's evidence that Eretz Yisrael is sometimes known as Yerushalayim.

What is it doing among real verses?

As Prof. Ratzhabi explained, there were different types of Rachamin, but no set nusach. Some Rachamin were entirely blocks of verses, some were entirely non-verse piyutim and some were mixtures. As we can see from the older Genizah MSS, this non-verse was originally part of a section that was a mixture. It seems that at some point, the זכור ה' verses and non-verses were set apart, forming a new Rachamin. From there it eventually became part of the Ashkenazi Vidui.

Though Rabbi Dr. Heinemann, as brought by @Argon (see here), thought it was inserted to even up the numbers of זכור verses, I don't believe this was the case, because זכור verses as standalone sections were comprised of varying numbers of verses (compare different MSS and nusachim) - 2, 4, 6, etc. Moreover, we see that it wasn't originally part of a זכור-only section in the early Gaonic period. A זכור section first appears in the mid-Gaonic period, in Seder Rav Amram Gaon:

זכור verses in Seder Rav Amram Gaon

And a זכור section also appears in the slightly-later Siddur Rasag. A variant of the Rachamin of his siddur which also includes our non-verse appears in MS JTS 4284, pg. 14. The copying was finished in the year 1605 CE. According to Prof. Ratzhabi, this was probably done in Turkistan. It's important to note that neither Rasag nor Rav Amram Gaon intended for their orders of the Rachamin to be any sort of final version that everyone must follow. Rasag states in his siddur (Mekitzei Nirdamim edition, pg. 264), in the introduction to that section that (my translation):

"And now that most have accepted upon them the custom of saying piyutim of Yom Kippur in the prayer of the Tamid and this doesn't damage the prayer, I will write down for Yom Kippur three piyutim, one for Tamid and one out of two - whatever is chosen - for Mussaf. And then I'll write also 23 selichot, 13 for Tamid and 7 for Mussaf and 3 for Neilah, in short-form, and I'll write long Rachamin, that it is not acceptable to divide them and to say some in Tamid and some in Mussaf, but it is acceptable to divide them in a set order and to say some of them at dawn during every one of these ten days of the month of Tishrei, and to also pick out some of them and to say during every fast that is set on a weekday, and saying more or saying less depends on the wish of the person who says them for he can say as much as he wants."

One last note: Prior to reading @DoubleAA's comment that it would be cool if this came from an apocryphal work, the idea had already occurred to me, along with two other possibilities: a. The Dead Sea Scrolls and b. The Karaites.

I did several searches in the DSS (מאגרים was very useful, they have almost all of the DSS transcriptions) but sadly nothing came up. I didn't search all of the apocryphal works. I focused on works where it would make sense that it might be in, such as Tobit, ben-Sira and the additions to Daniel. Finding the non-verse in apocryphal works still isn't sure-proof because it all comes down to what the original Greek said and how the translator decided to translate it (I once came upon an old Hebrew translation of ben-Sira (I think it was from Greek, but I'm not entirely sure) where it seems that the translator decided to include in the text wise teachings from Chazalic sources he thought were related to the subject matter). Lastly, I started going through some Karaite works. I went through about 3-5 machzorim. Most didn't have any sections of זכור, except for one, סדר התפילה למנהג קהל הקראים, from Venice, 1528:

Karaite זכור verses

As can be seen, they didn't include this verse.

  • "I once came upon an old Hebrew translation of ben-Sira..." could this be that? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/18571/544
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 12:48
  • @DoubleAA no. Kahana and Segal's editions are the most trustworthy (the best is Segal). I have the name written down somewhere on my computer. I can fish it out if you're interested. The NLI has it.
    – Harel13
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 12:51
  • 3
    "Some" research? You ought to submit this to a journal!
    – Meir
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 13:27
  • 1
    @Harel13 This is phenomenal scholarship, wow! To me the obvious answer is that there is no earlier source. Two verses in this section of selichot were merged together, possibly at first by memory, but later by scribe(s). I'd be happy to elaborate on this via email, but I don't have the time and tools (my computer recently broke) to research and write a full-fledged answer right now... Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 1:04
  • 1
    Outstanding answer! Well-deserved bounty winner! כתיבה וחתימה טובה
    – Dov
    Commented Sep 6, 2021 at 14:43

Great question! I do not know the history of its placement in the selichot (and I'm not familiar with the piyut since I recite the Sephardic selichot).

Regarding its origin, I would guess it comes from Yeshayahu 62:6-7:

עַל-חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים כָּל-הַיּוֹם וְכָל-הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ הַמַּזְכִּרִים אֶת-יי אַל-דֳּמִי לָכֶם. וְאַל-תִּתְּנוּ דֳמִי לוֹ עַד-יְכוֹנֵן וְעַד-יָשִׂים אֶת-יְרוּשָׁלִַם תְּהִלָּה בָּאָרֶץ

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night, they shall never be silent; those who remind the Lord, be not silent. / And give Him no rest, until He establishes and until He makes Jerusalem a praise in the land.

These watchmen, as Rashi explains, are the ministering angels who remind God to rebuild Jerusalem. He's quotes Menachot 87a, which also references pesukim on mercy for Zion. Then he comments on "appointed watchmen" as a reference to being written in a book of remembrances.

In light of the Rashi, it sounds quite appropriate to recite some derivation of it as we approach Rosh Hashanah, if you ask me!

Also, in Yechezkel 16:60, God tells Jerusalem:

וְזָכַרְתִּי אֲנִי אֶת-בְּרִיתִי אוֹתָךְ, בִּימֵי נְעוּרָיִךְ; וַהֲקִימוֹתִי לָךְ, בְּרִית עוֹלָם

But I shall remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I shall establish for you an everlasting covenant.

Then in 60:63:

לְמַעַן תִּזְכְּרִי, וָבֹשְׁתְּ, וְלֹא יִהְיֶה-לָּךְ עוֹד פִּתְחוֹן פֶּה, מִפְּנֵי כְּלִמָּתֵךְ--בְּכַפְּרִי-לָךְ לְכָל-אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂית, נְאֻם אֲדֹנָי יי

In order that you remember and be ashamed, and you will no longer have an excuse by reason of your humiliation, when I forgive you for all that you have done," says the Lord God.

Maybe I shouldn't read too much into B'Chapri, but it did jump out. There are other pesukim on God remembering Jerusalem/Zion, ie., Yeshayahu 49:14-18. Then again, these are just my speculations.

  • 2
    If there are so many pesukim about God's remembering Zion, why did the author of Selichot have to make one up?
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 16:46
  • 2
    No clue, but I'd also love to know how it came about. Here's a siddur from 1599 with the phrase in the selichot: hebrewbooks.org/…
    – Aryeh
    Commented Sep 12, 2012 at 17:44
  • 1
    None of the verses mentioned actually have the word זכר and ירושלמים appear in the same sentence. Perhaps whoever wanted to put this idea in the liturgy decided against using any of these specific verses because their contexts might not have been clear (admittedly, a weak answer). Commented Sep 29, 2014 at 6:55

Too long for a comment:

Footnote 34 in Heineman's "The Ancient 'Orders of Benedictions' for New Year and Fasts" (Tarbiẕ, 1976), argues that the non-Biblical verse was inserted to have a complete ten verses. Although there is a surfeit of זכר verses in Tanakh, Heineman believes that no additional ones were suitable in content and in style for inclusion in this Piyyut:

אף־על־פי שלא חסרים במקרא פסוקים נוספים המתחילים במלת 'זכור', אפשר להיווכח בנקל, שאין הם מתאימים לסידרה זו, אם מפאת תוכנם אם מפאת סגנונם (שהרי מקצתם הם 'זכרון של יחיד', מקצתם 'זכרון של פורענות', וכיוצא באלו, או שנעדרת בהם הנעימה הלאומית המאפיינת כמעט את כל הסידרה והבולטת במיוחד בפסוק הסינתיטי האמור.)


can't insert pics in comments... but I found this in a sefer called מקור הברכות

enter image description here

I also found this

enter image description here

(I won't name the sefer..., and I've seen others make the same mistake)

  • If you add translation and a summary it will be a higher scoring answer.
    – Dov
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 19:38
  • agreed, but this is meant more as a comment than an actual answer....
    – yih613
    Commented Sep 2, 2021 at 14:31

Perhaps it's meant to be based on "Al naharot bavel" which is about remembering/not forgetting Jerusalem/Zion

  • 1
    I mean, that theme is ubiquitous in Judaism. Why make up a verse at all and certainly one with no overt literary allusion?
    – Double AA
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 16:01

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