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 Sep 12 '12 at 20:06
  • Is there anywhere else in Tanach where the Chibah of Yerusholayim is mentioned? – Yehuda Sep 12 '12 at 21:03
  • @yehuda: the word Chibah does not appear anywhere in Tanakh. – Aryeh Sep 12 '12 at 21:45
  • @Aryeh have you checked Chibas as well? Someone told me that in Yeshaya it is brought down a lot – Yehuda Sep 13 '12 at 12:17
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    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 Jul 13 '15 at 2:45

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.

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    If there are so many pesukim about God's remembering Zion, why did the author of Selichot have to make one up? – Double AA Sep 12 '12 at 16:46
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    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 Sep 12 '12 at 17:44
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    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). – הנער הזה Sep 29 '14 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.)


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

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    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 Oct 3 '14 at 16:01

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