I have always had a problem connecting with the selichot. In my shul they are said in a very rushed, impassionate fashion, mainly due to the need for people to get to work. I don't understand most of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time or, frankly, the inclination to read through the English translation of each day.

I am looking for practical advice on how to make saying selichos more meaningful.


3 Answers 3


(Assuming that finding a slower Minyan is not an option, and that you are using the Ashkenazi/Chassidich version.)

Take a 2-pronged approach:

  1. Prepare
  2. Don't plan on saying it all

Prepare the shortest chapter of that day; very often it's the Pizmun - the one towards the end recited by the congregation and Chazzan.

Spend a few minutes before Selichot (or while the congregation is saying the first pieces) to understand what it says.

Then say it at your pace - irrelevant of where the congregation is holding.

The parts you should say with the congregation are the 13-Middot (Hashem-Hashem, etc.) and the 4-5 Pesukim right after, which are the main Selichot. The "long" Selichot were introduced later.

If you pencil in the translation/meaning while you are preparing, then over the period of a few years you will have most of the Slichot under your control.

BTW: Once you get the hang of the language, you will find that you understand most Selichot even without preparing, as the themes are recurring.

  • 1
    "Once you get the hang of the language, you will find that you understand most Selichot even without preparing, as the themes are recurring." .....I disagree, based on my own experience -- there is a lot that goes on in selichos that is based on pessukim and stories that I am not familiar with.
    – MTL
    Sep 30, 2014 at 4:37

I hear you and agree. You got some good advice about preparing, however life as a frum Jew leaves little free time if you have kids and a job. I have the same issue as you and lately I have been going to Sephardic selichos. The language is easier and the tone is not sad and depressing. I can only suggest what I do and that is I go at my own pace, find one sentence, one paragraph, even one word to cling to and find meaning in it. I am Modern Orthodox and I hate the Litvack way of rush rush get it over with. Take your time and focus on your own thoughts, your own teshuvah and how you can improve yourself. We all know what we did wrong over the last year, have a conversation with God and ask Him for guidance, the answer will come when you least suspect it. But of course ask your own Rabbi, don't trust your soul to the internet.

  • Hey Dr Boxman, welcome to Mi Yodeya....+1, nice answer! .....I hope you don't mind that I edited your answer for small spelling and capitalization errors.....if I did anything you don't like, you can always fix it here.
    – MTL
    Sep 30, 2014 at 4:21

if you don't understand the words, then it should not be surprising that they are meaningless. First thing is to understand what you're saying.

Rabbi Elyah Lopian zt'l (beginning of Lev Eliyahu parsha Bereishis) says:

"To fulfill the obligation of kavana (concentration) in prayer according to all opinions, one must have two things in mind: 1) What you are saying and 2) to Whom you are talking."

So, it seems to be top priority to work on these two things, even if one does not have the patience, otherwise they will be doomed to be meaningless.

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