The viduy of the על חטא lists sins from alef to taf, yet the letter samech ס is switched to a sin ש. Why?

(Interestingly I noticed that in between sections of viduy we say סלח לנו מחל לנו כפר לנו, which is roshei teivos סמך. So the samech is there, but hidden.)

  • 1
    Many times ס and ש are interchanged. I feel like this question applied in more contexts. Most of the piyutim and selichos I've seen that are Alef beis use ש instead. It might just be practically more words start with ש than ס
    – robev
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 16:35
  • ברנו ממצוותיך ולא שוה לנו
    – kouty
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Many acrostic piyutim interchange ס with שׂ because of their sound being the same. I suppose it is because the author could not find a fitting word that began with ס. One example of this would be in the prayer "L'chai Olamim", in which the line for ס goes:

.הַסִּגּוּי וְהַשֶּֽׂגֶב לְחַי עוֹלָמִים

Also in the prayer "Kel Adon" on Shabbat, the line for ס is replaced with a שׂ:

.שְׂמֵחִים בְּצֵאתָם וְשָׂשִׂים בְּבוֹאָם

These are just two examples, but it seems that it is quite common in acrostic prayers. So Vidui is not the only prayer which replaces ס with a שׂ in the acrostic.

  • However, there's none that changes ט with ת or כ with ק or א with ע. A similar sound is not a reason to change.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 11:06
  • @AlBerko Maybe not, but that's what they do. Let me ask you this - would you switch beit and veit? Shin and sin seem more like a difference between beit and veit and less like separate letters.
    – ezra
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 14:45
  • ב is a letter and it can take two forms, just as H2 (hydrogen) can have 2 forms gas and liquid. But H2 cannot change to C or N, just as ט cant change to ת or ס to ש.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 15:36

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