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    Selichot – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do Ashkenazim begin selichot (penitential prayers) a minimum of four days before Rosh HaShanah?

    Painting by Zalman Kleinman

    A. Possibly because our prayers on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur show a person the need for self-sacrifice for the sake of God.

    In Temple times a sacrifice had to be set aside a minimum of four days in advance. This ensured that the animal was in a fit state for the sacrificial ritual.

    By way of analogy, the selichot prayers help us to be spiritually ready at least four days before Rosh HaShanah – not that we sacrifice ourselves in a literal sense but we have to be able to put ourselves on the meeting table for assessment and judgment.

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