From the month before Rosh Hashannah until Kippur, penitential prayers are said daily except for Shabbat, before Shaharit (the Morning Service). The S&P also have a tradition of saying penitential pryers immediately following Arbit (the Evening Service).
The picture of the shofar is actually a little misleading. Although associated with the month of Ellul in both the Ashkenazi and some Eastern Sephardi traditions, amongst the S&P the shofar is not blown during the month of Ellul at all. This means that we hear it for the first time when it is blown on Rosh Hashannah itself - adding to the impact of the sound on that occasion.
The morning selichot open with Ashrey and Kaddish.
♫ Ashrey [SP250 with EA]
The first four verses of the opening section of the actual Selihot are chanted in this rousing tune. Note that it includes a modulation (a switch to a different key), in common with a number of the S&P New Year chants and melodies, hinting musically at the idea of hope for change - both in ourselves and in our fortunes.
♫ Lecha Adonai [JC]
The remaining verses are chanted more plainly.
♫ Shavim Elecha [HB]
The section closes with the following chanted responsively. Note the "raw" sounding intervals at the end of half and full phrases (Do-Ti and Me-Do respectively). These intervals occur repeatedly in the chants for the "Days of Awe".
♫ Ki Lo [JC]
The 13 Divine Attributes
The "Thirteen Attributes" are now chanted for the first of numerous times throughout the Selihot. In fact they are its central theme. During the Selihot, the introductory passage is chanted fairly fast, and by the reader only; in contrast to Kippur, when the whole thing is chanted by the congregation, with just a couple of solo phrases by the reader.
♫ Vaya'avor (Selihot) [JC] | ♫ Vaya'avor (Kippur, first and last only) [JC]
♫ 13 Attributes [JC]
♫ Vesalahta (10 Penitential) [JC]
♫ Ki Bayom (Kippur) [JC]
♫ Rahamana [JC]
This melody needs its own section!
Traditionally the S&P did not sing this piyut but merely recited it, however nature abhors a vacuum!
In recent years many S&P congregations have adopted (or had forced on them) the popular Eastern tune for this piyut. The congregants who introduced it were generally not those who cherish the old S&P traditions, and they did so despite the fact that the musical style is foreign to the rest of the S&P selichot service.
It is possible to Westernize it somewhat, and during my tenure as Visiting Rabbi of Bevis Marks, and in the many years I have officiated at S&P services in Shaarey Hayim Manchester, Mikve Israel in Philadelphia, Lisbon, and elsewhere, I have always been particular to do that.
Here is the Westernised version:
♫ Adon Haselichot [JC] - TBD
==THIS SECTION STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION==
The custom of saying selihot at the Evening Service is unique to the S&P (worldwide), and some Italian (non-S&P) communities. It was discontinued in London within the last five years, apparently in deference to R. Ovadia Yosef, but continues in the S&P communities of New York, Amsterdam and elsewhere. The minhag is at least 400 years old, originating in Amsterdam before the London community was established, and therefore has the approval of generations of S&P Hahamim, including (in London) Sasportas, Nietto, Meldola and Gaster. Some rabbinic authorities outside the S&P, notably "Hida" (R. Chaim Joseph David Azulai, 1724–1806), criticized the custom as it includes the recital of the 13 Attributes, which goes against a kabbalistic principle that it is inauspicious to say the 13 Attributes between sunset and midnight.
R. Shem Tov Gaguine (1884-1953), Haham and Ab Beth Din of the British S&P from 1920, noted this objection in his encyclopedic work Keter Shem Tov, but upheld the custom, pointing out that the S&P tradition is simply not kabbalistic.
- The text of the Evening Selihot, from the London prayer book (PDF file)
- A brief discussion of the historical context of this unique custom (External URL)
- Recording of the full Evening Selihot Service (YouTube)
Most of the passages have exact equivalents in the Morning Selihot. The only exception is the short introductory passage "Lechu venashuva", chanted by the reader and congregation, which is unique to the evening selihot.