Shulchan Aruch – The Halachot of Rosh Hashanah


Note: The RAMA is in brackets [ ]


Chapter 581: The laws of the days of supplication and the eve of Rosh Hashanah


1.  It is customary to get up early and say סליחות (penitential prayers) and supplications from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur.  [The Askenazic custom is not like that.  Rather, we begin blowing shofer after the morning prayer from Rosh Chodesh Elul and onward.  There are places where they also blow the shofer again in the evening (after מעריב).  The custom is to get up early to say סליחות the Sunday before Rosh Hashana.  And if Rosh Hashana falls out on Monday or Tuesday, we start סליחות from the previous Sunday.  It is forbidden for a morner to leave his house in order to go to a synogague and hear סליחות with the exception of Rosh Hashana where there are a lot of סליחות . The mourner should be careful to return to his home afterwards.  It is a good idea for the Chazan reciting סליחות and the prayers on the ימים נוראים (aweful days) to be great in Torah and good deads, married and at least 30 years old.  In reality, any Jew can do it as long as he is wanted by the congregation.  However, if one leads the services against the will of the congregation, they don’t answer Amen after him.  Also, it is necessary that the Chazan is יוציא everyone with his prayer.  If he had in mind not to be יוציא them, then even his friends are not יוציא.  And there are those who recite סליחות the entire day.]


2.  It is customary to fast on the eve of Rosh Hashana (ערב ראשׁ השׁנה).  [The very strict have the custom that everyone fasts the ten days and it is propper to do this.  You are not required to complete these fasts.  On these days we don’t read ויחל even on ערב ראשׁ השׁנה ;see 562:2.  If a circumcision falls out on ערב ראשׁ השׁנה, they are permitted to eat.  The majority have the custom to get up before sunrise and eat because of the laws of the nations who have the custom to fast the day before their fasts.  You may get up before sunrise to eat on ערב ראשׁ השׁנה even without a condition [[1]] since this is our custom.


3.  On ערב ראשׁ השׁנה , we do not fall on our faces (to say תחנון) in prayer even though we fall on our faces early in the morning when we say סליחות.  Also, we don’t blow the shofer on ערב ראשׁ השׁנה.


4.  We wash clothes and get hair cuts on  ערב ראשׁ השׁנה [and there are those who have the custom to go to the mikvah on ערב ראשׁ השׁנה because of קרי .  Also, there are places where the custom is to go to the graveyard and say a lot of supplications and to give charity to poor people.]


_______________Translated by Jay Dinovitser

[1] Usually, if one sleeps the night before a fast starting the next morning, he may not get up before sunset and eat unless he made a “condition” the night before.  This is because he lies down to sleep, he already accepted upon himself that the previous day ended and when he wakes up, the next day starts which is a fast day.  However, if one makes a mental “condition” that when one lies down to sleep, one does not accept the fast yet, then one may get up before sunrise and eat.