Selichot for Elul

During the month of Elul, selichot or penitent prayers are spoken daily. Within the selichot are 13 attributes of God’s character spoken to Moses.

When Moses ascended up Mt. Sinai the second time, Adonai gave Moses a duplicate set of words that were written on the first tablets.  Adonai passed in front of Moses and proclaimed His Name and His character attributes. 

“Adonai passed before him and proclaimed: “YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH!!! Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh is God (El), merciful and compassionate (rachum v’channun), slow to anger (erech apayim), rich in grace (chesed) and truth (emet); showing grace (chesed) to the thousandth generation (for thousands), forgiving offenses (avon), crimes (pesha) and sins (chatta’ah); yet not exonerating the guilty, but causing the negative effects (avon) of the parents’ offenses (avot) to be experienced by their children (banim) and grandchildren (bnei banim), and even by the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

yod-hey-vav-hey yod-hey-vav-hey

Adonai speaks His name twice as a sign of His compassion. Whenever a word in Hebrew is repeated twice, it is being emphasized.

“God said further to Moshe, “Say this to the people of Isra’el: ‘Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [the LORD], the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz’chak and the God of Ya‘akov, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation” (Exodus 3:15).


El is the Hebrew word meaning ‘God’ who is known as ElohimElohim is ‘mighty or powerful’ (El Shaddai) and gives all creatures according to their need (El Yireh).

“El Shaddai, who will bless you with blessings from heaven above, blessings from the deep, lying below, blessings from the breasts and the womb” (Genesis 49:25).

“Avraham called the place Adonai Yir’eh [Adonai will see (to it), Adonai provides] — as it is said to this day, “On the mountain Adonai is seen” (Genesis 22:14).


Elohim is ‘merciful.’ He eases the punishment of the guilty and does not put people into extreme temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:15).


Elohim is ‘compassionate,’ even to those who don’t deserve it.  He helps and consoles the afflicted and raises up the oppressed.

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror” (Psalm 10:17-18).

Erech apayim

Elohim is ‘slow to anger’ in his punishment so the sinner can reconsider his offenses and repent.

“Adonai is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and great in grace” (Psalm 145:8).

Rav chesed

Elohim is ‘kindness’ especially towards those who lack personal merits.  His ‘loving kindness’ is so great that even if the scales of good and evil are evenly balanced, He tips them towards good.

I did not hide your righteousness in my heart but declared your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal your grace and truth from the great assembly” (Psalm 40:10).


Elohim is ‘truth’.  God remains true to Himself and His Torah.

“Your righteousness is eternal righteousness, and your Torah is truth” (Psalm 119:142).

Notzer chesed laalafim

Elohim is ‘merciful’ unto thousands.  This is also translated to ‘thousands of generations’ because the deeds of the righteous benefit their offspring far into the future.

“Know therefore that Adonai your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

Noseh avon

Elohim ‘forgives iniquity’; the intentions of the heart, the intentions of the sinner.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

Va  peshah

Elohim forgives ‘transgressions’ or the willful sin of disobeying His Torah.   Those who purposely anger Elohim through malice and rebellion are given the option to repent.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11).

Ve chatah

Elohim forgives ‘sin and error’ or  sin committed out of carelessness, apathy, or complacency.

“But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).

Ve nakeh

Elohim ‘cleanses. God cleanses the sinner who repents, but He will not allow the guilty to pass unpunished. He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate him.

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

“May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out” (Psalm 109:14).

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