Tachanun or Ta?anun (Hebrew: "Supplication"), also called nefilat apayim (Hebrew: "falling on the face"), is part of Judaism's morning (Shacharit) and afternoon (Mincha) services, after the recitation of the Amidah, the central part of the daily Jewish prayer services. Traditionally, only the first four words of the prayer are said aloud so that others take notice. It is omitted on Shabbat, Jewish holidays and several other occasions (e.g., in the presence of a groom in the week after his marriage). Most traditions recite a longer prayer on Mondays and Thursdays.
There is a short format of Tachanun and there is a long format. The long format is reserved for Monday and Thursday mornings, days when the Torah is read in the synagogue. The short format, also said on weekday afternoons, consists of three (in some communities two) short paragraphs.
According to the Nusach Sefard and most Sephardic rites, Tachanun begins with vidduy (confessional prayer) and the Thirteen Attributes; in Spanish and Portuguese and North African communities, these are recited only in long Tachanun. In this prayer several sins are mentioned and the heart is symbolically struck with the right fist during mentioned of each sin. This is followed by the mention of God's thirteen attributes of mercy. By and large, Sephardim do not rest their head on their hand for Kabbalistic reasons, but Moroccan and Spanish and Portuguese Jews, who never accepted many Kabbalistic customs, do rest their head on their hand.
In most Nusach Ashkenaz communities, Tachanun begins with introductory verses from II Samuel (24:14), and then continues with a short confession that we have sinned and God should answer our prayers, followed by Psalm 6:2-11, which King David composed - according to traditional sources - while sick and in pain. In most Nusach Sefard communities, they also recite these verses, although only after reciting Vidui and the Thirteen Attributes.
In the presence of a Torah scroll, this paragraph is recited with the head leaning on the back of the left hand or sleeve (right hand when wearing tefillin on the left) as per Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 131:1-2).
The next paragraph, "? " ("Guardian of Israel") is recited seated, but erect (some communities recite it only on fast days).
After this point, and following the words "va'anachnu lo neida", it is customary in many communities to rise, and the remainder of the final paragraph is recited while standing. Tachanun is invariably followed by "half kaddish" in the morning and by "full kaddish" in the afternoon.
The Talmud (Bava Kamma) marks Monday and Thursday as "eth ratzon", a time of Divine goodwill, on which a supplication is more likely to be received. On Monday and Thursday mornings, therefore, a longer prayer is recited. The order differs by custom:
In Nusach Ashkenaz, a long prayer beginning "ve-hu rachum" is recited before niflat apayim. After Psalm 6, a few stanza with a refrain "Hashem elokey Yisra'el" is added. The service then continues with Shomer Yisra'el (in some communities this is recited only on Fast Days) and Tachanun is concluded as normal. In some Nusach Ashkenaz communities, especially in Israel, they have adopted the Sephardic custom to recite Vidui and Thirteen Attributes at the beginning of long Tachanun.
In Nusach Sefard, the order is Vidui, Thirteen Attributes, nefilat apayim, "ve-hu rachum", "Hashem elokey Yisra'el", Shomer Yisra'el, and Tachanun is concluded as normal.
In the Sephardic rite, there are two variations: The older custom (maintained by Spanish and Portuguese and some North African Jews is to recite the Thirteen Attributes, "Anshei Amanah Avadu" (on Monday) or "Tamanu me-ra'ot" (on Thursday), another Thirteen Attributes, "al ta'as imanu kalah", Vidui, "ma nomar", another Thirteen Attributes, "ve-hu rachum", nefilat apayim, "Hashem ayeh chasadech ha-rishonim" (on Monday) or "Hashem she'arit peletat Ariel" (on Thursay), and Tachnun is concluded as on other days.
Most Sephardic communities today have adopted a different order, based on the Kabballah of the Ari. This order includes vidui, "ma nomar", Thirteen Attributes, nefilat apayim, which is concluded as every day. After this, another Thirteen Attributes, "Anshei Amanah Avadu", another Thirteen Attributes, "Tamanu me-ra'ot", another Thirteen Attributes, "al ta'as imanu kalah", and Tachnun concludes with "ve-hu rachum".
In the Italian rite, several verses from Daniel are recited - these verses are included in "ve-hu rachum" recited in other rites, but the prayer in Italian rite is much shorter. This is followed by Thirteen Attributes, Vidui, "ma nomar", nefilat apayim, Psalm 130, a collection of verses from Jeremiah and Micah, a piyyut beginning "Zechor berit Avraham" (this is different from the famous selicha of Zechor Berit known in other rites), Psalm 20, and Tachanun is concluded as on other days.
The Yemenite rite did not originally include any additions for Monday and Thursday. However, due to influence of other communities, they have adopted the following order: nefilat apayim, Thirteen Attributes, "al ta'as imanu kalah", Vidui, "ma nomar", another Thirteen Attributes, "ve-hu rachum", "Hashem ayeh chasadech ha-rishonim" (on Monday) or "Hashem she'arit peletat Ariel" (on Thursay), and Tachnun is concluded as on other days.
The source of the supplicatory prayer (Ta?anun) "is in Daniel (9:3) and I Kings (8:54), where the verses indicate that prayer should always be followed by supplication. Based on this, Talmudic sages developed the habit of adding a personal appeal to God following the set prayers (some examples are listed in the Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 16b). In the fourteenth century, these spontaneous supplications were standardized and turned into the prayer of Tachanun."
The custom of bending over and resting the face on the left hand is suggested by the first line of the text which includes the words "nip'lah na b'yad Adonai" ("let us fall into the hand of God"). It is also reminiscent of the Daily Sacrifice brought in the Temple, which was laid on its left side to be slaughtered. A person's arm should be covered with a sleeve, tallit, or other covering. This posture, developed in the post-Talmudic period, is symbolic of the original practice, in which people knelt down until their faces touched the ground to show humility and submission to God. The pose was also used by Moses and Joshua, who fell on their faces before God after the sin of the Golden calf. Because of this practice, Tahanun is also known as nefilat apayim ("falling on the face").
Because Joshua fell on his face before the Ark of the Covenant, Ashkenazi custom is that one puts one's head down only when praying in front of an Ark containing a Torah scroll. Otherwise, it is proper to sit with the head up.One source says that where the ark, containing a valid (non-Pasul) Sefer Torah can be seen from where one is sitting, then head down, if not, not. The same source reports a custom of in-the-next-room, and notes that it is not universally accepted.
The article also has three other head-down situations: (a) some, in Jerusalem; (b) Sefer Torah without an ark; (c) at home, if one "knows at exactly what time the congregation recites Tachanun in the synagogue. In a different article, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein is cited as saying that "because Jerusalem is such a holy city" it is as if we're in the presence of a Sefer Torah. It also makes a case for "in the same room" and advises, "If not, then you say it sitting without putting your head down."
The longer version recited on Mondays and Thursdays is traced by classical sources (see e.g., S. Baer, Siddur Avodath Yisrael) to three sages who had escaped the destruction of the Jewish community in the Holy Land by the Romans. While on a ship on the way to Europe, they were caught in a storm, and all three recited a personal prayer, after which the storm subsided. These sages went on to establish communities in Europe. David Abudirham states that the words "rachum ve-chanun" ("merciful and gracious") mark the beginning of the next segment.
Tachanun is omitted from the prayers on Shabbat, all the major holidays and festivals (including Chol HaMoed, the intermediate days of Pesach and Sukkot), Rosh Chodesh (new moon), Hanukkah and Purim, as these days are of a festive nature and reciting Tachanun, which is mildly mournful, would not be appropriate.
The following is a list of all the other days, "minor holidays", when tachanun is excluded from the prayers, and Psalm 126 is recited during Birkat HaMazon. It is typically also omitted from the Mincha prayers the preceding afternoon, unless otherwise noted:
|9||Tishrei||The day before Yom Kippur (but not the mincha of the day beforehand).|
|11-14||Tishrei||The days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot.|
|23-29||Tishrei||From after Simchat Torah until the conclusion of the month (universal only on isru chag, but not on the days following it).|
|25 - 2 or 3||Kislev-Tevet||All 8 days of Chanukah.|
|15||Shevat||Tu BiShvat, New Year of the Trees. Universally at Shacharis but not at mincha nor the mincha before.|
|14-15||Adar I||Purim Katan and Shushan Purim Katan|
|23-29||Adar||Shivas Yemei HaMilluim - 7 inaugural/pre-inaugural days of the Mishkan. Primarily a chasidic custom, and most communities do recite Tachnun this week. See Rashi, Lev. 9:1.|
|14||Iyar||According to some customs, Pesach Sheni (but not the mincha of the day beforehand; not a universal custom).|
|18||Iyar||Lag BaOmer Universally at Shacharis but not at mincha nor the mincha before.|
|1-5||Sivan||The beginning of the month until Shavuot.|
|7-12||Sivan||The Isru chag (universal) and compensatory week to bring an offering to the Temple in Jerusalem after Shavuot (not a universal custom).|
|9||Av||Tisha B'Av - Yemenite Jews do recite Tachnun on Tisha B'Av, and the original Italian rite custom (through the 19th century) was to resume the recitation of Tachanun at mincha on Tisha B'Av.|
|15||Av||Tu B'Av Universally at Shacharis but not at mincha nor the mincha before.|
|29||Elul||The day before Rosh Hashanah (but not the mincha of the day beforehand; in the Selichos in the early morning, Ashkenazim recite tachanun, but Sephardim do not).|
It is also not recited in the house of a mourner (reasons vary: either so as not to add to the mourner's grief by highlighting God's judgment, or because a mourner's house is a house of judgment, and a house of judgment is not a suitable place for requesting mercy; see bereavement in Judaism), nor is it said in the presence of a groom in the sheva yemei hamishte (the seven celebratory days subsequent to his marriage; see marriage in Judaism). Additionally, Tachanun is omitted in a synagogue when a circumcision is taking place in the synagogue at that time, and when either the father of the baby, the sandek (the one who holds the baby during the circumcision), or the mohel (the one who performs the circumcision) is present.
Some Nusach Sefard communities omit Tachanun during mincha, primarily because it was common for Hasidic congregations to pray mincha after sunset, in which case some hold that Tachanun needs be omitted. Additionly, many Hasidic communities omit Tachanun on the anniversary of the death of various Rebbes (except Lubavitch makes a point of saying), since that is considered a day for religious renewal and celebration. There is a Hasidic custom of omitting Tachanun the entire week of Purim (11-17 Adar) and the entire week of Lag BaOmer (14-20 Iyar). Some communities omit Tachanun on 7 Adar because it is the anniversary of the death of Moses. Additionally some Hasidic congregations omit Tachanun on Friday mornings (getting ready for Shabbat), and some even on Sunday mornings (revival from Shabbat).
In many congregations, it is customary to omit Tachanun on holidays established by the State of Israel: Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day), 5 Iyar (most years, date changes depending on day of week); and Yom Yerushalayim (the anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967), 28 Iyar. Some communities in the Diaspora will also omit Tachanun on civil holidays in their own country (such as Thanksgiving in the United States).