Because the Sages did not explicitly ordain the recitation of Seliḥot, there is no standard rite, and each community added its own supplications and piyutim (liturgical poems). Nevertheless, there is a basic framework that all communities follow and which appears in Seder R. Amram Gaon. We begin with the recitation of Ashrei (Tehilim 145), as every prayer service begins with praise of God. This is followed by a half Kaddish and the paragraphs that begin “Lekha Hashem Ha-tzedaka” (“To You, O Lord, is righteousness”) and “Shome’a tefila adekha kol basar yavo’u” (“Hearer of prayer, all humankind comes to You”; Tehilim 65:3) and additional verses of petition and supplication. We then recite the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, the standard confession (“Ashamnu” – “We are guilty”) and the longer confession (“Ashamnu mi-kol am” – “We are the guiltiest of all peoples”). Toward the end, we recite “Aneinu” (“Answer us”) and “Asei le-ma’an shemekha” (“Act for the sake of Your name”). The service concludes with Taḥanun and the full Kaddish.
- Amram Gaon writes that additional verses, piyutim, and supplications may be added to the basic outline. In fact, Jewish communities have added many piyutim to Seliḥot, with the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy repeated in between them. There are differences between the Ashkenazic and Sephardic rites of these additional piyutim. Also, while Sephardim recite the same Seliḥot every day, Ashkenazim have different piyutim for each day.
When time is short, worshippers may skip the additional piyutim and recite just the basic order set out by R. Amram Gaon. If a congregation is selecting which piyutim to say, they should opt for those that inspire repentance.