The Minhag of Ashkenazim is to commence Selichos this coming Motzei Shabbos. Consequently, I would like to present a summary of its relevant Halachos.
It has been observed that the common expression of “Saying Selichos” is a misnomer. The term “Selichos” is derived from the word for forgiveness; and forgiveness is something we beg for, not “say.” We should all keep in mind during Selichos that the point is not to groggily recite unfamiliar words; we are beseeching for our lives that are on the line. However, for simplicity’s sake, we will use this term in our article, as the Rema does.
The ideal time to recite Selichos is during the final third of the night, from three hours prior to sunrise until the morning. If one is unable to arise this early, they may be recited at any point during the daylight hours, including preceding Mincha. Some allow Selichos to be said from midnight onwards, and this is the common practice especially on Motzei Shabbos itself. The implication of the Igros Moshe OC 2:105 is that after midnight is preferable over after sunrise.
When Selichos are being recited in the morning, Birchos HaTorah should be said prior to Selichos. If the time for wearing a Talis has already arrived, it should be worn with a Beracha.
Ideally one should stand for the entire Selichos. If this is difficult, effort should be made to stand at least for the 13 Middos and Vidui.
Orchos Rabbeinu quotes the Steipler Gaon that if one arrived late to Shul during Selichos, he should start from where the Tzibbur is currently holding and make up the beginning sections later.
If one is sitting Shiva,lo aleinu, during the period of Selichos, a Minyan should convene in the Avel’s house to recite Selichos and they should omit Tachanun. On Erev Rosh HaShana he may attend Shul to Daven the extended Selichos with the Tzibur, but not on other days. After the conclusion of the Shiva, it is permitted for an Avel to serve as the Shalich Tzibbur for Selichos. However, some have the Minhag that he should not.
If one is unable to say Selichos with a Minyan, the 13 Middos and all Piyutim written in Aramaic should be omitted. One may read the 13 Middos with their Tropp, as it becomes a mere reading of Pesukim and is no longer considered Davening them. If one is Davening in Shul with a Minyan but cannot keep up with them, he may recite the Aramaic Piyutim as long as the Tzibur has not concluded the entire Selichos. However, the 13 Middos should only be recited as such together with a Minyan literally.
When a Chasan is present in Shul or a Bris is occurring later that day, there are various opinions among the Poskim whether the Tachanun portion of Selichos should be recited.
Though the Rema states that the individual who served as the Chazan for Selichos should continue for all of the day’s Tefillos, and the Magen Avraham grants him precedence over even a Yahrtzeit, the AruchHaShulchan observes that today this is no longer the custom.
May everyone be Zoche to a Kesiva v’Chasima Tova.