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The source of the mourning
The Shulchan Aruch writes that we mourn during sefira because Rebbe Akiva's twenty-four thousand students died during this period. Rav Natrunai Gaon writes that the custom of communal mourning has been practiced ever since then. The Acharonim add that other major communal tragedies, including the crusades, happened during this period. For this reason, in many communities Av Harachmim (the tefila recalling those who were killed al Kiddush Hashem and requesting that Hashem avenge their deaths) is said on all the Shabasos of sefira-even on Shabbos Mevarchim, even when a chason is present, and even on the day of a Bris.
(סעיף א; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 3)


 
 Hilchos Tefilla 131 (page 23)
 מסעיף ב עד אמצע סעיף ד ולא בבית החתן


Reciting Tachanun Face Down
Tachanun at Night
Tachanun in a House of Mourning

Reciting tachanun face down
Tachanun, also known as nefilas apaim (literally "falling on the face," even though today this tefilla is merely recited facing downwards), is generally said after Shemoneh Esrei during Shacharis and Mincha. If it is recited in the presence of a sefer Torah, it should be said while sitting with the face covered and pointing downward. If there is no sefer Torah, it is said while sitting but the face is not tilted downward. This is alluded to in the verse regarding Yehoshua, "and he fell on his face before the ark of Hashem." People davening in the ezras nashim or outside the door of the shul who can view the Aron Kodesh recite tachanun with their faces down. Some have the custom to recite tachanun face downward when they are in the ancient parts of Yerushalayim even if there is no sefer Torah. The intense holiness of the place permits it to be treated as 'before Hashem.' The poskim discuss if an area which permanently houses sefarim is treated like an area which houses a sefer Torah.
( סעיף ב וס"ק יא-יג; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 16-17)
Tachanun at night
Tachanun is not recited at night because it arouses the Heavenly attribute of Justice, which is more pronounced at night. If Mincha is delayed and runs into the night, tachanun is recited without facing downwards.  Ideally tachanun should be recited when it is clearly still daytime, but it can be recited during bein hashemashos as well. If reciting Avinu Malkenu will delay tachanun until after nightfall, Avinu Malkenu may be skipped in order to recite tachanun on time. According to Kabbalah, tachanun should not be recited after sunset. Tachanun may be recited with predawn selichos, since selichos are said close to daytime. According to some opinions, tachanun may be recited as early as midnight.
( סעיף ג וס"ק טז-יח; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 20)
Tachanun in a house of mourning
Tachanun is omitted in a home where a mourner is observing shiva or in a house where the deceased passed away or was placed between the passing and burial. The Heavenly attribute of Justice is strong in these areas and it is not proper to further arouse it with the recitation of tachanun. In these places the tefilla is skipped entirely, because the rules in a house of mourning are similar in some ways with the rules of chagim when tachanun is never said.  People who daven in a house of mourning do not need to make up the tefilla upon leaving. The poskim discuss whether they must make up the tefilla of V'hu Rachum (a long form of tachanun recited on Mondays and Thursdays). An avel never says tachanun, even if for some reason he is davening outside of the house of mourning.
( סעיף ד וס"ק כ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 23 ו־47)



 
  • Tachanun is also known as nefilas apaim, which literally means falling on the face, because it was originally recited prostrate with the face buried in the ground. Today it is said with the head tilted towards the ground but turned to the side and covered.
  • The objective of covering the face is primarily in order to cover the eyes. The face should be covered with a cloth (e.g. sleeve, talis) and not an arm or hand, because of the rule that a body cannot cover itself.
  • One should not interrupt between Shemoneh Esrei and tachanun with mundane talk (and, according to Kabbalah, with any sort of talk). Such interruptions can interfere with one's tefillos being properly accepted by Hashem.

   

  • Simcha exemptions

  • Tachanun if the ba'al simcha is not davening

  • May a chason attend a minyan?

 








  
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PLEASE NOTE:  The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.


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