Tachanun in Yerushalayim
Visitors to Yeshivas Ohr Somayach’s famous beginner 4 P.M. daily Mincha (you are also welcome to join) are wont to comment on the fact that everyone recites Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim, the placing down of the head on an arm, even though the Beis Midrash where this tefillah is held, the Lauffer Beis Midrash, does not have a Sefer Torah or even an Aron Kodesh.
The reason they find this behavior odd is because the Rema, the authoritative codifier of Ashkenazic practical halachah, rules that if there is no Sefer Torah in a shul, Tachanun should still be said, but without Nefillas Apayim. This distinction istraced back to the Neviim that “falling down” in prayer is reserved for when an Aron is present. Although several authorities did not concur with this distinction, this nonetheless remains common practice. If so, the visitors ask, why would Ohr Somayach not follow such a widespread custom?
But before we answer our question, some background is in order.
What is Tachanun?
Although the importance of the power of the tefillah of Tachanun is underappreciated by many, it should not be; it is actually based on Moshe Rabbeinu’s successful entreating of Hashem on Har Sinai of granting mercy and sparing Klal Yisrael from punishment after their grievous sins: “Va’esnapel lifnai Hashem - And I threw myself down in prayer before
However, it is quite interesting that if you would ask different people what the tefillah of Tachanun actually is, you would be getting different responses. Aside for “Long Tachanun” on Mondays and Thursdays, and those that recite the Thirteen Middos daily as part of Tachanun, there actually is a difference of opinion which pesukim of Tehillim constitute the mainstay of Tachanun.
Sefardim actually say a different Perek of Tehillim than Ashkenazim as the ikar of Tachanun. Ashkenazic Tachanun consists mainly of chapter 6 (verses 2-11), “Rachum V’chanun… Hashem al be’apcha tochicheini”, while Sefardim recite chapter 25, “L’Dovid Eilecha Hashem”.This fascinating dichotomy is due to the Zohar’s exhortation of great tragedy that might befall one who performs Nefillas Apayim with improper kavannos. However, this passage was referring to chapter 25, “L’Dovid Eilecha Hashem.” Hence, separate disparate minhagim formed - to either recite “L’Dovid Eilecha” without Nefillas Apayim (which is the general Sefardic minhag), or to recite a different Perek of Tehillim (“Rachum V’chanun”) with Nefillas Apayim (which is the common Ashkenazic minhag). Accordingly, the general Sefardic practice nowadays is to never actually perform Nefillas Apayim while reciting Tachanun.
How to Tachanun
Another related interesting topic is how to properly perform Tachanun. As we no longer do the “full version” as performed by Moshe Rabbeinu, but rather a symbolic lowering of our heads onto our arm-sleeves while reciting the appropriate prayer, there is some discussion as to which arm we should lower our heads onto. Although this is debated among the Rishonim, the Rema rules that during Shacharis, as we are wearing Tefillin, we should perform Nefillas Apayim on the other arm out of deference to the Tefillin. This would generally translate to performing Tachanun on the (“un-Tefillin-ed”) right arm. [Ergo, lefties would do the opposite, performing Nefillas Apayim on their left arm.] However, at Mincha, when we generally are not wearing Tefillin, Nefillas Apayim should be performed on the left arm.
Although there is a notable minority opinion of the Arizal, Levush, and Vilna Gaon, that argues that Nefillas Apayim should always be performed on the left arm, even while wearing Tefillin, nonetheless, the common minhag follows the Rema, and hence, the majority of Klal Yisrael become “switch-hitters” when it comes to Tachanun. For those who follow the minority minhag, both Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Moshe Sternbuch advise to perform Tachanun with both arms (meaning actually performing Nefillas Apayimon the left arm while covering with the right arm) in order not to stick-out and appear as performing Tachanun differently than the Tzibbur.
Now that we have had some Tachanun training, let’s segue back to our original question. If the halacha states that if there is no Sefer Torah in a shul, Tachanun should still be recited, albeit without Nefillas Apayim, why would Ohr Somayach’s beginner minyan, held in a Beis Midrash without an Aron Kodesh still recite Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim?
The answer is: Yerushalayim. Yes, Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh. Ohr Somayach is privileged and blessed to be located in the Holy City of Jerusalem. As such, it maintains special dispensation for certain tefillos; one of them is Tachanun. In the words of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l: “Yerushalayim contains intrinsic holiness and is designated for prayer, and therefore even without a Sefer Torah one should do Nefillas Apayim, as it is comparable to a place that has a Sefer Torah.”
This minhag dates back to the 1700s to the famed Pri Ha’Adamah, who writes that since there are opinions that in lieu of Sefer Torah one may still say Tachanun in a room that contains many sefarim, then certainly in the Holy City of Yerushalayim whose intrinsic Kedushah is superior to a house filled with holy books, one would still recite Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim, even without a Sefer Torah.
This special deference for Yerushalayim is noted by many authorities, including those who specialize in the customs of Eretz Yisrael, such as Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky zt”l, author of the world-renowned Luach Eretz Yisrael.
Managing Magen Avos
Interestingly, Tachanun is not the only tefillah that Yerushalayim affects. The Birchas Me’eyn Sheva, more commonly known as Magen Avos that is recited on Friday night, is another tefillah that is performed fully in Yerushalayim in any location, for the same afore-mentioned reasons. Although Magen Avos technically needs to be recited in the presence of a Sefer Torah, or at least be recited in a set minyan, nevertheless, the inherent holiness of Yerushalayim trumps these concerns and it is always recited every Leil Shabbos anywhere in Yerushalayim.
Where is Yerushalayim?
There is, however, a matter of dispute among contemporary authorities as to what is considered the Holy City of Yerushalayim for our intents and purpose; where one would still recite Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim and Magen Avos even without a set minyan.
It is well known that Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l was of the opinion that this special regard is only meant for the original Holy City, which is now known as (parts of) the Old City (bein hachomos orAltShtut), similar to the halachos of eating Maaser Sheini and Kodshim Kalim in the times of the Beis HaMikdash. The rest of Yerushalayim, he maintains, does not share this unique intrinsic holiness. In fact, unless he was in the Old City or in a room filled with sefarim in the rest of Yerushalayim, Rav Shlomo Zalman would personally not perform Nefillas Apayim while reciting Tachanun.
However, many other contemporary poskim, including Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky zt”l, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l, and the Debreciner Rav zt”l, do not make such a distinction, and consider all of Yerushalayim, old and new, to contain inherent kedusha, and therefore maintain that when in any part of Yerushalayim one should always say Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim (as well as Magen Avos on a Friday night). This is also how the basichalachah is cited in manysefarim devoted toHilchos Tefillah. In fact, it is reported that Rav Shlomo Zalman himself later acknowledged that the common custom is not to follow his opinion on this issue.
So the next time you are in Ohr Somayach, or essentially anywhere in Yerushalayim, it is worthwhile to take advantage of the extra dimension and intensity of Nefillas Apayim that is exclusive to our Holy City.
Postscript: Is Tachanun Obligatory?
Although this author has heard it opined that the common “custom” of skipping Tachanun for reasons not mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch nor Poskei HaDoros is due to the Tur’s citing of Rav Nitoranei Gaon’s dictum that ‘Tachanun recited in the Beis Kenesses is a Reshus,’ nevertheless, both the Bach and the Prishah explain that that is far from his intent. These authorities point out that they very next line in the Tur states that Tachanun is not recited when a Chosson is present.
They explain the juxtaposition of these two statements is meant to clarify the Halachah. If the reciting of Tachanun is an actual din, then we would be obligated to recite it even with a Chosson present (akin to Shemoneh Esrei etc.). That is why the Tur prefaced it with Rav Nitoranei Gaon’s statement that Tachanun is a Reshus: to allow us leniency in certain specific halachically mandated cases. In other words, the recital of Tachanun is similar to Tefillas Maariv: although officially titled a Reshus according to some opinions (see Gemara Brachos 27b), it is nonetheless still required; it just has certain nuances that are relaxed in specific situations. The reader is referred to Rav Yisroel Reisman’s excellent forward to the English sefer titled “Tachanun,” where he decries, in his inimitable manner, the common lackadaisicalness and underappreciation many have for this important tefillah.
Rabbi Yehuda Spitz, author of M’Shulchan Yehuda, serves as the Sho’el U’Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”: http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/.
For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Rema (Orach Chaim 131: 2; quoting the Rokeach, 324).
 Yehoshua (Ch. 7: verse 6).
 The Chida (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 131: 1 and Shiyurei Bracha ad loc. 1) argues that one should always perform Tachanun withNefillas Apayim, due to the fact that the Shulchan Aruch does not bring this distinction as psak l’maaseh, even though he mentions it in his Beis Yosef commentary (ibid s.v. kasav haRivash); also, this was the Maharimat’s minhag. See also Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parashas Ki Sisa 14; who writes that Nefillas Apayim applies everywhere and all the time) and Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 131: 40). The Taz (Orach Chaim 131: 5) also questions this practice, but concludes that nevertheless the halacha pesuka still follows the Rema and Rokeach. The Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 32: 33), Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chaim 131: 3), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (22: 4), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 131: 10), and Mishnah Berurah (131, 11) rule this way as well, that without a Sefer Torah, Nefillas Apayim is not performed.
 Devarim (Parashas Eikev Ch. 9: verse 18 and 25). See Tur (Orach Chaim 131).
 Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 131: 2), based on Gemara Bava Metzia (59b).
 See Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and main commentaries to Orach Chaim 134: 1. This is because Monday and Thursday are Yemei Ratzon, as Moshe Rabbeinu went up to receive the Luchos Shniyos on Thursday and brought them down on Monday[see Midrash Tanchuma (Parashas Vayera 16), Tosafos (Bava Kamma 82b s.v. kday shelo), and Mishnah Berurah (134: 6).] A mnemonic to showcase this is the first pasuk read on a public fast day Haftara (Yeshaya Ch. 55: verse 6) “Dirshu Hashem B’H imatzo” - “Seek out Hashem when He is to be found.” The letters Beis and Hei show that an auspicious time when Hashem may be found is on Monday and Thursday; therefore Mondays and Thursdays are preferable for fasting and prayer.[SeeMatteh Moshe (748) and Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 580: 3, based on Tosefta (Taanis Ch. 2: 5).]
 See Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 134 s.v. b’sheini), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 1), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 1 and 131:5; citing this as the minhag of the Arizal as detailed in Shaar Hakavannos, end Drush 5). This is mainly performed by Sefardim and those davening Nusach Sefard.
 Zohar (vol. 3, end Parashas Bamidbar pg. 121a; cited by the Beis Yosef in Orach Chaim end 131).
 See Abudraham (vol. 1, pg. 132 - 133 s.v. v’noflin), Seder Hayom (Seder Viduy), Levush (Orach Chaim 131:1), Magen Avraham (ad loc.5 s.v. b’medinos eilu), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. end 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 2), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 8), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 8). The Elyah Rabba (ad loc. end 1), and Machatzis Hashekel (ad loc. 5s.v. b’medinos) maintain that it is preferable to recite both as part of Tachanun, one with Nefillas Apayim (“Rachum V’chanun”) and one without (“L’Dovid Eilecha”), as it is brought down (Ayalah Shelucha on Na”ch, Tehillim 25; cited by the Elyah Rabba ad loc.; see also Hagahos Mahar”a Azulai on the Levush ad loc. 2, who explains how this is alluded to in the tefillah) that one who recites “L’Dovid Eilecha” daily, “aino ro’eh pnei Gehinnom.”
 See Ben Ish Chai (Year 1, Parashas Ki Sisa 13 s.v. v’hinay), Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 131: 16), and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (22: 1). However, it must be noted that other Sefardic authorities, including the Rambam (Hilchos Tefillah Ch. 5: 14 and 15), Abudraham (vol. 1, pg. 132 s.v. v’noflin), Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 131; although interestingly mentioned in his Beis Yosef commentary ad loc.; see below), Chida (Birkei Yosef ad loc.), and Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 30 and 31), all discuss reciting Tachanun with Nefillas Apayim, with no mention of reciting the tefillah without it.
 See Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 131: 2), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 4 and 5), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 3; and Biur Halacha ad loc. s.v. l’hatos). See also Rabbeinu Bachaye (Parashas Korach Ch. 16: 22), who explains the three distinct kavannos that were in Moshe Rabbeinu’s original Nefillas Apayim and are inherently present in Tefillas Tachanun.
 See Tur and Beis Yosef (Orach Chaim 131: 1), citing and explaining the varying shittos of the Rishonim.
 Rema (Orach Chaim 131: 1). Although on Tisha B’Av we all daven Mincha wearing Tefillin, Tachanun is nonetheless not recited, due to its being called a “Moed” (Eicha Ch. 1: 15). See Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 559: 4).
 The Levush (Orach Chaim 131: 1 s.v. yeish) advises to perform Nefillas Apayim on the left arm even with Tefillin on, and simply tilt one’s head more to the right during Shacharis Tachanun and more to the left at Mincha. The Bach (ad loc. 2), and Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 2 s.v. v’ha) agree with his assessment. The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. s.v. Tefillin; Maaseh Rav 50; Tosefes Maaseh Rav 16; Chayei Adam vol. 1, 32: 33) ruled to always perform Nefillas Apayim on the left arm, even while wearing Tefillin. The Arizal is quoted as holding this way as well (Shalmei Tzibbur pg. 149b; Shulchan HaTahor 131: 3; and Kaf Hachaim ad loc. 30; citing a diyuk from Shaar Hakavannos, Drush 3). The Shulchan HaTahor (ibid.) asserts very strongly that always performing Nefillas Apayim on the left arm is the proper minhag, “V’hameshaneh m’daas Maran Ha’Ari aino ela lev to’eh ki Maran b’kedushaso uv’ruach kodsho v’gadol chochmaso machria kol haminhagim, v’Rabbeinu HaTaz lo ra’ah divrei Maran Ha’Ari b’zeh.” Interestingly, it turns out that lefties would end up following this shittah – always performing Nefillas Apayim on their left arms.
 Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 131: 3), Taz (ad loc. 3), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. end 1), Pri Megadim (Mishbetzos Zahav ad loc. 3; “ain leshanos mimah shenahagu olam”), Chayei Adam (ibid.; although he adds that even if one is wearing Tefillin by Mincha he can still do Nefillas Apayim on the left arm), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 7), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 6; adding that if one is in a shul wear they perform Nefillas Apayim on the right arm due to Tefillin on the left and one does it on the left he would transgress “Lo Sisgodedu”), and Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu (vol. 1 – Orach Chaim 13: 12; based on his Eidus L’Yisrael; citing the common minhag).
 Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 5: 20, 19) and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1: 133). Elsewhere [see for example, Hilchos HaGr”a U’Minhagav (106) and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2: 80)], Rav Moshe Sternbuch questions the Mishnah Berurah’s assessment as to why specifically regarding how one performs Nefillas Apayim should it be classified as transgressing “Lo Sisgodedu.”
 Shu”t Igros Moshe (Yoreh Deah vol. 3, 129: 2).
 Mizbach Adamah (pg. 2, s.v. siman 268). The Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parashas Vayera 10) dates this minhag back to the times of the Rashash, Master Kabbalist and Rosh Yeshivas Beit-El in the Old City of Yerushalayim, Rav Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777).
 See Shiyarei Knesses Hagedolah (Orach Chaim 131, Haghos al Beis Yosef 6), Olas Tamid (ad loc. 10), Magen Giborim (Elef Hamagen ibid, 7), and Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 1, pg. 67). However, many authorities, including the Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 5), Derech Hachaim (Dinei Tachanun 5), and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (22: 4), do not agree with this assessment and maintain that even with sefarim in the room, one would not perform Nefillas Apayim. The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 11) does not rule conclusively on this. However, see Shu”t Divrei Yatziv (Orach Chaim vol. 1, 75: 1), who maintains that the minhag is not to rely on this dispensation, as we follow the Rema’s ruling and he only referenced that this din applies exclusively if a Sefer Torah was present, and with nary a mention of sefarim present as a consideration.
 Sefer Eretz Yisrael and Luach Eretz Yisrael (Dinei Tzom Gedalya, in the brackets).
 Elyah Rabba (Orach Chaim 268: 19), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 8), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 24), Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 4, 69: 3), based on the words of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 268: 10). See also Ishei Yisrael (Ch. 36: 35, footnote 93) for more on this topic.
 See Pri HaAdamah (ibid.), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parashas Vayera 10; and in Shu”t Rav Pe’alim vol. 3 Orach Chaim 23), Shalmei Chagiga (2: 27), Luach Eretz Yisrael (Dinei Shabbos Shuva), Kaf HaChaim (Orach Chaim 268: 50), Shu”t Har Tzvi (Orach Chaim 152), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak (vol. 10: 21), Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer (vol. 7: 23 s.v. zohee), Ishei Yisrael (Ch. 36: 35).
 For example, see Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah (vol. 2, 65: 58), V’aleihu Lo Yibol (vol. 1, pg. 95: 105; pg. 298: 15; pg. 348; 2), Ishei Yisrael (Ch. 25, footnote 39), and Halichos Shlomo (Tefillah Ch. 11: 11).
 Halichos Shlomo (Tefillah Ch. 11, footnote 37).
 Including the Luach Eretz Yisrael (ibid.), Shu”t Igros Moshe (ibid.), Leket Kemach Hachadash (vol. 4, 131: 23), Beis Baruch on the Chayei Adam (vol. 1, 32: 170), Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 7, Dinei Bnei Eretz Yisrael pg. 208 s.v. yeish omrim), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 4, 43: 9), sefer Olas Reiyah (cited in Halichos Shlomo ibid.), Ishei Yisrael (Ch. 25: 10), and Tefillah Kehilchasah (Ch. 15: 2, quoting sefer Dinei Eretz Yisrael U’Minhageha). Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explicitly ruled that this includes all of Yerushalayim (see Shevus Yitzchak on Purim pg. 92 and Ashrei HaIsh, Orach Chaim vol. 1, Ch. 24: 3). Although he implies that the minhag follows Rav Shlomo Zalman in an earlier responsum (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 2: 79), Rav Moshe Sternbuch, in a later responsum (Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 4: 41) gives an explanation why the prevalent minhag is to consider all of Yerushalayim equal for this aspect. In fact, Rav Shlomo Zalman himself acknowleged that the common custom is not to follow his opinion on this (see V’Aleihu Lo Yibol ibid.).
 This teaching that Tachanun is essentially a Reshus is cited l’maaseh by many authorities, including the Rivash (Shu”t 412), Rema (Darchei Moshe,Orach Chaim 131: 5; who adds ‘u’lachein kol dinav b’minhaga talya milsa’), Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 2), Ma’amar Mordechai (ad loc. 13), Shulchan Aruch Harav (ad loc. 1), and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 2). However, it is important to note that the Shulchan Aruch Harav stresses that Tachanun is a ‘minhag shenahagu kol Yisrael mimos olam’, and the Aruch Hashulchan adds that ‘v’achshav shekol Yisraelnahagu bazeh shavinhu k’chova…v’gam matzinu b’Gemara d’im ki huReshus,inyana gadol me’ode, v’chein haShamayim mimaharim l’anos al Nefillas Apayim’. Additionally, the Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 53) maintains that according to the Arizal (Shaar HaKavanos, Derushei Nefillas Apayim) Tachanun is essentially an actual Chovah, and concludes that one should make sure to recite it barring legitimate reason.
 Tur (Orach Chaim 131), Bach (ad loc. end), and Prishah (ad loc. 8).
 However, in his weekly Ateres Shalom publication (Parashas Acharei Mos / Kedoshim 5775, pg. 1 s.v. Misas) the Kamarna Rebbe of Yerushalayim gave a possible explanation as to why many Chassidim do not say Tachanun on a Tzaddik’s Yahrtzeit. The Yerushalmi (Yoma Ch. 1, Halacha 1; also cited in the Zohar vol. 3, pg. 56b) teaches that the reason the deaths of Nadav and Avihu (the beginning of Parashas Acharei Mos) are read on Yom Kippur is to teach us that just as Yom Kippur effects forgiveness for Klal Yisrael, so does the deaths of Tzaddikim. The Arizal (Shaar HaKavannos, Inyan Nefillas Apayim Drush 2) adds that the deaths of Tzaddikim has the same effect as reciting Tachanun. The Kamarna Rebbe posits that this is the source of why many Chasiddim do not recite Tachanun on a Tzaddik’s Yahrtzeit: If the deaths of Tzaddikim can bring about Kaparah and works akin to the recital of Tachanun, they must hold that since the Yahrtzeit itself has the same effect, there is no need to additionally recite Tachanun. See also Rav Moshe Sternbuch’s Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1: 134) who cites a limud zechus as to why many Chassidim do not recite Tachanun by Mincha even though this seems counter-indicative of the general halacha.
 More recently, Rav Shmuel Brazil, Rosh Yeshivas Zeev HaTorah, addressed this issue in his weekly Parasha sheet (Parashas Vayakhel 5779; “Who is the Holder of the Keys”), elucidating why not to underestimate the significance of this incredible Tefillah, when Hashem comes closer to us and allows us to beseech Him for mercy, forgive us for our transgressions, and save us from our ills and maladies.
Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.
L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda.