Selihot: May one add to Anenu?

One of the penitential prayers that are recited in the Selihot as well as throughout Yom Kippur is Anenu. In this prayer, we beseech Hashem to answer us in the merit of our forefathers and in different circumstances. In the Moroccan community, there are Anenu verses that are inserted in addition to the standard Sephardic text. For example, it is a common Moroccan custom to insert “Anenu Elah-a de Meir Anenu” (lit. “Answer us, Oh G-d of Meir, answer us”).  Interestingly, although some say “Elah-a de Rabbi Meir”, Rabbi Haim Palagi (Lev Haim, vol. II, pg. 160) and Rabbi Yosef Messas (Mayim Haim I:232) write that the Gemara (Avoda Zara 18b) says that when calling out to Hashem in the merit of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Hanes, one only uses his first name without the title of “Rabbi”. 

Other additions, which were not necessarily printed in Siddurim but were passed on orally from generation to generation to this day,  include “Magen Avot” (lit. “Shield of our forefathers”) “Bizchute de Bar Yohai” (lit. “in the merit of Bar Yohai”), “Ezrat Hashevatim” (lit. “the Helper of the tribes”),  “Misgav Haimahot” (lit. “Fortress of our foremothers”) or “Rochev Aravot” (lit. He who rides upon the highest heavens). Although one is not permitted to add to or subtract from the prayers that the Anshe Knesset Hagedola instituted, Selihot were, for the most part composed during the times of the Geonim or later. Furthermore, since most of the Selihot are supplicatory in nature, one may add as one sees fit. 

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Hazon Ovadia, pg. 17) quotes Rabbi Eliyahu Mani (Shu”t Tana Deve Eliyahu), who says that one does not add to the Anenu prayer. Upon further inspection, it appears to mean that their custom was to not add more Anenu verses but not that it was prohibited to do so.  

It should also be noted that the original order of the Anenu verses is to alternate the Avot with corresponding pleadings, rather than to recite the Avot consecutively. The proper order is as follows:

  1. Eloh-e Avraham
  2. Ha’One be’Et Ratzon
  3. Ufahad Yitzhak 
  4. Ha’One be’Et Tzara (or Seliha)
  5. Avir Ya’akov
  6. Ha’One be’Et Rahamim

In the original Livorno Siddurim these were typed in columns and thus people confused the order and thus first recited Avraham, Yitzhak and Ya’akov and then the others. 

Summary:  The Moroccan custom is to add verses to Anenu.