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Changes in Prayer During the Ten Days of Repentance

Rav Yair Kahn
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"Ha-Melekh Ha-kadosh:" Changes in Prayer During Aseret Yemei Teshuva


From Rosh Ha-shana until Yom Kippur, we make two minor changes made in the Shemoneh Esrei prayer. The terms "ha-Kel ha-kadosh" and "Melekh ohev tzedaka u-mishpat" ("the holy God" and "King who loves righteousness and justice") are changed respectively to "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" ("the holy King" and "the King of justice"). The source for this switch is found in a short passage in Berakhot (12b):

"Raba the son of Chinina Saba said in Rav's name: The entire year a person prays 'ha-Kel ha-kadosh' and 'Melekh ohev tzedaka u-mishpat,' except for the ten days from Rosh Ha-shana till Yom Kippur, when he prays 'ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat.' R. Elazar said that even if one said 'ha-Kel ha-kadosh,' he [nevertheless] fulfilled his obligation ... What is our conclusion? Rav Yosef said: 'Ha-Kel ha-kadosh' and 'Melekh ohev tzedaka u-mishpat.' Raba said: 'Ha-Melekh ha-kadosh' and 'ha-Melekh ha-mishpat.' The halakha is in accordance with Raba."

Although the gemara explicitly states that the halakha follows Raba, Raba's position can be understood in two different ways.

1) According to Tosafot, the Rif and Rambam, Raba agrees with Rav that "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" is indispensable.

2) However, according to the Ra'avia and the Ba'al Ha-ma'or, Raba acknowledges that "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" is preferable, but nevertheless rules that it is not indispensable.

The Shulchan Arukh accepts the interpretation of the Rambam and the Rif. Therefore, if one inadvertently says "ha-Kel ha-kadosh," he must repeat the entire tefilla (i.e. Shemoneh Esrei).

Aside from its practical ramifications, the above argument lies at the conceptual heart of the sugya as well. From an analytical perspective, it is critical to define the precise roles of "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat." Are they to be viewed as external additions to the tefilla? Or, on the other hand, do they perhaps form an integral part of the tefilla, functioning as a reformulation of the actual berakhot necessary during Aseret Yemei Teshuva? If they function as integral parts of the tefilla, it would be reasonable to conclude that "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" are indispensable. However, if we consider "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" to be external additions, then we would be most likely to regard them as dispensable.

The Ra'avia cites the following beraita to support his ruling that it is not critical to mention "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh:"

"On days that have a korban mussaf, such as Rosh Chodesh and Chol Ha-mo'ed, ... one mentions the occasion in [the berakha of] 'avoda;' if he did not [mention it], he must repeat [the prayer]. On days that do not have korban mussaf, ... the occasion is mentioned in 'shome'a tefilla;' if he did not, he needn't repeat." (Shabbat 24a)

The Ra'avia argues that since the Aseret Yemei Teshuva are days in which there is no korban mussaf, one needn't repeat his prayer if he neglects to mention "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh." (Whether one must repeat the prayer on Rosh Ha-shana and Yom Kippur, which are days on which there is a korban mussaf, is an interesting question. However, this issue was not raised by the Ra'avia. I will briefly touch on this question later.)

The Ra'avia's comparison to the mention of special occasions is revealing. The korban mussaf is an expression of kedushat ha-yom – the inherent sanctity unique to a specific day. It is possible that days which have this special charecteristic demand a unique tefilla as well. Therefore, the mention of the specific occasion can be considered integral to the tefilla, insofar as it adapts the tefilla and makes it suitable to this unique day. However, the requirement to mention special occasions on days that have no kedushat ha-yom is only an external addition. Therefore, failure to make such mention does not invalidate the tefilla. It is reasonable to conclude that the Ra'avia considers "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" to be only an external mention of a special occasion. This is, of course, consistent with his ruling that if one fails to mention "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh," he does not have to repeat the tefilla.

In contrast to the Ra'avia, Tosafot argue that a mistake regarding "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" constitutes an alteration in the wording of the berakhot coined by the Sages. Therefore, this alteration invalidates the berakha. Evidently, Tosafot considered these phrases as parts of the wording of the berakhot themselves, coined specially for Aseret Yemei Teshuva. This position apparently views "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" as integral to the berakha. Therefore, Tosafot conclude that any alteration disqualifies the berakha, and consequently the entire tefilla.

However, Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona distinguish between "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat." According to them, if one recited "ha-Kel ha-kadosh" instead of "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh," he must repeat the entire tefilla. However, if one replaced "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" with "Melekh ohev tzedaka u-mishpat," he doesn't have to repeat, since in any case "Melekh" was mentioned. Clearly, Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona interpret this halakha as an external obligation to mention the term "Melekh," and not as a reformulation of the entire berakha. Nevertheless, they argue that failure to mention "Melekh" obligates the repetition of the entire tefilla. This opinion forces us to concede the possibility of repeating the tefilla based on failure to mention even an external addition.

There are several examples of this phenomenon; however, for our purposes, one will do. The gemara in Berakhot (29a) states: "If one forgot and did not mention ... havdala in [the blessing] 'Chonen Ha-da'at,' we don't require him repeat, since he has the opportunity to recite it over a cup [of wine]." Evidently, havdala is only an external addition to tefilla. Nevertheless, the gemara seems to suggest that if there was no opportunity to recite havdala over wine, one would have to repeat the entire tefilla in order to fulfill one's obligation of havdala, even though he has already fulfilled his obligation of tefilla. Obviously, it is possible to repeat the entire tefilla in order to recite external insertions.

Both the Ra'avia and Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona agree that "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" is an external addition and not an intrinsic part of the berakha. The Ra'avia identifies the addition with the requirement to mention special occasions. Consequently, he rules that this mention, although preferable, is not critical. Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona, however, define "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" as an obligation to express malkhut, the infinite reign of Hashem, within the context of tefilla. Although failure to express malkhut may not invalidate the tefilla, one must nonetheless repeat the entire tefilla in order to properly express malkhut.

The Sefer Ha-mikhtam quotes an opinion of the Ra'avad that one must explicitly say "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat," meaning "the King who is justice." If one inadvertently said "Melekh ha-mishpat," the King of justice, he did not fulfill his obligation. (Rashi disputes this opinion.) This clearly opposes the opinion of Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona, who suffice with any mention of "Melekh." Apparently, the Ra'avad (like Tosafot) maintains the view that on Aseret Yemei Teshuva, certain berakhot in tefilla were altered and reformulated to relate more precisely to the unique context of the period. Therefore, any deviation from this modified formulation invalidates the berakha of the tefilla itself. It follows that if the berakha is invalid, then the entire tefilla is void and must be repeated.


We noted a debate among the Rishonim whether or not "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" during Aseret Yemei Teshuva is indispensable.

a) The Ra'avia says that the reason for this change of phrase is trequirement to make mention of special occasions within the context of tefilla. Therefore, he concludes that such mention is not critical during Aseret Yemei Teshuva, since there is no korban mussaf.

b) Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona argue that there is an independent obligation to express the attribute of malkhut on Aseret Yemei Teshuva. Failure to make such mention necessitates the repetition of the entire tefilla, in order to fulfill this obligation.

c) The Ra'avad and Tosafot maintain that "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" are reformulations of the regular berakhot during Aseret Yemei Teshuva. Consequently, an error is considered to invalidate the berakha, which disqualifies the entire tefilla.

From a conceptual perspective, we showed how these differing opinions depended on whether "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" and "ha-Melekh ha-mishpat" are external elements introduced into the tefilla, or whether they actually merge with the berakha and are therefore intrinsic to the tefilla.

Perhaps a distinction can be suggested between Rosh Ha-shana and Yom Kippur, on the one hand, and the rest of the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, on the other. Normally, "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh" is just an external addition. However, on Rosh Ha-shana and Yom Kippur, the entire berakha is altered. (This possibility is supported by the opinion of R. Yochanan ben Nuri, who ruled that "malchiyot" should be inserted into the berakha of "ha-Melekh ha-kadosh." See Rosh Ha-shana 32a.) Therefore, it may be possible to claim that this alteration is a result of the reformulation of the berakha unique to Rosh Ha-shana and Yom Kippur, which reflects the kedushat ha-yom characteristic of both.




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