Rosh Hashanah Musaf Amidah

The additional Amidah contains the major themes of the holiday season.

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The focus of this article is on the additional service of Rosh Hashanah. Reform Judaism does not follow the practice of having an additional Amidah, so they have moved the elements of the service discussed in this article back to the morning service. This article is excerpted with permission from Entering the High Holy Days. It is reprinted with permission from the Jewish Publication Society.

The Amidah always begins and ends with the same paragraphs, while the middle section‑-the most important part of the prayer--­changes to suit the occasion. In the case of the Rosh Hashanah Musaf Amidah, there are three blessings in this middle section: Malkhuyot (kingship), Zikhronot (remembrance), and Shofarot (shofar). These blessings represent the basic themes of the day. They were, at one time, part of the morning service and were only later transferred to Musaf.

In ancient times, the core of these three blessings existed as an independent prayer for Rosh Hashanah that was connected to the sounding of the shofar. They may have been created even prior to the destruction of the Temple and only later were incorporated into the framework of the Amidah. The blowing of the shofar, as we have seen, was the main ritual performed on Rosh Hashanah and the only one mandated by the Torah for this day. During the Second Temple period, the sounding of the shofar was introduced by a series of biblical verses that conveyed the purpose and intent of the act. As the Mishnah teaches:

"No less than ten kingship verses, ten remembrance verses, and ten shofar verses must be recited.... We do not recite remembrance, kingship, and shofar verses that are punitive in nature. We begin with verses from the Torah and conclude with a prophetic verse" (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 4.6).

While the Mishnah (compiled around 200 CE) does not describe a fixed list of verses to be recited, this text does insist that any verses read on this day contain the proper theme and be positive in nature. Even after the Malkhuyot, Zikhronot, and Shofarotsections were incorporated into the Amidah,it remained the prerogative of the individual to choose the verses to be recited. Eventually, specific verses were chosen and became a fixed part of the service.

prayer book with shofarWhy these three themes of kingship, remembrance, and shofar? In the case of Zikhronot and Shofarot,the origin may be traced to two biblical verses, "…a sacred occasion commemorated [zikhron] with loud blasts [teruah]"(Leviticus 23:23), and "You shall observe it as a day when the horn is sounded [teruah]"(Numbers 29:1). The third theme, that of kingship, is not explicitly mentioned in connection with the first of Tishrei. Nonetheless, rabbinic interpretations attempted to find it in various verses.

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Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer

Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer is a former President of the International Rabbinical Assembly, he is one of the founders of the Masorti Movement in Israel and is currently Head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel.