Rosh Hashanah Musaf Amidah

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

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"And on your joyous occasions, your fixed festivals and new moon days, you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well‑being. They shall be a reminder of you before the Lord your God: I the Lord am your God" (Numbers 10:10).

According to Rabbi Nathan, "you shall sound the trumpets" refers to the shofar, "they shall be a reminder of you" refers to remembrance, and "I the Lord am your God" refers to kingship.

The meaning of "remembrance" in the verse "a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts" (Leviticus 23:23) is not entirely clear. The biblical scholar Baruch Levine suggests that it literally means "commemoration by blasting the shofar.... The horn was blasted to announce the forthcoming pilgrimage festival. Leon J. Liebreich argues that "the first day of the seventh month is a day of arousal of God's mindfulness by means of the sounding of the ram's horn." M. M. Kalisch, on the other hand, states that "the loud notes...were meant to rouse God's mercy in [the people's] favor, who would remember His people and grant them His blessing and protection in the coming year."

The notion of remembrance is also connected with war in the biblical text, "You shall sound short blasts on the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God and be delivered from your enemies" (Numbers 10:9). God's "remembrance" here indicates that God will not abandon His people, but will help them. The text continues, "And on your joyous occasions, your fixed festivals and new moon days, you shall sound the trumpets...they shall be a reminder of you before your God" (Numbers 10: 10). The juxtaposition of these two verses suggests that Israel evokes God's remembrance to achieve success and to remind God to fulfill His promises to them.

Whatever "remembrance" may have meant in the original biblical context, the Sages interpreted it, along with "kingship" and "shofar," in their own way:

First proclaim Him "king" over you, then ask mercy from Him so that you will be remembered by Him. How? By the shofar of freedom. "Shofar" always indicates freedom, as it is said, "And on that day, a great ram's horn shall be sounded; and the strayed who are in the land of Assyria and the expelled who are in the land of Egypt shall come and worship the Lord on the holy mount, in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 27:13).

The order of the three themes, and the relationship between them, are therefore explained as follows: We accept God as our ruler, we ask to be "remembered" by God (that is, we ask that God fulfill His assurances and help us), and we declare our desire for redemption--for individual and national freedom-‑symbolized by the sounding of the shofar.

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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.