FOR GOD’S SAKE.
Question. In “Zochrenu Lachayyim”, why do we ask God, “Remember us for life… for Your sake”?
Answer. One might have thought the prayer should ask God to answer us for our sake more than for His. What does He have to gain after all from the prayers which human beings offer?
The Chafetz Chayyim gives two answers. One compares us to a customer who tells his supplier,
“I am buying for your sake as well as mine, because without customers you cannot continue in business”.
In this sense God is like a king who cannot be called a ruler unless he has subjects.
The second answer given by the Chafetz Chayyim is,
“For Your sake’: so that we may be enabled to serve You properly.”
Question. What system does the ba’al toke’ah use to know what sounds to make with the shofar?
Answer. The Torah calls Rosh HaShanah “Yom T’ru’ah” (Num. 29:1). It is left to rabbinic tradition to analyse what is meant by “T’ru’ah”. The rabbis also explain that “T’ru’ah” is preceded and followed by a “P’shutah” – a long, straight sound, our “T’ki’ah”.
The “T’ru’ah” is variously explained as sighing, moaning, wailing, sobbing, or a combination of them. The result is three options – “Sh’varim/T’ru’ah”, “Sh’varim” and “T’ru’ah”. In this pattern “Sh’varim” is a sighing sound and “T’ru’ah” a sobbing sound. The whole pattern – abbreviated in rabbinic enumeration as “TaShRaT (T’ki’ah, Sh’varim/T’ru’ah, T’ki’ah), TaShaT, TaRaT”, is blown after the Torah reading.
There are also shofar blasts during the Amidah: in some synagogues only during the Repetition of the Amidah and in others during the Silent Amidah as well. Additional blasts are blown after the Amidah in order to bring the number of blasts up to 100, a number denoting completeness.
THE HOLY KING.
Question. Why do we say in our prayers “HaMelech HaKadosh”, “the Holy King” instead of “Ha-E-l HaKadosh”, “the Holy God”, on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur?
Answer. We now emphasise a special dimension of His Being, His Kingship. The idea may be linked to the rabbinic explanation at the beginning of B’reshit for the use of two Divine names, “E-lohim” and “HaShem”. The one symbolises His attribute of justice, the other His attribute of mercy.
The sages say that when necessary the Almighty moves, as it were, from one chair to the other. At times He needs to be perceived in the category of justice and at times in the category of mercy.
As far as the High Holydays are concerned, the change from “Holy God” to “Holy King” recalls what Adon Olam says, “When everything was made according to His will, then was His name called King”. He always was both God and King, but until He created the world His Kingship was not so evident because He seemed to have no subjects over whom to rule.
Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia’s highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. Now retired and lives in Jerusalem.