web analytics
October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Rosh Hashanah: The Prayer Without Words

Grunstein-091412

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

Any newcomer would have expected the next step to be a major sermon, or at least a profound liturgical piece chanted by the cantor. The Machzor has no shortage of the latter, and our rich tradition does not suffer from a drought of the former. And yet God decreed one major biblical commandment on Rosh Hashanah: to blow the shofar to get through the Day of Judgment each year rather than ask for forgiveness and plead our case with the help of words.

But the story doesn’t end here. We are commanded not just to blow the horn; when praying in a minyan (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 34b) we must blow at the end of the three additional blessings of Mussaf (Code of Jewish Law, OC, 592). Knowing the rather strict laws forbidding any form of interruption in the midst of the Amidah (Code of Jewish Law, OC 104) nobody would ever think of eating matzah or shaking the lulav in the midst of the holiday Amidah. And yet, on this High Holiday we intentionally interrupt the prayer.

Thus, concluded Rav Soloveitchik (based on the Ritva/Ramban, Rosh Hashanah, ibid.), the blowing of the shofar must be a prayer in and of itself and thus it causes no “interruption” to the service but rather blends in as a prayer among prayers.

While prayer all year is usually built around specific themes or requests uttered in words, the mere sounds of Tekiah-Shevarim-Teruah comprise a different kind of prayer. It’s not asking for anything, nor is it just praising God. Selichot, begging for repentance in the wee hours of the morning, are not in the service on these days at all, and it would be rather hard to find any direct request in the liturgy during this onset of the year.

Rather, we come before God stating again and again that He is Melech/King forever, and then blow the shofar, which is another way of stating one major prayer: Do what’s right for Your people!

Not “ensure the Republicans win,” not “forgive me for my sins,” and not even “save us from Iran.” No, we blow the shofar and ask God to take the sounds and transform them into the most needed requests for the sustenance of the Jewish people in the upcoming year. As the Talmud states in the name of God (Rosh Hashanah 16a): “Say before me the prayer of Malchuyot [Kingship] to crown me your king, say before me the prayer of Zichronot [Remembrance] so I will remember you for the better. And with what – with the shofar.”

It’s one thing to ask God for all your heart’s desires. But on this day, we rise to another level of prayer; we blow the shofar which is one genuine plea – “God, please rule the world in a way that will insure that we prevail this year.”

Therefore it’s no wonder that we are so silent and tense before those first shofar blasts penetrate the walls of the synagogue, as the prayer contained therein is more vital than anything we could ask for.

But how fortunate are we to know this “secret” prayer without words and thus state, right after the first thirty blasts, “Blessed are you, the Jewish people, that know the secret of the shofar; God, in Your Ways we will work under Your Guidance.”

With our “primitive” shofar, our prayer without words will turn into the most needed petition. No wonder we walk into Rosh Hashanah upright, dressed in our best, with faith that God will look after His people in 5773. Nothing says it better than the words of the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim 247, quoted by the Tur, OC, 581):

“No nation is like this nation…. the normative way of the world is for someone on trial to wear black clothing, walk unshaven and with uncut fingernails, as he doesn’t know the outcome of his trial. But the Jewish people don’t do that; they wear white clothing…and eat/drink on Rosh Hashanah, as they know that God will perform miracles for them.”

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Rosh Hashanah: The Prayer Without Words”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jo-map
So You Thought The Arab Israeli Conflict Was About Land? Here Is Why You Are DEAD Wrong!
Latest Indepth Stories
Which glass has the poison?

The White House wanted to defame Netanyahu, undermine his reputation, impugn him & his policies

Adolf Hitler and the representative of the Palestinian Arabs, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, December, 1941.

Palestinian anti-Semitism in 2014 is more extreme and mainstream than German A/S in the 1930s.

Sheldon Silver

Woven deeply through it all is the Jewish obligation to fight injustice.

Cravatts-Richard--new

Only in the inverted world of academia would Jewish professors denounce the AMCHA Initiative report.

Many poskim were and are adamant about the responsibility of every individual to vote.

Individuals who may have been abused are the “clients” in need and receiving care and protection.

An accomplished Torah scholar and ardent adherent of Bobov chassidus, he was renowned for his self-effacing dedication and skills as an international lawyer and law professor

The fact that the United States government after World War II sought to take advantage of the expertise of German scientists, even those known to have contributed to the Nazi war effort, is well known and largely accepted as having been necessary for America’s national defense. (Wernher von Braun is perhaps the most famous and […]

The New York State comptroller manages the state’s $180.7 billion pension fund, audits the spending practices of all state agencies and local governments, oversees the New York State and Local Retirement System, reviews the New York State and City budgets, and approves billions in State contracts and spending.

Rabinovich is the author of several popular books on Israel’s wars, including The Battle for Jerusalem, The Yom Kippur War, and The Boats of Cherbourg.

To say he was beloved because of the way he loved his students does not sufficiently capture the reality.

The birth I speak about is to give birth to ourselves, to our full potential.

The extreme hypocrisy, contempt & vulgarity of the attacks indicate more than a policy disagreement

More Articles from Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein
what me worry

Using the term “Halacha” for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

Israelis wave flags and signs saying "Together We'll Win" during a demonstration supporting an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

This past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31). This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonement, the Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

As the year is coming to an end, with endless days filled with doing the very same commandments, we besiege G-d on each remaining day, asking for one vital ingredient for the one yet to come: May we never get used to our routine.

I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rosh-hashanah-the-prayer-without-words/2012/09/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: