The main focus of Rosh Hashanah davening is Seder Malchiyos in the Shemoneh Esrei of Mussaf, which is about Hashem’s kingdom. Yet, as the author of Mishnas Avraham points out, we never say “melech ha’olam – king of the universe” in this section even though the Talmud (Berachos 12a) says that any blessing that doesn’t include mention of Hashem’s sovereignty – i.e., the word “melech” – is not considered a blessing. Tosafos adds that it isn’t even considered a blessing if the word “ha’olam” is missing.
A bachur once came to learn in the yeshiva of Radin. He passed the admission test, but the rosh yeshiva, Rav Levenson, told him every bed in the yeshiva was taken and there was nowhere for him to sleep. He suggested the bachur return in six months.
The student adamantly protested and offered to sleep in the beis medrash. The rosh yeshiva told him that wasn’t permitted. The bachur said he would sleep on the ground and toil in Torah during the day. The rosh yeshiva was deeply affected by this response and said he would work something out.
The bachur was soon notified that a bed had been found for him. The Chofetz Chaim, who was a widower at the time, had an empty bed in his room where the bachur could sleep.
The Chofetz Chaim greeted the bachur with a big smile and said, “As you can see, I am elderly. I won’t be in the room when you go to sleep, and you won’t see me when you get up. This is like your own private room.” The Chofetz Chaim then inquired whether he liked to read before going to sleep, and the bachur answered in the affirmative. So the Chofetz Chaim gave him a small sefer, wished him a good night, and retreated from the room.
The bachur looked down at the sefer and was surprised to see that it was Sefer Raziel HaMalach, a Kabbalah sefer, which talks about the heavens, the firmaments, the angels, and their various powers and missions. It is not a sefer that the average person understands.
In the morning, the bachur asked the Chofetz Chaim why he gave him this sefer and not a sefer on halacha or ethical teachings. “What connection do I have to such an esoteric book?” he asked.
The Chofetz Chaim succinctly answered: “Every Jew needs to know how great Hashem, our Creator, is.”
The greatness of Hashem as king of the universe is captured in the words “melech ha’olam.”
The Chovos HaLevavos contains the following analogy: A couple planning to rebel against the king were caught and sentenced to die. When the king was told, however, that the woman was expecting, the judgment was commuted and they were sentenced, instead, to life in prison.
The child was born in prison, and was brought up in confinement. The warden was instructed by the king to provide for all his needs, such as his education and clothing. When the warden heard of the king’s impending visit one day, he approached the young boy and asked whether he had everything he needed.
“Tell the king everything is good,” responded the boy, and he thanked the warden for his concern.
The warden then asked the boy, “Who is the king?” The boy began to laugh and said, “Everyone knows the king is the owner of the prison.”
The warden then explained to the boy that there was a whole world beyond the walls of the prison. There were towns, cities, and countries with hundreds of thousands of people, buildings, and palaces.
The boy couldn’t grasp what the warden was describing. But when the warden showed the boy a picture of the great kingdom, the boy was amazed. And he became even more amazed that a king over such a large territory would take an interest in one boy’s personal wellbeing.
Normally, the word “ha’olam” is necessary to fulfill one’s obligation to make a berachah; we must appreciate that Hashem is king over the entire world. In Seder Malchiyos on Rosh Hashanah, however, we are crowning Hashem king over ourselves, not over the world.
The Chofetz Chaim cited R’ Yisroel Salanter who quoted the Talmud (Berachos) that when one says the word “echad” of Krias Shema, he crowns Hashem king over the earth, the heavens and its firmaments, and the four corners of the world. But, he continued, most importantly one should not forget to anoint Hashem king over himself.
Since the primary objective of the Seder Malchiyos is to accept Hashem as king over ourselves, the words “melech ha’olam” don’t appear.
I take this opportunity, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, to remind our readers and friends of The Jewish Press of the exacerbated hardships and severe financial setbacks of so many in our community, many of whom have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
I ask you to please help me before yom tov in my undertaking to collect money on behalf of these destitute people so they can celebrate with grace, along with all of Klal Yisrael. Feel the pain of our brethren and take a part in this great mitzvah. I personally administer and distribute the monies from the yom tov fund I have established directly into the hands of those who are most in need.
In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, good health, nachas, happiness, and prosperity. If you wish to include with your donation the names of people in need of shalom bayis, a shidduch, refuah, parnassah, etc., please do so and I will say special prayers on their behalf.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210.