By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Erev Rosh Hashanah. We recite more Selichos on the day of erev Rosh Hashanah than on other days, because it is even more favorable for Hashem’s forgiving our sins. Many people fast on erev Rosh Hashanah; some fast only until Minchah. This fast does not need to be declared during the Minchah before it like other fasts.
After Shacharis, it is important to recite the Hataras Nedarim on erev Rosh Hashanah so that we enter the new year without having the sins of unfulfilled vows. This is done before three knowledgeable men. Husbands should have their wives and daughters in mind when saying it and should say this aloud.
We do not sound the shofar on this day, for two reasons: (1) to differentiate between the voluntary shofar blastings of Elul and the mandatory ones for Rosh Hashanah; and (2) we wish to confuse the Sattan by not letting him know when Rosh Hashanah occurs, and thus he will be unable to present his charges against us. (It is therefore very important that he not get hold of this article.)
Other things that we do in order to confuse the Sattan are not to bentch Rosh Chodesh Tishrei, not to say the words “u’veroshei chodsheichem takrivu” in the Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah, and not ending the cycle of the reading of the Torah on Rosh Hashanah.
Many have the custom to visit tzaddikim at the cemetery on erev Rosh Hashanah. It is important not to pray to them or to ask them to intercede on our behalf. Rather, we should pray to Hashem that in the merit of the tzaddik we should have a good judgment.
It is also a minhag for men to immerse in a mikveh on erev Rosh Hashanah. The preferred time for this is after the fifth hour of the day (one hour before chatzos). It is the minhag to get a haircut on this day and put on nice clothing to show our confidence that Hashem will have mercy upon us. One should not wear overly festive clothing so as not to forget the impending awe of Yom HaDin.
Tefillah during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. One of the most important changes in the Amidah of the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah (including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) is in the blessing of HaKel HaKadosh—the third berachah. We change the final words to “HaMelech HaKadosh.” This statement is quoted in the Talmud in the name of the great sage Rav. The reason why we make this change, according to Rashi, is that during this time Hashem demonstrates his kingship over the entire world by judging them. If one is unsure whether HaMelech HaKadosh was said or not, the assumption is that it was not said and the Amidah must be repeated. If HaMelech HaKadosh was not said and one did not yet begin the next berachah, one may recite HaMelech HaKadosh and continue davening. This is because the newer version was the one that is considered as having been said. If, however, more than three seconds had elapsed, the correction does not count, and the entire Shemoneh Esreih must be recited again.
On weekdays, when we generally say, “Melech oheiv tzedakah umishpat,” we change this to “HaMelech HaMishpat.” If one erred in regard to HaMelech HaMishpat, then one does not have to repeat the Shemoneh Esreih.
It is a good idea to insert a sticky flag in one’s siddur as a reminder to say the different words.
The Geonim who lived after the time of the Gemara initiated certain additions to be made into the Shemoneh Esreih during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah beyond the changes mentioned in the Gemara. They added the recitation of certain phrases. “Zachreinu l’chayim—Remember us for life, O King Who is Desirous of Life and write us in the Book of Life” is inserted in the first berachah of the Shemoneh Esreih. Mi Kamocha is inserted in the second berachah. “U’chesov l’chayim tovim kol b’nei brisecha” is said in the berachah of Modim, and “B’sefer Chayim” is inserted at the end of the 19th berachah of the Shemoneh Esreih.
In the Kaddishes that are recited during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, the words “l’eila ul’eila mikol birchasa” are said instead of “l’eila min kol birchasa.” The number of words in the Kaddish must equal 28, according to the Zohar. Hashem’s name also has 28 words. This is why we combine the two words “min kol” to “mikol” when we add the word l’eilah.
On Friday evenings after the Amidah, we generally say the tefillah of Magein Avos. In this tefillah as well we replace “HaKel HaKadosh” with “HaMelech HaKadosh.”
On Rosh Hashanah and throughout the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, we recite the Avinu Malkeinu, a tefillah that was composed by Rabbi Akiva. It is recited during Shacharis and Minchah—but it is not recited on Shabbos.
Davening more loudly. The poskim have ruled that on the Yomim Norai’m we daven slightly louder than we do during the rest of the year. One must nonetheless be careful that this ruling not be a source of machlokes, argument. It is better to daven in a more quiet tone if being louder will cause someone else to be disturbed or distressed, Heaven forbid.
The night of Rosh Hashanah. After Ma’ariv on Rosh Hashanah, the chazzan recites each pasuk of L’Dovid Mizmor. The congregation repeats each verse after the chazzan.
After Ma’ariv, each person extends a greeting to friends and family. The general greeting, as cited by the Chofetz Chaim, is “L’shanah tovah tekasaiv v’seichasem l’alter, ul’chayim tovim ul’shalom.” This is not said during the daytime, however, because the tzaddikim are inscribed in the morning. We want to treat everyone as if they were already inscribed—a worthy action that helps both ourselves and others. This, too, when said with the proper intent, can be a fulfillment of “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha,” a biblical mitzvah. v
(To be continued)
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.