This question will collect Q&As, formatted for the book, for Days of Awe - Mi Yodeya?. We're breaking this up into five posts for easier management. This question collects material for the machzor section for Rosh Hashana.

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14 Answers 14


What should a person think when hearing the shofar?

albert asked:1 What should a person think about when hearing the shofar in the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashana? Is there some basic intent we should have in mind?

yEz answered: As for Rosh Hashana, Rav Saadiah lists ten reasons for blowing the shofar. They are:

  1. Coronations of kings are announced by trumpet blasts. The shofar is the coronation blast of Hashem's rulership.
    ☞ So think about accepting Hashem as king.

  2. The shofar is a wake-up call to examine our actions.
    ☞ So think about whether your behavior has been appropriate.

  3. The shofar was blown at Har Sinai, and it is a reminder to study the Torah.
    ☞ So think about accepting to study the Torah.

  4. The shofar reminds us of the declarations of the nevi'im (prophets), who enjoined us to follow Hashem's ways.
    ☞ So think about accepting to follow Hashem's ways according to the instructions of the nevi'im.

  5. The shofar sounds like crying, which reminds us that we are in exile.
    ☞ So think about desiring the Redemption.

  6. The shofar reminds us of the ram of the binding of Isaac, to inspire us to be willing to sacrifice.
    ☞ So think about accepting to do Hashem's will even when it involves sacrifices.

  7. The shofar reminds us of Hashem's might.
    ☞ So think about how Hashem is mighty, and we should be humbled.

  8. The Great Shofar will herald the Day of Judgement.
    ☞ So think about the fact that you will be judged.

  9. The Great Shofar will herald the Redemption.
    ☞ So think of the hope that we have that we will be redeemed.

  10. The Great Shofar will herald the time when the entire world will accept that Hashem is One.
    ☞ So think about accepting that Hashem is One.

Avrohom Yitzchok added: The Rambam, in Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4, says about blowing shofar on Rosh Hashono:

אע"פ שתקיעת שופר בראש השנה גזירת הכתוב רמז יש בו כלומר עורו ישינים משנתכם ונרדמים הקיצו מתרדמתכם וחפשו במעשיכם וחזרו בתשובה וזכרו בוראכם.

{Free translation} Even though sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashono is a biblical command, there is a hint to it. It says, so to speak, "Wake up you sleepers from your sleep and you slumberers from your deep slumber and examine your deeds and return in repentance and remember your Creator."

So it seems that we should be thinking of our deeds, how good they are and what needs teshuvah and before Whom we are repenting.

I think the blowing in Elul is a preparation for Rosh Hashono and the intention should be the same.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/45125


albert mi.yodeya.com/u/6977
Avrohom Yitzchok mi.yodeya.com/u/730
yEz mi.yodeya.com/u/4794

  • Machzor section: Blowing the shofar OR Musaf, Shofarot
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 4:05
  • perhaps this post should be merged with the possible post from judaism.stackexchange.com/q/45125/759
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:26
  • Wow. I hadn't yet seen yEz's answer on that other question when I edited the list into Isaac's answer on this one. Yeah, we might want to bring these questions together in the book. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:30
  • 1
    Monica and @DoubleAA, I agree that that content should be merged into this submission, or perhaps should just replace it. My answer, here, is not terribly high-value - mostly a blockquote. N123's answer is unauthoritative, and the same point is made, better, by Avrohom Yitzchok's answer, there.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 19:31
  • @IsaacMoses I agree. I'm going to replace this with the question DoubleAA found, and I'm going to do it in place here because of all the cross-links on our meta posts. So it won't be the original question any more but it'll be a swap-in for it. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 18:06
  • Style note: I italicized "shofar" because people are doing that elsewhere. I then italicized "Great Shofar" for consistency. I'm not sure that's right, but "Great Shofar" looked odd to me. Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 18:19
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 4:36
  • @IsaacMoses nice addition with the pointers! Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 13:15
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio Thanks! I did it for two reasons: 1) Propriety of clearly distinguishing R' Saadia's descriptions from YeZ's recommendations. 2) I'm looking forward to using this list in shul and wanted to make the operational parts easier to find at a glance. I hope the unicode fingers survive the copy/paste to Word.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 13:25

Shochein Ad, HaKail, HaMelech - why?

Gershon Gold pondered:1 On Shabbos, the leader for Shacharis begins at "Shochein Ad." On Yom Tov, he begins at "HaKeil BeSaatzumos." On Rosh HaShana/Yom Kippur, he begins at "HaMelech."

Why does he start in different places? What is the connection between the different places and their respective days?

Alex opened: Levush (Orach Chaim 488:1) says that we start with "הא-ל בתעצומות" on Yom Tov, because all of them are "in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt," when Hashem displayed His mighty power. He also says (ibid. 584:1) that we start with "המלך" on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and change the wording to "המלך יושב," "the King is sitting"), because these are the times when He is sitting on His throne of judgement.

Not sure about "Shochein Ad" on Shabbos.

Isaac Moses amplified: Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, in his Siddur commentary,2 addresses this question along similar lines as the Levush quoted by Alex:

The Leader begins at different points on different holy days of the year. On Shabbat he begins with "He inhabits eternity," emphasizing creation; on Yom Tov, with "God - in Your absolute power," laying stress on God as He acts in history; on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, with "The King - enthroned," evoking ideas of justice and judgement.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/10478
  2. The Sacks Siddur, from Koren Publishers, 2009.

Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2

  • Machzor. either RH or YK. Just prior to Hamelekh
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 3:24
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:46
  • @IsaacMoses Why is there an ellipse after 'pondered'?
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:49
  • DoubleAA, good question. I didn't put it there, but I should have caught it.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:51
  • 1
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 18:43

Why don't we say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah?

Mike asked:1 For most months, on the first day (Rosh Hodesh) we say the Hallel service between Shacharit and Mussaf. For the first day of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah), however, we do not say Hallel. Why is it not done?

Monica Cellio said: I once wondered about this and found an answer on the Ohr Somayach website.2 They say that Hallel is said with joy and that our focus on judgement precludes this. They cite Rosh Hashanah 32b:

אמר רבי אבהו אמרו מלאכי השרת לפני הקב"ה רבש"ע מפני מה אין ישראל אומרים שירה לפניך בר"ה וביום הכפורים אמר להם אפשר מלך יושב על כסא דין וספרי חיים וספרי מתים פתוחין לפניו וישראל אומרים שירה:

R. Abahu said: Said the angels before G-d, Lord of the Universe, why does Israel fail to utter song before you during Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? He replied, When the King sits on the throne of judgment and the books of life and death are before him, can Israel utter song?"

I checked there for more on this but that's all the g'mara says (there) about Hallel on Rosh Hashana. (This explanation does not mean we should only be focused on judgement; it's still a festive day. See the Ohr Somayach article for more on that.)

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/45794
  2. ohr.edu/2334

Mike mi.yodeya.com/u/3483
Monica Cellio mi.yodeya.com/u/472

  • Machzor section: End of Shacharit.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 19:12
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 19:48

Why Jeremiah 31 on Rosh Hashana?

msh210 asked:1 On the second day of Rosh Hashana, after reading about the akeda (and some other stuff), we read Yirmiya 31:1–19 as the haftara: why this haftara?

Double AA noted that this combination of readings is explicit in the Gemara (Megillah 31a).

Ariel K explained: The Haftorah is very moving and probably holds the record for the most Jewish songs from one Haftorah! It especially relates to the Rosh Hashanah theme of Zichronos ("Memories").

First, (verses 1-13), the Haftorah discusses God bringing the redemption, which may connect to the theme of Zichronos, as it involves God "remembering" the Jews. Next (verses 14-16) is the scene of Rachel weeping and God promising redemption, which is part of the theme of Zichronos — recalling the patriarchs or matriarchs as a merit to end the exile.

Then (verses 17-18) it describes Ephraim's teshuvah (repentance), including the different parts of teshuvah, an important thing to mention during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance):

כִּי אַחֲרֵי שׁוּבִי נִחַמְתִּי וְאַחֲרֵי הִוָּדְעִי סָפַקְתִּי עַל יָרֵךְ, בֹּשְׁתִּי וְגַם נִכְלַמְתִּי כִּי נָשָׂאתִי חֶרְפַּת נְעוּרָי

Surely after that I was turned, I repented, and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.

Finally, as Rashi on Megilla 31a (s.v. "הבן יקיר לי אפרים") points out, verse 19 cites God remembering Ephraim and having mercy on him, which, appropriately enough, is one of the verses of Zichronos included in the Rosh Hashanah mussaf.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/20195

Areil K mi.yodeya.com/u/369
Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170

  • Machzor Section: Haftara, Second Day
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 7, 2015 at 3:50
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 2:57

How a couple lines in Alenu fit the pattern

WAF asked:1 It has been pointed out to me that the two halves of the "Alenu" prayer follow a pretty strict pattern. Each contains eight parallel couplets, followed by a Biblical quote. For example, the first two lines could be broken down like this:2

  1. עָלֵינוּ לְשַבֵחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכל \ לָתֵת גְדֻלָה לְיוֹצֵר בְרֵאשִית
    It is our duty to praise the Master of all, / to ascribe greatness to the Author of creation,
  2. שֶלא עָשָנוּ כְגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת \ וְלא שָמָנוּ כְמִשְפְחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה
    who has not made us like the nations of the lands / nor placed us like the families of the earth;

I was able to break most of the lines down easily, in this manner. However, it is not clear to me exactly how lines 5 and 6 work:

  1. וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים וּמודִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא
    But we bow in worship and thank the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He,
  2. שֶהוּא נוֹטֶה שָמַיִם \ וְיסֵד אָרֶץ
    who extends the heavens / and establishes the earth,

Is the pattern maintained? What is the correct breakdown?

There are some slight variations in version (aside from the major one3), but I don't think the more minor ones affect this concern.

Alex pointed out: In R' Saadiah Gaon's siddur, the word "שהוא" ("For He" - beginning of the sixth line) is missing, so you have five stitches of four words each from there until "ככתוב." This pattern raises the possibility that this part isn't meant to be in couplets; in fact, I'd analyze it as a triplet (each part of which describes Hashem's greatness in some way) followed by a couplet (each half of which focuses on a different way in which we relate to Him, as "אלקינו" - "our God" - and "מלכנו" - "our King").

Isaac Moses suggested: I recall from English Literature in high school that sometimes a poet deliberately breaks in one point from the poem's overall rhyme/rhythm scheme to emphasize that point. Perhaps that's what's going on here. We emphasize this line in other ways, such as by bowing and possibly with melodic emphasis (although that may just be a consequence of the bowing).

jake added: I would consider just the line "וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים וּמודִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא" as the main emphasis in breaking the pattern, to then continue with a praising description of God.

Just like on Rosh Hashana in the poem Melech Elyon [The King on High...], we break with "אבל מלך אביון" [but the human king...] to give a disparaging description following the poetic form, then break again with "אבל מלך עליון" [but the King on High...] to continue our praise, again following the poetic form.

Here too, I would count four couplets beginning Alenu:

  1. עָלֵינוּ לְשַבֵחַ לַאֲדוֹן הַכל \ לָתֵת גְדֻלָה לְיוֹצֵר בְרֵאשִית

  2. שֶלא עָשָנוּ כְגוֹיֵי הָאֲרָצוֹת \ וְלא שָמָנוּ כְמִשְפְחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה

  3. שֶלא שָם חֶלְקֵנוּ כָהֶם \ וְגוֹרָלֵנוּ כְכָל הֲמוֹנָם

  4. שֶהֵם מִשְתַחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק \ וּמִתְפַלְלִים אֶל קֵל לא יוֹשִיעַ

Then break with the next line to emphasize our beginning the praise of God:

  1. וַאֲנַחְנוּ כּורְעִים וּמִשְתַחֲוִים וּמודִים לִפְנֵי מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְלָכִים הַקָדוֹשׁ בָרוּךְ הוּא

Then four more couplets describing God's praises:

  1. שֶהוּא נוֹטֶה שָמַיִם \ וְיסֵד אָרֶץ

  2. וּמוֹשַב יְקָרוֹ בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל \ וּשְכִינַת עֻזּוֹ בְגָבְהֵי מְרוֹמִים

  3. הוּא אֱלקֵינוּ \ אֵין עוֹד

  4. אֱמֶת מַלְכֵנוּ \ אֶפֶס זוּלָתוֹ

Then the Biblical quote:

  1. כַכָתוּב בְּתורָתו: וְיָדַעְתָ הַיּוֹם וַהֲשֵבתָ אֶל לְבָבֶךָ כִי ה' הוּא הָאֱלקִים בַשָמַיִם מִמַעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָחַת אֵין עוֹד

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/7977
  2. Translations by R' Jonathan Sacks, in The Sacks Siddur, from Koren Publishers, 2009.
  3. The censoring-out of the fourth line (שֶהֵם מִשְתַחֲוִים לְהֶבֶל וָרִיק).

Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
jake mi.yodeya.com/u/489
WAF mi.yodeya.com/u/3

  • Machzor section: Musaf, Malchuyot
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 5:51
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 19:31

Why is the Machzor called a "Machzor"?

Gershon Gold asked:1 The Siddur we use for a holiday is known as a "Machzor." What does it mean and, where did this originate?

Double AA said: The Shulchan Aruch in OC 100 rules that prior to a holiday one must go over and prepare the text of the prayers so that he is familiar with them.

I suggest this is why holiday prayer books are called "Machzor" from the root Ch.Z.R., which can mean to review or to go over.

yydl referred the reader to Wikipedia's entry for this word:

The word mahzor means "cycle" (the root Ħ-Z-R means "to return"). It is applied to the festival prayer book because the festivals recur annually.

Fred explained: As mentioned in yydl's answer, the Hebrew noun "מחזור" ("machzor") means "cycle" in English. This is the usage found in Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer (ch. 6-8) and other midrashic literature.

According to the Hebrew Wikipedia article ["מחזור תפילה"], citing Daniel Goldschmidt's preface to Shadal's Introduction to the Machzor of the Community of Rome, this term was used in medieval times to refer to prayer books that contained a comprehensive list of prayers for the entire cycle of the year (e.g. the 11th century Machzor Vitry composed by Rabbi Simcha ben Shmuel of Vitry).

Eventually, standard prayer books (often including only the standard weekday and Sabbath prayers) became called "siddurim" due to the arrangement of the prayers contained therein, and the term "machzor" either became reserved as a reference to compilations of prayers for special holidays such as the High Holy Days (especially in Germany) or retained its original meaning as a comprehensive compilation of yearly prayers (such as in Italy and Livorno).

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/10469

Double AA mi.yodeya.com/u/759
Fred mi.yodeya.com/u/1442
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
yydl mi.yodeya.com/u/128

  • Machzor section: introduction
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 13, 2015 at 6:19
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:19
  • I googled "Shadal" to see if that should be expanded/explained. I concluded that (a) he doesn't appear to be especially prominent/significant here and (b) he's easily googlable. Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 3:20

What is the origin of the shofar sounds?

Tal Fishman asked:1 There are 4 major shofar sounds, or notes, sounded on Rosh Hashana:

  • Tekiah: A long, continuous blast.
  • Shevarim: Three short "broken" blasts.
  • Teruah: A rapid series of nine or more very short blasts.
  • Tekiah Gedolah: A tekiah blast held as long as possible.

What is the Torah source for these specific sounds?

Alex answered: The Torah itself uses only the terms "tekiah" and "teruah" (Numbers 10:3ff.). Elsewhere (Leviticus 25:9) the Torah puts the verb ha'avir ("to make pass") before and after references to a teruah, implying that it should be preceded and followed by a long drawn-out sound - which tells us that the basic order is tekiah-teruah-tekiah.

So, there's no doubt what a tekiah is. However, the word "teruah" is translated in Aramaic as "yevava," which means a crying sound, and there are three possibilities what this means: moaning (medium-length sounds, what we call "shevarim"); sobbing (short sounds, what we call "teruah"); or both, first moaning and then sobbing. Already in the era of the Mishnah there was uncertainty which of these three is the true "teruah"; accordingly, it was instituted that we do all three. (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 33b-34a; Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 590:1-2)

(How this uncertainty came about is itself the subject of dispute. R. Hai Gaon explains that in reality, any of these three would satisfy the Torah obligation of hearing a crying sound, so various communities did it in various ways; the enactment to do all three was in order to unify the various practices. By contrast, Rambam writes (Shofar 3:2) that the true original meaning of "teruah" was actually forgotten, and so we do all three to be on the safe side.)

Returning to tekiah, it can be drawn out as long as you want (Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 590:4). So the custom developed to make the last one (of the first set of 30 sounds) extra-long ("tekiah gedolah"), also symbolizing the idea (from Psalms 47:6) that G-d's presence "ascends with the sound of the shofar." But it's not a halachic requirement.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/9876

Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Tal Fishman mi.yodeya.com/u/766

  • Machzor section: Shofar blowing
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 9:03
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 3:51
  • @IsaacMoses Curious about some of your italics choices. You de-italicized haavir, despite being a transliterated word. You also italicized Shulchan Aruch Harav, while not doing Orach Chaim.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 10:46
  • Scimonster, haavir was an error. I wasn't sure what to do about titles of books and sections, so I italicized book titles based on the fact that we do that regardless of language, and left the section titles alone. I've now italicized them all. Not sure what to do with Talmud, which is also an English word.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 13:23

Yemenite shofar not from sheep

msh210 asked:1 I've heard that Yemenite Jews follow the Rambam for halacha generally, and Wikipedia concurs.2

The Rambam writes that one must use a sheep's horn as the shofar on Rosh Hashana. Shulchan Aruch is less strict, but emphasizes that a sheep's horn is best.

Why do Yemenites (famously3) use an antelope horn as a shofar?

HodofHod responded: It seems to me from the quote from the last Chief Rabbi of Yemen, Rabbi Amram Korach, that they didn't follow the Rambam in this regard because they found the kudu horn more beautiful for the mitzvah.

The shofar of Rosh HaShanah, that they were accustomed to blowing, was long and twisted, two or three twists, and its sound was pure and eerie. Some said that it was from an animal that was similar to sheep. Therefore, they did not concern themselves with [Rambam’s] stringency that only sheep horns are kosher, since they saw that this shofar beautifies the mitzvah in its stature, and its sound was greater than that of a sheep’s horn, and until this very day they blow the mitzvah blasts with this shofar, according to the rulings of the Geonim that all twisted shofars are kosher from the outset.

(Sa’arat Teiman, Jerusalem 1954, p. 99)

See "Exotic Shofars - Halachic Considerations," by R' Natan Slifkin, for an interesting article on this topic, in general, and section C/II - "The Yemenite Kudu Shofar" (pages 11 - 13) in particular.4

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/9878
  2. See the Hebrew Wikipedia entry for "יהדות תימן."
  3. See the English Wikipedia entry for "Shofar."
  4. http://www.zootorah.com/assets/media/essays/ExoticShofars.pdf

HodofHod mi.yodeya.com/u/883
msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170

  • Machzor, RH, shofar-blowing. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 21:17
  • Consider removing footnote #2 (referenced from the question) if there isn't a better URL. If somebody can find a better URL, please edit it in. Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 21:18
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 4:06

Why was Akeidas Yitzchok a bigger test for Avraham than for Yitzchok?

Gershon Gold asked:1 The binding of Yitzchok ("Akeidas Yitzchok") was the hardest test that Hashem gave to Avraham. Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it. Then why is it considered a bigger test for Avraham than for Yitzchok?

zaq commented: I would much rather sacrifice myself to Hashem than my son, my only son, the one whom I love and will become a great nation through.

jake answered: This is discussed by Abarbanel (Bereshis 22). He explains previous commentators as understanding that Avraham's pain in killing his own son, although less than Yitzchak's pain of actually being killed, would last throughout the rest of his life, and thus would have been much worse than Yitzchak's pain. In his words:

ואם כן יצחק שמסר עצמו לשחיטה עם היות צער המות שלו יותר גדול מצער אביו שישחטהו הנה צערו לא היה מתמיד כי מיד שישחט לא ירגיש כלום ולא יצטער עוד. אבל הזקן ההורג את בנו יהיה צערו מתמיד ומרת נפשו קודם השחיטה ובעת השחיטה ואחריה כל ימי חייו יום ולילה לא ישבות. ולכן היה ראוי ליחס פלא המעשה הזה לאברחם ולא ליצחק

Yitzchak, who gave himself up for slaughter, even though his pain of death would be greater than that of his father's who would slaughter him, his pain would not be constant and continuing, since after he is killed he will not feel anything; his pain will be over. But the father who kills his son, his pain will continue, and his bitterness before, during, and after the act of slaughter will never rest. Therefore, it is appropriate to attribute the marvel and wonderment of this event to Avraham rather than to Yitzchak.

(I myself, however, disagree with the assumption that Avraham's pain would have been less than Yitzchak's at all. It makes more sense to me that it is harder to kill one's "only" son than to be killed himself.)

Abarbanel, however, feels that although the above may be true, Yitzchak should have at least been given some credit, while we don't really find that he is given much at all. Therefore, he disagrees with your basic assumption: "Yet Yitzchok knew and also agreed to go along with it." He believes, rather, that Yitzchak was unaware that he was going to be offered as a sacrifice until his father actually tied him onto the mizbeach (altar). Thus, he doesn't really deserve as much credit, since he did not actually go through with the plan willingly.

HodofHod added: The Tzemach Tzedek, in Derech Mitzvosecha 186b, brings this same question in the name of R' Menachem Mendel of Horodok.

ובזה ית' מה דקשיא טובא מדוע יחס הכתוב נסיון דעקידה לאברהם הלא יותר היה נסיון ליצחק וכדאי' קושיא זו בזהר שהרי יצחק הי' אז בן ל"ז שנה, ואילו לא רצה כו

He asks it much the same as you did, but he adds that Yitzchak was 37, and if he had not wanted to comply, he presumably could have resisted effectively.

R' Menachem Mendel answers that the main point of this story is not mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) at all. The Patriarchs were all "chariots" (completely subservient, as a chariot to the rider) to the Divine Will. Any one of them could, and would (and did), lay down their life for G-d. So the fact that Yitzchak did that is not so amazing, and further he may have asked for that test.

Jews of all levels have done that throughout our history, including Jews who, up until that moment, hadn't considered themselves Jewish at all. While self-sacrifice is a tremendous thing for us, for a Tzaddik it's practically peanuts. Being willing to sacrifice one's son, their only son, whom they love -- that's different. Especially for Avraham, who was the embodiment of the attribute of Chesed (kindness), this was in direct conflict with his essence.

R' Menachem Mendel actually adds, that despite that Avraham was willing to sacrifice his son for G-d, the most amazing thing about this story is that Avraham wasn't flustered or confused at all. After all, G-d had previously promised that He would make Yitzchak into a great nation, and now He was asking Avraham to sacrifice him!

וה"ז יכול לחשוב שזהו שינוי רצון וכתיב לא שניתי כו' ואברהם נתחזק ולא הרהר כלל

Avraham might have thought that this was a change in G-d's Will (and G-d has said "I haven't changed"), but nevertheless his faith was strong, and he had no doubts in G-d at all.

Menachem said: In a note to the Rada"l's commentary on the Pirkei D'Rebbi Eliezer (Chapter 31), the Rada"l addresses this issue.

He points out the Midrash that Rashi (Bereshit 22:1) quotes:

And some say,“ after the words of Ishmael,” who was boasting to Isaac that he was circumcised at the age of thirteen, and he did not protest. Isaac said to him,“ With one organ you intimidate me? If the Holy One, blessed be He, said to me, ‘Sacrifice yourself before Me,’ I would not hold back.” - Cf. Gen. Rabbah 55:4.

G-d heard this and said, "Since Yitzchok had already agreed to sacrifice himself, this would be a good opportunity to test Avraham through Yitzchok." This wasn't Yitzchok's test, since he had already verbally requested it.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/11101

Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
HodofHod mi.yodeya.com/u/883
jake mi.yodeya.com/u/489
Menachem mi.yodeya.com/u/603
zaq mi.yodeya.com/u/702

  • RH, Torah reading, 2nd day. Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 3:21
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 4:27

What is the reason behind blowing the shofar from the side of one's mouth?

Bruce James asked:1 I've been told that the custom is to blow the shofar from the sides of one's mouth, rather than like blowing a trumpet. What is the source for this custom and the reasoning behind it?

Yishai explained: The Ramo (O.C. 585:2) says to blow specifically on the right side of the mouth. The Magain Avraham says this is based on the verse (Zecharia 3:1) "והשטן עומד על ימינו" - "the Satan stands on his right side."

Bruce James followed up: What if the shofar blower is a lefty? Any difference?

Yishai confirmed: Yes, the Magain Avraham there says that it should be done on the side opposite where the Teffilin of the hand are worn, so a lefty would reverse sides if they reverse their Teffilin.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/45683

Bruce James mi.yodeya.com/u/2212
Yishai mi.yodeya.com/u/440

  • Machzor section: Shofar blowing
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:46
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 1:59

At the end of "Ya'aleh v'Yavo", do you say "Melech"?

Shalom asked:1 Some siddurim have the phrase "Ki Kel Melech Chanun V'Rachum Ata" ("because You are God, the gracious and compassionate King")2 - at the conclusion of Ya'aleh v'Yavo. Some have "Melech" ("King") in parentheses; some don't have it at all. Can anyone tell me something about where these variants come from, and why?

Alex answered: Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 188:3) states that in the third blessing of the Grace After Meals, in which we pray for the restoration of the Davidic kingship, no other kingship — including Hashem's — should be mentioned, "since an earthly kingdom must not be compared to the Heavenly one."

Based on this, Rema there cites Avudraham, who states that "melech" should be omitted in Yaaleh Veyavo, "although I have not seen people customarily doing so."

Taz (subsec. 2) and Magen Avraham (subsec. 2) justify the practice of saying it, on the grounds that the end of Yaaleh Veyavo is pretty far removed from the mention of David's kingdom, so that saying it doesn't evince a lack of respect for Hashem's kingship.

So in short, some versions follow Avudraham (and Rema), others accept Taz' and M.A.'s justification. (Possibly, too, the versions that omit it are influenced by the fact that the phrase "ki Keil... ata" is found in Nehemiah 9:31, without "melech.")

All of this should logically apply only to the Yaaleh Veyavo recited during Grace After Meals. I don't know whether there are siddurim that also omit "melech" in the Yaaleh Veyavo recited in the Amidah (silent prayers).

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/1447
  2. Translation from the ArtScroll Machzor. (Zlotowitz, Meir, and Avie Gold, eds. The Complete ArtScroll Machzor, Rosh Hashanah: Nusach Ashkenaz. Mesorah Publications, 2006.)

Alex mi.yodeya.com/u/37
Shalom mi.yodeya.com/u/21

  • Machzor Section: Any Amida other than Musaf, fourth blessing.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 3:31
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 2:53

Why a formulaic greeting on Rosh Hashanah Eve?

msh210 asked:1 On Rosh Hashana night, it is customary to greet one another with "לשנה טובה תכתב (ותחתם)‏" ("May you be inscribed [and sealed] for a good year") (Rama on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 582:9, and Mishnah Berurah there). People (in my experience) and machzorim (Rosh Hashana prayer books) treat this as formulaic, with no variation from the specified text. (Specific customs vary, with, e.g., some adding "לאלתר לחיים טובים ולשלום" ("immediately for good life and for peace"), but whatever custom people may have, they stick to it, rather than saying wholly different things like the suggestions below.) It's so formulaic that some people (purposely) don't even decline the verbs for number and gender.

  • Is it correct to treat the greeting as an immutable formula, the way people and machzorim do? (E.g., is that how we should read the Rama?) Sources, please.

And if it's correct (or correct according to some sources), then:

  • Why is there such a formulaic greeting? Why not use whatever other wording we may think of, like "לשנה טובה ומתוקה תכתב ותחתם" ("For a good and sweet year, may you be inscribed and sealed.") or "תכתב בספר החיים" ("May you be inscribed in the Book of Life.") or "תכתב ותחתם לשנה טובה" ("May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.")?

You could answer: Really, could you? We have some attempted answers to the online version of this question, but none yet that completely and satisfactorily address the two parts of this question. If you know of any good sources that explain this practice, please come to Mi Yodeya and write up an answer.

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/10339

msh210 mi.yodeya.com/u/170

  • Machzor section: RH, greeting after Maariv
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 20:13
  • 2
    I probably put this one on the "suggested" list, but on re-reading, I find the question to be much better than the answers. Do you see this content as strong enough to include?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 3:59
  • I also think the question is better than the responses, but i also think the answers do provide some helpful, interesting information.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 7:14
  • 1
    I agree with @IsaacMoses; now that I'm looking at the whole set, this particular one seems pretty weak. Pity; it's a well-asked question. Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 3:02
  • SECOND-PARTY EDIT COMPLETE. (reduced to question only, per comments here and chat)
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 5:19
  • @IsaacMoses I'm not sure whether the colon after "you could answer" is entirely appropriate here. You want to explain what it's doing there?
    – Scimonster
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 7:19

Why specifically an apple on Rosh HaShanah?

Yehoshua asked:1 There is a custom of eating an apple dipped in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashanah (among the other foods) as a sign that we should have a sweet year. Why is this done specifically with an apple and not another fruit?

Michoel answered: 1) The Maharil explains that the apple is connected with "חקל תפוחים קדישין" - "the holy apple orchard"; when Yaakov came to get the blessing from Yitzchok, he had the smell of an apple orchard upon his clothing. Besides the kabbalistic meanings, (according to one opinion) this episode happened on Rosh Hashana (GR”A O.C. 583:8).

2) There are three types of benefit derived from an apple: taste, sight, and smell. This is symbolic of our appeal for sustenance in the three aspects of children, health, and livelihood for the entire year (Ben Ish Chai, first year, Parashas Nitzavim).

3) It is written in Zohar (Parashas Shmini 4a) that after one drinks wine, one eats an apple to prevent harm from the wine. Wine represents gevurah (severity), and the apple calms the severity. Therefore on Rosh Hashana we eat apples to pacify the harsh judgement. (Ben Ish Chai, ibid.)

4) The Zohar (above) states that the source of all fruit is the Divine aspect of malchus ("royalty," considered feminine), except for the apple, which is sourced in the aspect of tiferes ("splendor," considered masculine). The Arizal says that the summer months represent malchus and the winter months are tiferes. Therefore at the start of the “masculine” months we eat an apple which comes from a “masculine” source. (Ben Ish Chai, ibid.)

5) According to Rabbeynu Yona (quoted by Rosh on Brachos 6:35), the nature of honey is to change everything that comes into it – even something impure – into honey. (Therefore, one can consume honey even though the legs of the bees may be mixed in.) The holiness of Rosh Hashana should convert all bad to good. (Shem Mishmuel, Mo'adim, Rosh Hashana 5674.) (Some add that the sin of Adam Harishon and the Tree of Knowledge was with an apple, and we therefore dip an apple into the honey to rectify the original sin.2)

6) The gematria (numerical value) of "תפוח" (apple) is equivalent to that of "פרו ורבו" ("Be fruitful and multiply."), and "דבש" (honey) is equal to "אשה" (woman), symbolizing that Rosh Hashana is an auspicious time for barren women to be remembered (Imrei Noam volume 2, end note 9).

Gershon Gold added: Taamei HaMinhagim 706 says it is done for Kabalistic reasons. In the notes, he mentions in the name of the Imrei Noam that the gematria of the word "tapuach" (the Hebrew word for apple) is the same as the gematria of "S'e Akeida" -- so we eat the apple to recall the Akeida (Binding of Isaac).

Yishai noted: It also can't be discounted that apples are harvested around Rosh Hashana time so they are a readily available and relatively inexpensive fruit at that time.

Avrohom Yitzchok suggested: Apple was the most widely known fruit. Think of the other fruits and vegetables that are called after the apple, for example orange in Hebrew, potato in Hebrew, French, and German, pineapple in English.

In Middle English and as late as the 17th century, it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts (e.g. Old English fingeræppla "dates," lit. "finger-apples;" M.E. appel of paradis "banana," c.1400). 3

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/20334
  2. Midrash Rabba Breishis 15, 7 brings an opinion that the fruit in the garden was a "תפוח." However, Tosfos on Shabbos 88a writes that "תפוח" in Tanach means an אתרוג (citron).
  3. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=apple

Avrohom Yitzchok mi.yodeya.com/u/730
Gershon Gold mi.yodeya.com/u/200
Michoel mi.yodeya.com/u/1535
Yehoshua mi.yodeya.com/u/1884
Yishai mi.yodeya.com/u/440

  • RH, Simanim (symbolic foods eaten at the evening meal) Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 21:44
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 16:56
  • I'm not sure what the brackets on (according to one opinion) are intended to signifiy.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 9:23
  • TRiG, good point. @IsaacMoses, I think those could safely be removed. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 12:52

Significance of “Shema Yisrael

Ypnypn asked:1 The verse Shema Yisrael (Devarim 6:4) is highly significant. It is Biblically required to be recited twice daily, it is to be said at the end of one's life, and appears in the liturgy at the end of Yom Kippur and in Kedusha of Mussaf.

It is clear why the verse is so considered: It states that Hashem is the one God, obviously critical to Jewish belief.

However, what about the first two words, "Shema Yisrael" - "Hear, O Israel"? Are these words significant just because they appear in the same verse as the fundamental belief, or is there something special about these words themselves?

Isaac Moses said: The Sefer Hachinuch interprets this verb as the source that the commandment stated here is to believe in God, and not merely to profess belief in God. His piece on Commandment 417 begins:

מצות אחדות השם - שנצטוינו להאמין כי השם יתברך הוא הפועל כל המציאות, אדון הכל, אחד בלי שום שתוף, שנאמר (דברים ו ד) שמע ישראל יי אלהינו יי אחד, וזה מצות עשה הוא, אינה הגדה, אבל פרוש שמע כלומר, קבל ממני דבר זה ודעהו והאמן בו, כי השם שהוא אלקינו אחד הוא

The commandment of unification of [God's] Name: That we are commanded to believe that Blessed God is the one who enacts all of existence; the Master of all; One, without any partnership. As it says (Deuteronomy 6:4): "Hear, Israel: God is our God; God is One." And this proactive commandment is not [in the] speaking; rather, "Hear" is meant to say, "Accept this point from me, know it, and believe in it: That God, our God, is One."

(translation and emphasis mine)

yEz explained: The words Shema Yisrael are usually translated as "Hear, Israel" or "Listen, Israel." However, the word appears with a different meaning elsewhere in Tanach:

Shmuel 1 15:4:

וַיְשַׁמַּע שָׁאוּל אֶת הָעָם,

And Shaul gathered the nation

Metzudas Tzion there:

וישמע" - ענין אסיפה הבאה בשמיעת קול המאסף"

Vayishama - gathering that happens through calling out

So שמע ישראל could mean "Gather, Israel."

In the context of Shema, the significance of this could be understood as follows -- we, the Jewish people, represent Hashem in this world. Shema is the declaration of Hashem's One-ness, and it can only be declared and espoused in its entirety with the unity of the Jewish people. Therefore, we must gather together before we can properly declare Hashem's One-ness. On a similar note, the Vilna Gaon in his commentary to the 3rd blessing of Shemoneh Esrei comments that the entire Torah is a name of Hashem. The Sages tell us (Zohar Chadash - Shir HaShirim) that there are 600,000 letters of the Sefer Torah which correspond to the 600,000 souls of the Jewish people, and if even one letter is missing it is invalid. However you will resolve the discrepancy in the numbers, the idea seems clear that the entire body of Israel is necessary to complete this sefer Torah, which is the name of Hashem. In order to properly represent Hashem in this world, we need to all be included.

Dan F offered: Often in Tana"ch, the word "Shema" doesn't mean "hear" - using ears. It means "understand". Example: Na'aseh V'nishma -- the response B'nai Yisra'el gave upon accepting the giving of the Torah -- means, "We will do, and we will understand".

Talmud Brachot mentions that the recital of the Shema is comparable to reciting the 10 Commandments. It seems, fair, then to make a parallel interpretation of the word "Shema" in "Shema Yisrael" as meaning "Understand, Israel. Hashem our G-d, Hashem is one." That is: understand what you are saying, understand what this basic principle means, understand that you are performing a mitzvah -- there are multiple layers of understanding required while reciting Shema.

Related: the Gemarah Brachot also debates if the recital of Shema is acceptable if one recited it without kavanah, the proper intent. Part of the reason for that debate, from my recollection, emanates from the translation of the word "Shema" as "understand".

  1. Original question: mi.yodeya.com/q/50409

Dan F mi.yodeya.com/u/5275
Isaac Moses mi.yodeya.com/u/2
yEz mi.yodeya.com/u/4794
Ypnypn mi.yodeya.com/u/4704

  • RH, Musaf, Malchuyot Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 2:27
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 5:34

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