Ten Days of Repentance Amidah inserts: what is and what could be

Note on translations: I’m using translations from the Koren Sacks Siddur in this post because that is what’s in front of me.

As I was doing Minchah just now, I was thinking about the phrases we insert into the Amidah during the Ten Days of Repentance. Some of the make perfect sense, while other seem out of place. At the same time, there are places where we might expect and extra line or a different chatimah (final line of the blessing, which begins “Baruch atah Adonai etc), but we still do the regular one.

We add a line before the chatimah to Avot, G’vurot, Modim and Shalom. We also change the chatimah in Kedushah, Mishpat and, according to some, Shalom. I suppose the idea is that we alter these to reflect our special penitential purpose for prayer during these Ten Days. Yet, I can’t help but think that the selection of blessings to add or change is a little random. Mishpat and Kedushah make the most sense, while the rest seem odd.

Mishpat makes sense because we envision God during this season as a just ruler, seated on a throne of judgement. So in Mishpat, we call God “haMelech haMishpat / the King of justice,” during this time.

Kedushah is about God’s holy attributes. On the actually holy days of season, we expand this section enormously to elaborate on God’s special role of judge during this season. During the Ten Days, we elaborate on a smaller scale, calling God, “haMelech haKadosh / the holy King,” to reflect our emphasis on the monarchical metaphor at this season.

The rest seem odd. Of course we pray for peace during this season, but it is not a special emphasis. The same goes for Avot. I suppose in G’vurot it makes some sense to emphasize God’s power of forgiveness, but it seems less obvious than the Mishpat addition, for example.

So I’m left wondering why we don’t add anything special in this season to brachot like T’shuvah, in which we say, “Draw us near, our King, to your service. / Lead us back to You in perfect repentance”? And what about Slichah, where we say, “Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned”? Or Shomea T’filah, where we ask God to “listen to prayers and pleas”?


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7 Responses to Ten Days of Repentance Amidah inserts: what is and what could be

  1. BZ September 16, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Also, “haMelech haMishpat” isn’t grammatically correct Hebrew. (Rashi translates it to “Melech haMishpat”, which is.) What’s up with that?

  2. jen September 16, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    I haven’t got time to ask Gabriel about it and write the resulting post…but maybe in a few days’ time :)

    • David A.M. Wilensky September 17, 2010 at 2:23 am #

      Yeah. See you tomorrow, methinks? You’ll be at Hadar, yes?

  3. George gidal September 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    send. Me any writings on. Machsor lev shalem.

  4. Frank Castronova September 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    I’m interested in knowing why the editors of Mishkan T’filah included all the traditional insertions and substitutions, except for Mishpat, which remains the same all year long.