Commentary for Rosh Hashanah

24 Sep

The Musaf Amidah on Rosh Hashanah is the longest of the year.  Instead of the one additional blessing that most holidays have, Rosh Hashanah has four additional blessings.  In addition to the Sanctification of the Day, additional verses from the Bible and blessings are added for Malchuyot (Kingship), Zichronot (Remembrances), and Shofrot (Shofar blasts).  These three sections each follow the same format:  Verses from the Torah, then verses from the Writings, then verses from the Prophets, and a concluding verse from the Torah.  This order is unusual because in most places, the order would be Torah, then Prophets, then Writings, because the beginning of the Prophets starts immediately after the Torah ends, and because the words of the Prophets are considered to be holier than the Writings because while the Writings were written by people with inspiration from God, the words of the Prophets are the words of God themselves, relayed to the people through the Prophets.  The reason that we say the verses in this non-standard order is because it is chronological.  The verses from Prophets in the Amidah are all from the later prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, while the verses from the Writings are all from Psalms, which was written by King David, who lived before them.
This shift from the usual order of importance to a chronological order is an important one to take note of during this season of repentance.  When we reflect on our behaviors in the past year, it is important to examine them as thoroughly as possible so that we can not only determine what we have done wrong, but also what steps we need to take to correct our behavior in the future.  If we look at the events that led us to act badly in a certain situation in the order of which factors we perceive to be the most important, we are merely confessing our misdeeds and pledging to do better.  If we look at the events that led us to act badly in a certain situation in a chronological order, we are much more easily able to trace the path of factors and choices that led to our misdeed, and will be able to identify strategies to prevent ourselves from making the same mistakes again.

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