06. Crowning God King

The primary theme of the prayers on Rosh Ha-shana is crowning God as our king. For this reason, the third berakha of the Amida concludes with “ha-Melekh ha-kadosh” (the holy King) instead of the usual “ha-Kel ha-kadosh” (the holy God). We continue using this alternative conclusion throughout the Ten Days of Repentance. This change is so significant that if one forgets to make it, and concludes with “the holy God,” he has not fulfilled his obligation and must repeat the Amida (SA 582:1; 5:2 below). On Rosh Ha-shana, we add sections to this berakha to pray for God to reveal His kingship:

And so may Your name be sanctified, Lord our God, regarding Your people Israel, regarding Your city Jerusalem, regarding Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory, regarding the royal house of David, Your anointed, and regarding Your place and sanctuary…

Every creature will revere You, and all of creation will bow before You, and they will be bound together to carry out Your will with an undivided heart…

All wickedness will dissipate like smoke when You remove wanton governance from the earth. And You will reign – You, Lord our God, alone – over all that You made, on Mount Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory, and in Jerusalem, Your sacred city.

The conclusion of the holiday-themed fourth berakha in every Amida as well as in kiddush on Rosh Ha-shana is: “King over all the earth, Who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Remembrance.” In Musaf, the main prayer of Rosh Ha-shana, during which we blow the shofar, our Sages instituted three central berakhot, each of which comprises an entire section of the Amida: Malkhuyot, Zikhronot, and Shofarot. Malkhuyot, the first of these berakhot, is the foremost of these berakhot and mentions the holiness of the day. It, too, concludes: “King over all the earth, Who sanctifies Israel and the Day of Remembrance.” We see that the primary theme of Yom Ha-zikaron is crowning God king. In truth, Zikhronot also relates to God as the King of the world, Who remembers all of His creations. Similarly, Shofarot deals with the manifestation of His kingship in the world by means of the shofar. This is both reminiscent of Sinai and a foreshadowing of the future, for it is the blowing of a great shofar that will gather all the exiles, who will then bow before God in Jerusalem. Our shofar blasts manifest His kingship as well; due to the dread they instill, we stand before Him broken and repentant.

Given our anxiety about the upcoming year, we could have devoted the entire day of judgment to personal prayers for livelihood, health, and everything else that preoccupies people all year. However, the Jews are unique in that their deeper desire is for God’s kingship to be manifest and for the whole world to be repaired and redeemed, even if they will need to suffer to attain that goal. This is the great, awe-inspiring path that the Jewish people have chosen, from the times of our patriarchs and matriarchs, who chose to believe in God despite all the idolatry around them, through the long exile when, despite all their suffering, the Jewish people chose not to assimilate and instead continued to carry the banner of faith and Torah, to establish the world under the kingship of God.

When the Jewish people set aside their sorrows and work for God’s honor and the manifestation of His kingship, God says to the angels, “Look at My dear children, who leave their troubles aside and work for My honor.” This silences the accuser (satan), who wishes to rid the world of the Jews. Thus, Israel is granted a new year in which they will take another step toward repair and redemption. The more we humbly accept God’s rule with fear, joy, and trembling on Rosh Ha-shana, the better and more blessed a year we will experience.