• Chodesh Elul

  • Some Insights into the Minhagim of Yomim Noraim

  • Tkias Shofar

  • Vidui

  • Tefilos Rosh HaShana

Chodesh Elul
1. We do not announce the new month the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana. Some say that the reason is because it is well known when the new month begins since it is Rosh HaShana.
2. Many recite the Yom Kippur Koton service for Elul even if they don’t observe this custom the rest of the year.
3. The custom of the Shulchan Aruch was to say Slichos the entire month.
4. The reason for this was the fact that Moshe Rabeinu ascended the mountain to receive the second Luchos and it is a time of favor from HaShem.
5. Our custom is to add the mizmor of “L’Dovid Hashem Ori” to our davening morning and evening.
6. There was a custom for the shamos to announce this month “Shuva Banim Shovavim” - it is a time for tshuva.
7. We blow the shofar the entire month until Erev Rosh HaShana. Some start from the first day of Rosh Chodesh, some from the second day.
8. There is a custom to recite ten paragraphs of tehilim each day with the tzibur.
9. Kaddish may be recited if ten people said tehilim together. If there were latecomers, wait and say at least one paragraph together.
10. We start saying Slichos the Sunday before Rosh HaShana unless Rosh HaShana is on Monday or Tuesday. In that case, we start saying Slichos on Sunday the week before.
11. One can say Slichos without a minyon, omitting the 13 midos and those passages that are written in Aramaic.
12. We begin each one of the Slichos With “Elokeinu”, etc. unless that paragraph already begins with one of the names of HaShem.
13. It is customary that the one who leads the Slichos also leads the other tefilos of that day. Some even say he takes precedence over one who is observing a yahrtzeit
14. Many have the custom to fast, at least for part of the day, on the first day of Slichos.
15. Some make “HaToras Nidorim”, rescinding of the vows, forty days before Rosh HaShana.
16. Some read the portions about the creation of the world, from 25 Elul until Rosh HaShana.
17. One should initiate serious introspection and confession during this month.
18. The Kaf HaChayim quotes sources that the people who will participate in leading the Rosh HaShana service should distance themselves from those items or conduct that could bring about “tuma”.

Some Insights into the Minhagim of Yomim Noraim
1. We begin to recite “Le David HaShem Ori” from Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Shmini Atzares because Rosh HaShana is “Ori”, my light, the light of judgement, and “yishi” is Yom Kippur, my help, my atonement.
2. At the end of Slichos we recite “Ashamnu” three times. This corresponds to the three statements of “I have sinned” mentioned in the vidui of the Kohen Gadol.
3. We open the Aron Kodesh at certain times during the davening to heighten the kavana; this is compared to the kohen entering into the Kodesh.
4. We begin blowing Shofar from the beginning of the month – a reminder of the Shofar blown when Moshe ascended to receive the second tablets. This reminds us of the sin of the “Egel” and the need to do tshuva.
5. Some insist that the chazan should be at least thirty years old, similar to the Levi who began his service at that age.
6. Likewise they insist he should be married, similar to the Kohen Gadol in Yom Kippur.
7. We rise early to daven on Rosh HaShana. Five times during the year we begin the davening early and these times are hinted at in the name of Avrohom. The five letters of Avrohom are the last letters of: a) Hoshana b) Tisha B’Av, c) Yom Kippur d) Rosh HaShana e) Purim.
8. During the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh HaShana, the Sifre Torah remain on the Bimah. Two reasons given for this are: a) to remind us of the blowing of the trumpets when the karbonos were brought to the mizbeach since the bimah is likened to the mizbeach and the Sefer Torah to the karbonos b) The Torah itself reminds HaShem of the good deeds of the Jewish people.
9. The Shofar is covered at first to remind us of the ram that replaced Yitzchok in the episode of the Akeida; it was covered in the bushes.
10. The Baal Tokea receives an aliya on Rosh HaShana. The Torah causes joy to a person and this heightens his ability to perform the mitzvah.
11. We recite the “mi sheberach” for the weekday since this is a time for calling out to HaShem.
12. We end with a Tkea Gedolah as a signal to the people that they may continue with the davening.

Tkias Shofar
1. One should blow shofar in a standing position, not even leaning on a table, etc. If one sat, he still fulfills the mitzva.
2. During the tkios before Musaf, it is only a custom for the listeners to stand, not an obligation.
3. If one already heard shofar, and is blowing for another person, that person should say the brochos. Some have the custom for the one blowing to say the brochos.
4. It is preferable to hold the shofar on the right side, lifted upwards.
5. If one arrives to shul late and didn’t hear the brochos, he should immediately say them quietly before the next set of tkios.
6. The mitzva begins with sunrise, but if one blew after daybreak it is still valid. The custom, however, is to wait until before Musaf to do the Mitzvah.
7. Already at the time of reciting the brochos, one should grip the shofar.
8. One should not blow shofar on Rosh HaShana for no reason. However, he may blow:
1) If he is not sure he heard or blew well.
2) If there is a custom to add certain sounds.
3) If he wishes to fulfill various opinions in halacha.
9. Any type of sound which emits from the shofar is acceptable. This includes shrill or deep sounds.
10. The Aruch HaShulchan feels that a barely audible sound is not acceptable for tkias shofar, as it does not qualify as a “kol”, a legitimate sound.
11. The sound of the tkiah should be as smooth as possible. It should not sound like two different sounds but should be evident that it is one tkiah.
12. Many opinions feel that one must hear the shofar without the use of a hearing aid or such amplifiers.
13. The one who announces each sound should not do so until the amain of the people is completed. Also he should not announce a new sound until the previous one is completed in its entirety.
14. A most interesting question is - does the place where one performs the mitzva and the person performing it have to be clean, just like when reciting the Shma, or except for the brochos, can the mitzva itself be performed in any place or circumstance?
15. The one listening to the sounds of the shofar should concentrate on hearing all the sounds from beginning to end.
16. The shofar itself should be clean and beautiful. Particles of foreign matter might constitute an obstruction or change the sound and invalidate the mitzva.
17. The Rambam reminds us that the shofar on Rosh HaShana has a power to awaken us to the task at hand which is tshuva and rectifying our ways. Perhaps this is another reason why the shofar is bent - to remind us that presently our actions are also not straight.
 

Vidui
1. There is a definite mitzva to confess one's sins on Yom Kippur. The verbal expression is the positive application of the mitzva of tshuva.
2. Sins committed in the usual interaction between people require one to pacify his fellow man before he even begins to confess to HaShem. Of course, the two requirements are also obligatory for women.
3. Although one vidui would suffice, however, since the whole day of Yom Kippur atones, we repeat our confessional to include infractions incurred during the day itself.
4. We actually say this confessional ten times:
1. Erev Yom Kippur at Mincha.
2. Maariv
3. 4 times (at Shachris, Musaf, Mincha, Neila)
4. 4 times (at the repetition of Shmone Esrei)
5. The plain statement “we have sinned” is the essence of vidui.
6. If one is aware of a sin that he has committed that is not listed among those in the vidui, he should mention it himself.
7. Although one does not publicize sins, the recitation of vidui in unison is permissable.
8. Vidui should definitely be said in a standing position, not sitting or leaning. Some recite it in a bent position.
9. One should not interrupt in the middle of vidui, but it is permissable to respond to kedusha, kaddish, etc.
10. The vidui must be accompanied by a sincere effort at tshuva. This is the resolve not to return again to the state of sin.
11. One must have a strong conviction in the power of Yom Kippur for it to work as an atonement.
12. In the list of “Al Chet”, the sins to which we confess, there are numerous ones that relate to the speech of a human being.
1. With the speech of the lips
2. With the words of the mouth
3. The confession of the mouth
4. Foolishness of the mouth
5. Contamination of the lips
6. Not telling the truth
7. Loshon HaRa
8. The speech of our lips
9. Tale bearing
This is about one quarter of the statements listed – certainly a point to think about.
13. The confession includes items that relate to character traits and items regarding interpersonal relationships. A most interesting “sin” is the last one mentioned. We have sinned by being in a state of confusion. The explanation is in reference to man’s bewilderment at G-d’s ways in the world, and the constant second-guessing of Him. Perhaps since it is last, it is also the source of many of our problems.
May we merit a good and healthy year!

Tefilos Rosh HaShana
1. The Theme of the Shmone Esrei of Rosh HaShana, which we recite at all the tefilos except for Musaf, is malchus. HaShem is the King of the Universe. The possuk says that “usirumas melech bo”. The Bnei Yisroel control the trumpets proclaiming Him as king. That is to say, He is a king because we make Him king. If so, we certainly would not want to diminish His reign over the whole world and limit it to just the Jewish people. It is therefore our task to spread this belief to an entire world. With this in mind, R’ Shlomo Kluger ‘z’l explains the Shmone Esrei of Rosh HaShana. After the preliminary two brochos, we beseech G-d to “give fear and awe to all the peoples of the world”. Don’t wait for us to initiate this, but rather You, HaShem, cause it to be. We want You to be the king over all mankind. With this You “will give honor to Your people”, “the tzadikim will rejoice” and sin will cease to exist. “You alone become king and Eretz Yisroel will be the palace of Your rule”. We follow this with a regular Yom Tov theme with Yaale V’Yovo. The brocha of Kedushas HaYom is again this call for HaShem to reign. He should not just be our exclusive G-d.
2. In Musaf we begin with the regular Musaf of a holiday including the offering for which the prayer is named. With this aside, we then begin the theme of the day. The Rosh HaShana Musaf is unique compared to all the tefilos of the year, for instead of the usual seven brochos that we have on Shabbos and holidays, it contains nine. The first theme is malchus. Again we incorporate this with the main brocha of Kedushas HaYom “melech al kol haaretz mekadesh amo yisroel veyom hazikoron”. This then is the centerpiece of the Shmone Esrei. This parallels Shachris. But then the theme switches to “zichronos” – G-d remembers. R’ S.R. Hirsch ‘z’l explains all the psukim mentioned in this part as demonstrating that in G-d’s sovereignty, each action of man is judged against a backdrop of all the panorama of history: past, present, and future. Not only his own, but recognizing the seeds of good planted by all men past and present? Because of this most amazing ability we call upon Him to remember the actions of all of the tzadikim of the past. What then is the third part of Musaf – Shofros? R’ Hirsch insists that its theme is “He now calls upon us to follow Him into a new future which He guides. This we readily see with the final brocha “sound the Shofar of freedom and announce the ingathering of all the dispersed. Let the same trumpets which heralded the giving of the Torah and the building of the mishkon, herald the coming Moshiach.
3. Aside from a few passing references to forgiveness of sin, the above is the theme. However, the great men of the past put the stamp of Yom Kippur on the Rosh HaShana liturgy with the awe inspiring and humbling paragraphs of “Avinu Malkenu” and Unesana Tokef. This is our glimpse of the coming Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur.