Prayer During the Days of Repentance
Mistakes in Prayer
Did I Make a Mistake?
"Zochreinu Lechaim" and Other Additions
1. The "Ten Days of Repentance," as their name indicates, are days set aside for repenting. At this time, each of us must repent wholeheartedly before the arrival of Yom Kippur, as it is written, "Before God be purified (Leviticus 16:30). It is also written, "Seek out God when He is present." (Isaiah 55:6), and the sages say, "These are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur" (Shulchan Aruch 604:1). Therefore, during these days, a person must examine his behavior and repent of his evil ways. And a transgression of which one is in doubt requires more repentance than a transgression of which one is positive, for a person feels greater remorse when he knows that he has transgressed than when he does not know. (Rema 603 and commentators ad loc.)
2. Some authorities hold that the New Moon should not be sanctified ("Kiddush Halevana") until the termination of Yom Kippur, for at that time we are pure and joyful. Other authorities say, to the contrary, it is best to sanctify the New Moon prior to Yom Kippur in order to gain merit. The custom, however, is to recite this blessing at the termination of Yom Kippur. (Rema 602:1; Mishnah Berurah 10; Kaf HaChaim ad loc. 19; see Netivei Am 426:2)
Prayer During the Days of Repentance
3. Some people have a custom to recite the Shemoneh Esreh prayer aloud on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in order to improve their concentration. Another reason this is done is to benefit those who have no prayer book or do not know how to read. However, if the great majority of the congregation does not depend upon the reading of the prayer leader, it is best to pray silently, in the usual manner. According to the Zohar, a person should make sure to pray in complete silence, so much so that he cannot even hear himself pray. This was how Hannah prayed, as it is written, "Her lips moved but her voice was not heard." (Shulchan Aruch 582:9; Kaf HaChaim 582:27)
4. A person should do his best to pray with application, submission, supplication, and humility. Though we are certain that God will judge us favorably, we are aware that on this day some are judged for life, and others are sentenced to the opposite, Heaven forbid. If a person begins crying spontaneously, it may be taken as a sign that he is being judged at that moment. (See Kaf HaChaim 582:60 and later authorities)
5. Some people have certain prayer customs on Rosh Hashanah which are not accurate according to Jewish law. All the same, a person should not hastily renounce a custom which has be handed down from generation to generation. Only the wisest member of the congregation, with the agreement of an overwhelming majority of its members, is permitted to alter such a custom. Furthermore, this must be done in a manner that will not result in controversy, otherwise more has been lost than has been gained.
6. One must be very careful not to change the exact wording of the prayers, and one must go out of his way to acquire a most accurate prayer book for the High Holidays.
7. All year long we bless "HaE-l HaKadosh" [the holy God] in the third blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer. However, from the evening service of Rosh Hashanah until the Neilah service of Yom Kippur one must bless "HaMelech HaKadosh" [the holy King], for during these days God demonstrates his Kingship over creation. (Rashi, Berachot 12b; Shulchan Aruch 582:1)
Mistakes in Prayer
8. If a person mistakenly blessed "HaE-l HaKadosh," or if he cannot remember whether he said "HaE-l HaKadosh" or "HaMelech HaKadosh," the law is this:
If he catches himself immediately (i.e., in the time that it takes to say, "Shalom alecha, rabi"), he should correct his mistake by saying "HaMelech HaKadosh" and continue praying. But, if he does not catch himself immediately, or if he has already started the next blessing, he must go back to the beginning of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer.
Even if he realizes this at the end of the Shemoneh Esreh, he must return to the beginning, because the first three blessings of the Shemoneh Esreh are considered a single unit (Shulchan Aruch 582:1 and its commentators ad loc.).
There are authorities who hold that if a person realizes his mistake before beginning the next blessing ("Atah Chonen"), even if the time it takes to say "Shalom alecha, rabi" has elapsed, he should immediately say "HaMelech HaKadosh" and continue praying. (Sdeh Chemed, Maarechet Rosh Hashanah 3:16; Kaf HaChaim 582:9)
9. If the prayer leader makes a mistake in his repetition and says "HaE-l HaKadosh," he must correct himself immediately (i.e., within the time that it takes to say, "Shalom alecha, rabi") by saying "HaMelech HaKadosh." If he realizes his mistake too late or begins the next blessing, he must return to the beginning of his Shemoneh Esreh repetition. In this case, the prayer leader and the congregation must recite Kedusha a second time. (Ben Ish Chai, Nitzavim 18; Kaf HaChaim 582:5)
10. If the prayer leader or a member of the congregation must repeat their prayer on the Fast of Gedaliah, they must recite "Aneinu" the second time as well. (Sdeh Chemed, Maarechet Rosh Hashanah 3:15)
11. If a person erred during the course of the year, saying "HaMelech HaKadosh," he need not repeat his prayer. (Kaf HaChaim 118:3)
12. In the "Me'ein Sheva" blessing of the Sabbath evening service, during the Ten Days of Repentance we say "HaMelech HaKadosh [instead of 'HaE-l HaKadosh'] She'ein Kamohu." If the prayer leader errs and says "HaE-l HaKadosh She'ein Kamohu," the law is as follows:
If he realizes his mistake immediately (i.e., within the time it takes to say, "Shalom alecha, rabi"), he should correct himself and say "HaMelech HaKadosh She'ein Kamohu" and continue onward. If the prayer leader realizes his mistake before reaching God's name in the blessing "Mekadesh HaShabbat," he must go back and recite "HaMelech HaKadosh She'ein Kamohu" and continue from there.
If he already recited God's name or completed the blessing "Mekadesh HaShabbat" some authorities say that he does not have to go back and correct his mistake. However, according to the Holy Ari, the prayer reader must go back to the beginning and recite the entire blessing again, and this is the accepted practice. (See Ben Ish Chai, Nitzavim 18; Kaf HaChaim 582:18; and see also Shulchan Aruch 268:13 who appears to hold that the "Me'ein Sheva" blessing has the status of a prayer, in keeping with the opinion of the Holy Ari)
Did I Make a Mistake?
13. If, before finishing the Shemoneh Esreh prayer, a person becomes uncertain as to whether or not he blessed "HaMelech HaKadosh," he must assume that he said "HaE-l HaKadosh," which means going back and praying again. If, however, he knew before beginning to pray that he was supposed to say "HaMelech HaKadosh," and only after finishing his prayer became uncertain as to whether or not he said this, he does not need to pray again. (See Mishnah Berurah 114:38)
14. If on Rosh Hashanah a person cannot remember if he blessed "HaMelech HaKadosh" or "HaE-l HaKadosh," but he is certain that he began "Ledor Vador Hamlichu" or that he said "Uvchen Yitkadash" or "Uvchen Ten Pachdecha," he need not return to correct his mistake, for if this is the case it may be assumed that he blessed "HaMelech HaKadosh." (See Kaf HaChaim 582:6; Sdeh Chemed, Rosh Hashanah 3:8)
15. If on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur a person forgets to say "Uvchen Ten Pachdecha" and then blesses "HaMelech HaKadosh," he need not correct his mistake and should continue on to "Ata Bachartanu." Even if he only reaches God's name in the blessing, he should say "HaMelech HaKadosh" and continue. He should, however, recite what he skipped after "Elokai Natzor" at the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer.
16. It is of no avail to repeat ninety times "HaMelech HaKadosh" in the way that it is with "Veten Tal Umatar." The reason that this is not possible is that the words "HaMelech HaKadosh" are part of a blessing, and repeating this blessing would involve taking God's name in vain. Saying "HaMelech HaKadosh" alone, not in the context of its blessing, does not have the effect of accustoming a person to praying in such manner. (See Magen Avraham 583 as opposed to Pri Chadash and Birkat Yosef; and see Sdeh Chemed 3:4; Shulchan Aruch HaRav 582:2, Mishnah Berurah)
17. All year long we bless "Melech Ohev Tzeddaka Umishpat" in the eleventh blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer. However, from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur we bless "HaMelech HaMishpat." We do this because during this period God demonstrates His power as king to judge the world. (Kaf HaChaim ibid. 1, and 118:1)
18. If a person errs during this period and blesses "Melech Ohev Tzeddaka Umishpat" or does not remember what he blessed, this is the law: If he catches himself immediately (i.e., within the time that it takes to say, "Shalom alecha, rabi") he should say "HaMelech HaMishpat" and continue. If, however, he realizes his mistake later than this he need not correct his mistake. (See Ben Ish Chai, Nitzavim 19; and see Teshuvot HaRambam HaChadashot 182, and though some authorities disagree with this ruling, it is correct to uphold it, for we say "Melech" throughout the year; and see Shulchan Aruch 583 and 118, and Rema 118; and see Kaf HaChaim 118:1 who rules that a person should not even pray a second time voluntarily)
19. During the rest of the year, if a person inadvertently blesses "HaMelech HaMishpat" he need not go back and correct his mistake. (Kaf HaChaim 118:3)
"Zochreinu Lechaim" and Other Additions
20. During the Ten Days of Repentance we add to our prayers "Zochrenu Lechaim," "Mi Chamocha," "Uchtov Lechaim," and "Uvsefer Chaim" as printed in the prayer books.
21. If a person forgets one of these additions and has not yet said God's name in its accompanying blessing, he should immediately go back and recite what he skipped and continue from there. If a person realizes his mistake after he has said God's name in the accompanying blessing, he should simply complete the blessing and continue. (Shulchan Aruch 582:5)
22. If a person forgets to say "Zochrenu Lechaim," he should recite it in the "Shome'ah Tefila" blessing. If he does not say it in "Shome'ah Tefila," he should say it in "Elokai Netzor." On Sabbath or the Holiday, when we do not bless "Shome'ah Tefila," it should be said in "Elokai Netzor."
23. If a person forgets to say "Uchtov Lechaim" or "Uvsefer Chaim," he should say them in "Elokai Netzor." (Ben Ish Chai, Nitzavim 20; Kaf HaChaim 32)
24. "Mi Chamocha" is not a request, it is a praise. Therefore, if a person forgets to say it, he should not add it in "Elokai Netzor." (Ben Ish Chai ibid.)
25. If a person forgets "Uchtov Lechaim" and has not yet reached God's name in the accompanying blessing, he should return and correct his mistake. And even though this involves mentioning God's name a second time, it is not considered taking God's name in vain, for it is not an unnecessary blessing [beracha she-einah tzericha]. (Sdeh Chemed, Maarechet Rosh Hashanah 3; Pri Megadim, and see Mishnah Berurah 16)
26. If a person inadvertently says "Uvsefer Chaim" instead of "Uchtov Lechaim," he must repeat "Uvsefer Chaim" in the "Sim Shalom" blessing. This is because he did not recite "Uvsefer Chaim" where the sages decreed it should be recited. (Rav Pe'alim 3:39)
27. On Sabbath we say "Mi Chamocha Av HaRachamim" instead of "HaRachaman" in the Mussaf and Mincha prayers.
28. We say "Adonai Hu HaElokim" before "Adonai Malach." We also recite "Shir HaMaalot Mima'amakim" after "Yishtabach." (Kaf HaChaim 582:13 and 14)
29. At the end of the Shemoneh Esreh prayer we say "Oseh HaShalom." However, in Kaddish we say "Oseh Shalom" as usual, with the exception of Kaddish "Titkabal" after the prayer leader's repetition in the morning and afternoon services. In this Kaddish we say "Oseh HaShalom" because it is actually a continuation of the prayer. (Kaf HaChaim 56:38)
30. Ashkenazi prayer books instruct making this change in all of the Kaddishim, and in some prayer books this change does not appear at all.
31. Some introduce a change into the wording of Kaddish from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, so that it reads "L'eila L'eila." The Lubavitch custom is not to change the wording of Kaddish at all during the Ten Days of Repentance with the exception of the Yom Kippur Neilah service when they too say "L'eila L'eila." However, the Sephardic custom is not to change the wording of the Kaddish at all. (See Kaf HaChaim ibid.)
32. During the Ten Days of Repentance, the custom is to recite "Avinu Malkenu" every day after the Shemoneh Esreh prayer in the morning and afternoon services.
33. On Shabbat Teshuvah we recite "Avinu Malkenu" but we skip five of its passages: "Chatanu," "M'chol," "Kra," "M'chok," and "M'cheh." Ashkenazi Jews do not say Avinu Malkenu at all on Sabbath. (See Rema 584:1; Kaf HaChaim ibid. 8; Shut Torah Lishma 161)
34. On Rosh Hashanah we recite "Avinu Malkenu" after the Shemoneh Esreh prayer in the morning and afternoon services. We leave out three passages: "Chatanu," "M'chol," and "M'cheh." On Sabbath we leave out five: "Chatanu," "M'chol," "M'cheh," and also "Kra," and "M'chok" (See Kaf HaChaim 584:8). And Ashkenazi Jews do not say Avinu Malkenu at all.
35. Even though a person should refrain from making personal requests on Sabbath, we recite "Avinu Malkenu" on Yom Kippur when if falls on Sabbath. We do this because Yom Kippur is a time for requests, and if we do not make our requests now, when will we make them? (Beit Yosef 622:3; Kaf HaCahim 604:25)
36. Some communities have a custom to open the ark while reciting "Avinu Malkenu," and some have a custom that the prayer leader begins reading "Avinu Malkenu" together with the congregation, and from "Hachazirenu Bitshuva" until "Kotvenu Besefer Selicha Umchila" the prayer leader reads and the congregation repeats. This is not the custom in Jerusalem.
37. During the Ten Days of Repentance, if it is close to sunset, it is best to skip the afternoon service "Avinu Malkenu" in order to recite Vidui (confession) and "Nefilat Apayim" before the sun sets.