From the Rabbi:
The Aseret Yemei Tshuva (The Ten Days of Repentance/Return beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur) are meant to be a time of repentance and introspection. This is a time to add additonal mitzvot, learn a little more, make a point of using your speech for good, refraining from Lashon Hara and praying with added intent.
Regarding prayers, there are various additions to the service that, given the change, ensure that we are not praying by rote. They help keep our eyes in the siddur, ensuring that we say the extra phrases which are specifically recited this week.
Where did these additions to the Shmoneh Esrei (Silent prayer) originate?
In the tractate Brachot 12b, we learn that Rabbah bar Chanina the elder said in the name of Rav: Throughout the year, a person prays with the text “HaE-l HaKadosh”, “The Holy God” as the concluding phrase of the third blessing of the Shmoneh Esrei and “Melech Ohev Tzedaka U’Mishpat”, “The King who loves Righteousness and Judgement” as the concluding phrase of the eleventh blessing, except for the ten days between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur when one prays with the text “HaMelech HaKadosh”, “The Holy King” and “HaMelech HaMishpat, “The King of Judgement.”
We know that whomever forgets to say HaMelech Hakadosh needs to repeat the entire Shmoneh Esrei keeping us particularly vigilant in prayer.
The custom of adding the other additions to the Shmoneh Esrei dates back to at least the Geonic period (around 800-900CE) where, after some arguments, “Zachreinu L’Chayim…”, “Remember us for life…”, “Mi Kamocha Av HaRachamim…”, “Who is like you, Merciful Father…”, “U’Chtov L’Chaim tovim…”, “Inscribe all the children of your covenant for a good life” and “B’Sefer HaChayim…”, “In His book of life…” were included.
The arguments were over the issue of adding these phrases to the Shmoneh Esrei since we don’t usually add personal requests to the first and last three blessings. In the end, they were added since they are not personal requests, rather they are requests made on behalf of the entire community. Although Jewish law is usually very strict about making additions to the Shmoneh Esrei, the rabbis understood how important it was to make extra requests on behalf of the community at this time.
Wow, the power of community. Our sages teach that the power of prayer of one person during these days is like the power of the community. By extension, how powerful must our prayers as a community be. What a statement to Hashem that we are united as we approach the "great and awesome day".
As we gear up for Yom Kippur, let’s make sure to have extra focus (kavana) throughout the Shmoneh Esrei and especially when saying the following words:
Remember us for life, O King Who desires life and inscribe us in the Book of Life.
Inscribe all of the children of Your covenant for a good life.
In the book of life, blessing and peace, good livelihood, may we be remembered and inscribed before You- we and Your entire people the Family of Israel for a good life and for peace.
Shabbat Shalom and Gmar Chatimah Tova!
Pre-Yom Kippur Class (at KOT only)
Saturday at 6:10 pm