י״א בסיון ה׳תשע״ד (June 9, 2014)

Rosh HaShana 32a-b: The Blessings of the Amida

The daily Amida prayer, which contains 19 blessings (and is popularly called shmoneh esrei, referring to the original 18 blessings, to which one was later added), is made up of three introductory blessings, 13 requests, and three concluding blessings. On Shabbat and holidays, the requests are removed and the Amida contains the introductory and closing blessings, with a single blessing in the middle that focuses on the holiness of the day.

The Amida prayer of musaf on Rosh HaShana is unique in that it had three blessings between the introductory and concluding berakhot. These three blessings – referred to by the Gemara as malkhuyot, zikhronot and shofarot (blessings over God’s monarchy, His remembrances and the shofar), make up the longest Amida of the year. Our Mishna teaches that aside from the closing blessing itself, each of these additional berakhot is made up of ten passages from the Tanakh. The passages serve to illustrate these three concepts.

Several sources are brought to explain the need for collecting pesukim to illustrate God’s monarchy.

  • Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi finds the source in the final mizmor in Tehillim, which uses the term hallel ten times in praising God (including one hallel by means of a shofar).
  • Rabbi Yosef points to the Ten Commandments as the source.
  • Rabbi Yohanan says that they commemorate the ten statements through which God created the world, as recorded in Bereshit Chapter 1.

Finding Rabbi Yohanan’s ten statements of va-yomer (“and He said”) is a challenge to many of the commentaries. While some statements in Bereshit very clearly are statements of creation, with others it is more difficult to determine whether they are statements, blessings, suggestions, etc.

Once sources for ten pesukim about malkhuyot are suggested, our Gemara makes no attempt to locate sources for zikhronot or shofarot. The Rashba suggests that once we find acceptable sources for malkhuyot, the reasoning works for the others, as well. The Talmud Yerushalmi does make other suggestions, however. According to the Yerushalmi, ten zikhronot are suggested by the ten expressions of repentance in the first perek of Yeshayahu (1:16-18), and ten shofarot commemorate the sacrifices brought during musaf of Rosh HaShana in the Temple, each of which was accompanied by the sounding of the shofar.

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