Blog

Mishkan HaNefesh, Rosh Hashanah p. 138

This text focuses on a small but meaningful High Holy Day adaptation in the HaMelech prayer. It is a prayer which we do not recite in our regular Temple Israel tefillah, which makes this stirring depiction of God as a ruling sovereign all the more vivid and impactful for these Days of Awe.

MAJESTIC GOD, TODAY ENTHRONED המלך יושב על כסא Throughout the year, this prayer describes God
as HaMelech hayosheiv -- literally, "the Sovereign who sits [on a throne]." On Rosh HaShanah and Yom
Kippur, the wording changes to a dramatic proclamation: HaMelech yosheiv -- literally, "the Sovereign is 
sitting [on a throne]." This small and often unnoticed change evokes the immediacy of God's presence of 
the Days of Awe. These words announce: "Court is now in session"; on this day, we are summoned 
before the Sovereign of the universe who sits in judgement of our deeds. Like all human images of God, 
this one cannot be taken as a literal description. Yet it conveys the sense we share with our ancestors that 
we are accountable for our actions, responsible to a Power beyond ourselves.

Excerpts from Mishkan HaNefesh: Machzor for the Days of Awe © 2015 are under the copyright protection of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and used by permission of the CCAR. All rights reserved.