By Rabbi Baruch Davis
Rosh Hashanah is a day of prayers, themes of Judaism and Jewish history. I will focus on one famous story in our prayers which portrays some of the most central themes of the day. The haftarah for the first day, from the Biblical book of Shmuel (Samuel) is about Hannah’s heartrending plea for a child, the subsequent birth of her son Shmuel and her prayer of thanksgiving. Linking this story to Rosh Hashanah, the Talmud (Berachot 29a) states that the nine blessings in the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf Amidah recall the nine times that G-d’s Name is mentioned in Hannah’s prayer.
Why does the Talmud make this link? Study of Hannah’s prayer reveals three particular themes, each of which inspires the three middle sections of the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf Amidah:
1. Malchiyot (Kingship) of G-d – “There is none as holy as G-d for there is none other than You and no rock like our L-d” (1 Shmuel 2:2). We yearn for a fair and just world under G-d’s leadership. Accepting G-d’s Kingship is the teshuva of Rosh Hashanah, our return to G-d.
2. Zichronot (G-d’s Providence and Remembrance) – “He lifts up the poor from the dust and the destitute out of the refuse heap” (ibid verse 8). The remembrance of all of Creation comes before G-d on Rosh Hashanah. As well as Hannah, we particularly recall the faith of Avraham, Yitzchak and the post-Exodus generation of the desert, asking especially that in their merit, G-d also remembers us favourably.
3. Shofarot (including prayers for Salvation) – “G-d’s opponents shall be broken… may He lift the horn of His anointed One…” (ibid verse 10). Hannah is not merely concerned with her own situation but also prays for the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people. This is reflected in the Shofarot Mussaf blessing: “And it shall be on that day [of general redemption] that there shall be a great blast of the shofar…”
Each of these sections in the repetition of Musaf concludes with shofar blowing, reflecting acceptance of the three themes described above. We conclude the Shofarot blessing praying that, “He will listen to the sound of the shofar blast of His people with mercy” so that the shofar of our ultimate redemption will be sounded. May we receive these blessings in full this year. Shana Tovah.