By Rabbi Yehuda Black, Kenton United Synagogue
The third blessing of the special High Holyday Amidah (standing prayer) focuses on the holiness and separateness of G-d. Whilst this is also the theme of the third blessing in the normal, daily Amidah, there are a few major differences.
The end of the blessing during the High Holydays refers to ’the Holy King’, instead of ‘Holy G-d’, which is the normal term. The theme of these days is G-d’s kingship. This emphasis is so important that if one mistakenly forgot this unique ending, one has to start the Amidah again.
In addition, the blessing veers off on a very different tangent. During the year, the third blessing is comprised of one small paragraph. However, on this occasion, the blessing is split up into five small paragraphs. The three middle (of these five) paragraphs open with the Hebrew word ‘Uv’chen’, roughly translated as ‘and so too’.
- The first paragraph details how G-d is perceived by all of His creations and instils in them an intense feeling of trepidation and fear. It then looks to the future time when humanity will all gather together to fulfil G-d’s will.
- The next paragraph speaks of how the Jewish people will be honoured to serve Him in the Land after the fulfilment of Messianic prophecies.
- The third paragraph speaks about how the righteous and upright will serve Him and how negativity will be uprooted from society.
It is notable that the three paragraphs progress from a universal message to the honour bestowed specifically upon the Jewish people; and then emphasises the righteous individuals within the community.
Rabbi David Avudraham (14th century) remarks that the word Uv’chen has a deep connection with the story of Esther that we read on Purim. After utilising all the means at her disposal – prayer and fasting – Esther came before King Achashverosh, not knowing her fate. She also used the term Uv’chen – “and so too I come before the king” (Megillat Esther 4:16). She did not know what her fate and that of her people would be. This reflects our attitude as we come before the King of kings with our prayers and fasting at this serious time of reflection.