There is a well known rule (Berachot 12b) that during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, rather than completing the third Berachah of Shemonah Esrei “HaKeil HaKadosh,” “The holy God” like we do during the rest of the year, we conclude “HaMelech HaKadosh,” “The holy King.” The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 582:1) writes that if, during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, one either forgets to say HaMelech HaKadosh or is unsure if he said it, he must repeat Shemonah Esrei. However, the Chayei Adam (24:10) quotes Rav Avlei Possvaler, who writes that although one repeats Shemonah Esrei if he said HaKeil HaKadosh during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, he does not repeat it on the first night of Rosh HaShanah. Rav Possvaler explains that Rosh HaShanah can be compared to Rosh Chodesh. On Rosh Chodesh night, if one forgets Yaaleh VeYavo in Shemonah Esrei, he does not have to repeat Shemonah Esrei. The reason for this is that in the time of the Beit HaMikdash, the status of a night as Rosh Chodesh was determined only on the following day (by the Sanhedrin), and therefore no one could ever be sure if a night was Rosh Chodesh. Similarly, if one makes a mistake in the Rosh HaShanah davening on the first night and says HaKeil HaKadosh, we should not make him go back due to the lack of certainty in the status of the day.
Many authorities challenge Rav Possvaler’s approach. The Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah state explicitly (Berachot 24a in the Rif’s pages) that if one made a mistake on the night of Rosh HaShanah and said the weekday davening instead of the Yom Tov davening, he would have to repeat Shemonah Esrei. However, according to Rav Possvaler’s logic, one should not have to repeat Shemonah Esrei; after all, the first night of Rosh HaShanah is not yet positively Rosh HaShanah. Apparently, the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah felt that Rosh HaShanah night cannot be compared to all other Roshei Chodesh and that one must repeat Shemonah Esrei for mistakes made on that night. This is especially troubling for Rav Possvaler, since the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah, considered Rishonim, carry much more weight than he, an Acharon.
The She’eilot UTeshuvot Binyan Shlomo attempts to answer the question against Rav Possvaler. The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 8b) derives from the Pasuk, “Ki Chok LeYisrael Hu,” “It is a statute of Yisrael” (Tehillim 81:5) that the Beit Din in Shamayim (Hashem) does not sit in judgment until the Beit Din on Earth (the Sanhedrin) has announced the new month of Tishrei. HaMelech HaKadosh is said only when the world is being judged. This is not clear or absolute on the first night of Rosh HaShanah, since the day’s status is still in doubt. Why, then, did the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah require one to repeat the Shemonah Esrei if he accidentally said a weekday version? Since the Rosh HaShanah Shemonah Esrei is not as connected to Rosh HaShanah’s quality of being a day of judgment as is HaMelech HaKadosh, it does not necessarily need the confirmation of the date by the Sanhedrin. Thus, the Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah dos not conflict with Rav Possvaler. HaMelech HaKadosh is unlike the rest of the Shemonah Esrei, since it specifically requires the quality of judgment. It therefore makes sense to say that forgetting it would not require a repetition of the Shemonah Esrei on the first night of Rosh HaShanah.
(It should be noted that nothing in this article should be taken as Halachah LeMaaseh; all questions should be directed towards one’s local orthodox Rabbi.)
- Adapted from a Dvar Torah written in the Sefer Torah LaDaat.