One Who Forgets Hamelech Hakadosh by Rabbi Chaim Jachter



A common problem which arises on Rosh Hashana is that of one who forgets to recite  the bracha of Hamelech Hakadosh in Shmoneh Esrei.  We will survey this topic from the, Rishonim, Acharonim, to the late twentieth century authorities and outline the various opinions which have emerged over the centuries. 


The  (Brachot 12B) cites the opinion of Rav that during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah we switch from saying "Hakeil Hakadosh" to "Hamelech Hakadosh."  Rashi explains that we make the switch "because on these days God reveals His majesty when He judges the world."  This parallels other tefilot of Rosh Hashana in which God's kingdom is a recurring theme.  Indeed, Rav Soloveitchik once commented to this author that Rosh Hashanah should be characterized as the Yom Hamlucha, the day of coronation of God as our King.  Hence, we emphasize God's kingship especially on Rosh Hashana, and throughout the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.  The Gemara  then proceeds to record a debate between Rabba and Rav Yosef regarding the halacha if one forgot to switch the bracha and mistakenly uttered Hakeil Hakadosh during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.  Rav Yosef rules that one need not repeat Shmoneh Esrei if this happens.  However, Rabba rules that one must repeat Shmoneh Esrei.  The Gemara rules in accordance with the view that in case of error Shmoneh Esrei must be repeated. 

Rishonim and Shulchan Aruch

Almost all of the Rishonim (e.g. Rambam, Hilchot Tefillah 5:12, Rif, Rosh 1:16, Ramban in the Milchamot Hashem) rule in accordance with Rabba.  This is hardly surprising in light of the fact that the Gemara explicitly rules in accordance with Rabba's view.  Moreover, the general rule is that the halacha follows Rabba in his disputes with Rav Yosef.  The Baal Hamaor, however, rules that one need not repeat Shmoneh Esrei if he mistakenly said Hakeil Hakadosh.  This ruling stems from the Baal Hamaor's unique understanding of this Gemara.  The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 582:1) rules in accordance with the consensus view that Shmoneh Esrei must be repeated if Hamelech Hakadosh was not recited.  Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch rules that if one is uncertain if he uttered Hamelech Hakadosh he must repeat Shmoneh Esrei. 

The Mishnah Brurah (582:4) notes an important exception to this rule.  Citing the Teshuvot Mayim Chaim (O.C. 22), he presents the possibility that if one is uncertain if he recited Hamelech Hakadosh on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur but he recited the lengthy beginning of this bracha unique to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, ____ __ ____, then he may assume that he properly concluded the bracha by saying Hamelech Hakadosh.  One should consult his halachic advisor for guidance if such a situation occurs since the Mishnah Brurah merely presents this approach as a possibility but does not definitively rule in accordance with this leniency.

The Approach of Rav Abele Pasvelirer

The Chayei Adam (24:10) cites an interesting opinion on this issue in the name of Rav Abele Pasvelirer (Rav Soloveitchik mentioned in a shiur at Yeshiva University that Rav Pasvelirer was a member of the Beit Din of the Vilna Gaon).  This authority asserts that even if one knows with certainty that he omitted Hamelech Hakadosh on the evenings of Rosh Hashanah, he need not repeat Shmoneh Esrei. This authority believes that the omission of Hamelech Hakadosh during Maariv on Rosh Hashanah is identical to the question which arises with regard to omitting Yaaleh V'yavoh at Maariv on Rosh Chodesh.  Regarding the latter scenario, the Gemara (Brachot 30b) states in the name of Rav that one is not required to repeat Shmoneh Esrei.  The reason for this rule, states the Gemara, is that Beit Din does not sanctify the moon at night. Rav Pasvelirer argues that the same reasoning applies to one who forgets to recite Hamelech Hakodesh at Maariv during Rosh Hashanah, since Rosh Hashanah is also Rosh Chodesh.

Rav Abele's ruling is based on his understanding of the Gemara that the night of Rosh Chodesh (and Rosh Hashanah) is not "fully" Rosh Chodesh.  This results from the fact that Beit Din did not sanctify the day as Rosh Chodesh yet.  Similarly, the night of Rosh Hashanah is not "fully" Rosh Hashanah since Beit Din did not sanctify the day as Rosh Chodesh yet.  Thus, the omission of Hamelech Hakadosh and Yaaleh V'yavoh are not so critical and thus Shmoneh Esrei need not be repeated.

Criticism of Rav Abele's Ruling

Acharonim have expressed a mixed reviews of Rav Abele's ruling.  The Chayei Adam cites this view as normative.  On the other hand, the Mishna Brurah (Shaar Hatziyun 582:4) and Teshuvot Beit Halevi (1:42) both rejected Rav Abele's ruling.  They both reasoned that Rav Abele's ruling would make sense only if he recited a weekday Shmoneh Esrei instead of the Rosh Hashanah Shmoneh Esrei.  However, one who recites the Rosh Hashanah Shmoneh Esrei does not discharge his obligation unless he recites the appropriate Rosh Hashanah Shmoneh Esrei including the brachah of Hamelech Hakadosh. 

Defense of the ruling of Rav Abele

A number of Acharonim , however, defend Rav Abele's ruling.  These authorities include Rav Eliezer Waldenburg (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 9:29:4), and Rav Shlomo of Vilna (Teshuvot Binyan Shlomo, addendum 18).  They point in defense of Rav Abele to the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 8b) which states that "the heavenly court does not begin to sit in judgment until the Earthly Rabbinic Court sanctifies the [month of Tishrei]."  These authorities argue that the night of Rosh Hashana certainly bears the status of Rosh Hashana and thus requires one to recite the special Shmoneh Esrei of Rosh Hashana.  However, reciting Hamelech Hakadosh is contingent upon God's sitting in judgment which does not begin until the morning of Rosh Hashana.  Thus, they reason, the requirement to recite Hamelech Hakadosh at night is entirely analogous to the recital of Yaaleh V'yavoh at night.  Therefore, if one forgot to say Hamelech Hakadosh at night he need not repeat Shmoneh Esrei.

Rav Soloveitchik's Criticism of Rav Abele's Ruling

Rav Soloveitchik, however, devoted an entire Yahrtzeit lecture to disprove Rav Abele's ruling (Shiurim L'Zecher Aba Mori z"l 1:113-134).  It seems that while the approach of the  aforementioned authorities defends Rav Abele's ruling from the Mishna Brura's criticism, it does not successfully defend Rav Abele's ruling from Rav Soloveitchik's thorough criticism.

Rav Soloveitchik criticized Rav Abele's ruling both textually and logically.  Rav Soloveitchik notes the absence of any evidence in the Gemara and Rishonim for Rav Abele's ruling.  Were Rav Abele's ruling to be correct, his predecessors would have made this distinction.  The absence of such supporting statements would indicate that Rav Abele's opinion is incorrect.

Moreover, Rav Soloveitchik develops at great length an explanation of Brachot 30b which convincingly accounts for the absence of textual support for Rav Abele's position.  Rav Soloveitchik explains that the reason why it is not necessary to repeat Yaaleh V'yavoh on Rosh Chodesh evening is not due to the fact that it is not yet "fully"  Rosh Chodesh.  Nor is it due to the absence of an obligation to recite Yaaleh V'yavoh until Beit Din sanctifies the New Moon.

Rather, Rav Soloveitchik explains, two aspects are inherent within the obligation to say Yaaleh V'yavoh.  The first is the requirement to mention the ____ __À___, the special facet of the day of Rosh Chodesh.  This obligation, which applies on every holiday, requires us to mention the uniqueness of the day, in Shmoneh Esrei.  The second aspect of Yaaleh V'yavoh is that our recital of Yaaleh V'yavoh greatly contributes to establishing the day as Rosh Chodesh.

The latter point stems from one of the seminal themes in Rav Soloveitchik's halachic writings.  Namely, that fundamentally it is Am Yisrael who is obligated to establish the new moon.  In the time that Sanhedrin established the new moon, the Sanhedrin acted as representatives for the rest of Am Yisrael.  In the absence of the Sanhedrin, all the members of Am Yisrael establish Rosh Chodesh, themselves.  Our recital of Yaaleh V'yavoh in Shmoneh Esrei plays a major role in establishing the day as Rosh Chodesh.

In the evening of Rosh Chodesh, Yaaleh V'yavoh does not have these two aspects since Rosh Chodesh is established only during the daytime.  Thus, at night Yaaleh V'yavoh is recited only to mention the unique character of Rosh Chodesh.  The inadvertent omission of the special character of Rosh Chodesh does not require an individual to repeat Shmoneh Esrei.  Similarly, if one omits "Al Hannissim" on Chanukkah or Purim he is not required to repeat Shmone Esrei.  Only the omission of Yaaleh V'yavoh when it serves to establish the day as Rosh Chodesh is deemed so critical as to warrant the repetition of Shmoneh Esrei.

Accordingly, we understand why the rule regarding omitting Yaaleh V'yavoh at night has no relevance to the omission of Hamelech Hakadosh on the night of Rosh Hashana.  The rule regarding the omission of Yaaleh V'yavoh at night is entirely unique to this rule and one may not extrapolate from this rule to the Hamelech Hakadosh situation.  Hamelech Hakadosh is an integral component of the Rosh Hashana Tefilla and halacha demands the repetition of Shmoneh Esrei if it is omitted.


It appears that Rav Soloveitchik has demonstrated quite persuasively the correctness of the ruling of the Mishna Brurah, Beit Halevi, and Rav Yosef Shaul Natanson (Teshuvot Shoel U'meishiv, 2:3:125) that one must repeat Shmoneh Esrei even if he forgets Hamelech Hakadosh at night during Rosh Hashana.  One should consult his Rav for guidance should this issue arise. _____ ______ ____.

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