Introduction - Shulchan Aruch vs. Rama
The Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (Orach Chaim 598) debate whether Tzidkatcha Tzedek should be recited when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat. Many Sephardic congregations follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch to recite Tzikatcha Tzedek when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat and Ashkenazic congregations follow the ruling of the Rama to omit it. The Ran (9a in the pages of the Rif s.v. Michlal) and the Beit Yosef (O.C. 598) note that this dispute has been raging since the time of the Geonim.
An Analysis of this Dispute
The point of departure for this debate is the rule (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 292:2) that we do not recite Tzikatcha Tzedek on a day that we would not recite Tachanun if it was a weekday. Tzidkatcha is recited for somber reasons and thus it is inappropriate to recite it on a happy occasion. The Mishnah Berurah (292:6) presents two explanations for the recitation of Tzidkatcha. One is that we engage in Tzidduk Hadin (justification of Hashem’s decree) for the deaths of Yosef HaTzadik, Moshe Rabbeinu, and David HaMelech all of whom died on Shabbat afternoon. The other explanation why we justify the judgment of Hashem at this time is that the wicked return to Gehinnom after receiving a respite on Shabbat from their punishment.
The Ran (ad. loc.) explains that the debate whether to recite Tzidkatcha Tzedek when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat hinges on the question whether Rosh Hashanah is a somewhat joyous day. The Geonim who believe that it should be recited argue that just as Hallel is omitted on Rosh Hashanah due to the somber nature of the day (see Rosh Hashanah 32b), Tzidkatcha Tzedek should be recited on Rosh Hashanah because it is an appropriate recitation for a somber occasion. On the other hand, other Geonim believe that Rosh Hashanah is a somewhat joyous day and thus it is inappropriate to recite Tzidkatcha Tzedek on Rosh Hashanah. The Taz (O.C. 598:1) and Vilna Gaon (ibid) explain that the Rama rules that Tzidkatcha should be omitted on Rosh Hashanah because Rosh Hashanah is a Yom Tov.
A Problem with this Dispute
A problem with the dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama is that it appears to contradict the dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (O.C.597) whether it is appropriate to fast on Rosh Hashanah. The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is inappropriate to fast on Rosh Hashanah because it is a day of joy, albeit restrained joy. The Rama, on the other hand, presents an opinion that it is a Mitzvah to fast on Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, Rav Bezalel Zolti (who served as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi during the 1980’s) develops an approach (Mishnat Yaavetz O.C. 50) that the dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama regarding the permissibility of fasting on Rosh Hashanah is a manifestation of a fundamental dispute between Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions whether there is a Mitzvah to rejoice on Rosh Hashanah.
We presented Rav Zolti’s approach in an essay printed in Kol Torah two years ago and is available on the Kol Torah website, www.koltorah.org. We may add that this dispute is reflected in the divergence in the melodies and liturgy of Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. It is obvious to anyone who has attended both Ashkenazic and Sephardic prayer services on Rosh Hashanah that the Ashkenazic Rosh Hashanah melodies are somber and that the Sephardic melodies on Rosh Hashanah are upbeat. Indeed, Ashkenazic Jews find it shocking that the Unitaneh Tokef Piyut is not a standard part of the Sephardic liturgy. This, however, seems to reflect this debate whether there is an element of Simcha on Rosh Hashanah. Unitaneh Tokef reflects the somber mood of Rosh Hashanah in accordance with the Ashkenazic tradition. On the other hand, most Sephardic Jews do not recite this Piyut perhaps because it is not in harmony with the Sephardic tradition that believes that there is an aspect of Simcha on Rosh Hashanah.
Accordingly, it appears contradictory that the Shulchan Aruch rules that one should recite Tzidkatcha on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbat and the Rama rules that it should be omitted. Indeed, the Kaf HaChaim (a major early twentieth century Sephardic authority) records (O.C. 598:1) that there are some Sephardic Jews who do not recite Tzidkatcha Tzedek when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, and the Kaf HaChaim regards this Minhag as a legitimate alternative. This alternative Minhag might have emerged because of the seeming contradiction that we have outlined. We should note that no consensus has emerged among Sephardic Jews regarding this practice. Sephardic Siddurim that follow the rulings of Rav Ovadia Yosef state that Tzidkatcha Tzedek should be recited when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat while other Sephardic Siddurim state that it should not be recited.
Resolving the Problem
A resolution to the seeming contradiction of the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama may be found by carefully examining the words of the Beit Yosef (ad. loc.). The Beit Yosef explains that the Sephardic practice to recite Tzidkatcha Tzedek on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbat is based on the ruling of Rav Amram Gaon that it is appropriate to recite Tzidkatcha on Rosh Hashanah because it is a day of judgment. Reciting Tzidkatcha constitutes an acceptance and justification of Hashem’s judgments that He makes on Rosh Hashanah. The Beit Yosef, unlike the Ran, does not mention that Tzidkatcha is recited when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat because of the somber nature of Rosh Hashanah. Accordingly, the recitation of Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat (according to the Sephardic tradition) differs from the standard recitation of Tzidkatcha on an ordinary Shabbat. The recitation of Tzidkatcha on an ordinary Shabbat is an expression of Tzidduk Hadin for the deaths of Yosef HaTzadik, Moshe Rabbeinu, and David HaMelech. The recitation of Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat is an expression of our acceptance and justification of Hashem’s judgments on Rosh Hashanah.
Furthermore, one may assert that the Sephardic practice to recite Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat is entirely consistent with the general Sephardic approach to Rosh Hashanah. One could argue that the Sephardic tradition to regard Rosh Hashanah as a somewhat joyous day is based on the idea that one should maintain a confident attitude on Rosh Hashanah that Hashem will judge us positively, especially in regards to Hashem’s judgment of Am Yisrael as a whole. Thus Sephardic tradition is to confidently assert Tzidduk Hadin in the form of Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat.
Ashkenazic tradition does not accept this approach because its attitude towards Rosh Hashanah is one of dread and trepidation. Thus Ashkenazic tradition cannot countenance an expression of Tzidduk Hadin on Rosh Hashanah because of its belief that one should experience utter trepidation in the face of Hashem’s judgment on this day.
This dispute whether one should be confident or fearful on Rosh Hashanah appears on Rosh Hashanah 26b. The Gemara presents this as the root of the dispute among the Tannaitic sages whether the Shofar used on Rosh Hashanah should be bent or curved. The opinion that believes that the Shofar should be straight believes that the shape of the Shofar should reflect the confident attitude that one should maintain on Rosh Hashanah. The other opinion believes that the bent shape of the Shofar reflects the humble approach that one should adopt for Rosh Hashanah.
The Sephardic tradition apparently maintains that although it is accepted that the Shofar used for Rosh Hashanah should be bent, this does attitude does not extend to other matters regarding Rosh Hashanah. Perhaps Sephardic tradition believes it sufficient to express one’s humility on Rosh Hashanah via the shape of the Shofar but one should be confident regarding other matters of the day.
Moreover, the Beit Yosef presents the reason for the Jews of Narbonne (Southern France) to omit Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat as based on the fact that it is also Rosh Chodesh and not because of there is an element of Simcha on Rosh Hashanah. Indeed, both the Mishnah Berurah (598:1) and the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 598:2) refer in their explanation of the Rama’s ruling that Tzidkatcha should be recited when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, to the fact that Rosh Hashanah is also Rosh Chodesh as a reason to omit Tzidkatcha. The Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan refer to this point, unlike the Taz and the Vilna Gaon who do not. Perhaps the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan include the reason of the Beit Yosef (the element of Rosh Chodesh) to resolve the seeming contradiction that we outlined above. It is necessary to invoke Rosh Chodesh as a reason to omit Tzidkatcha because Rosh Hashanah is a solemn day according to the Rama and does not present sufficient cause to omit Tzidkatcha.
Indeed, both Sephardim and Ashkenazim implicitly refer to the fact that Rosh Hashanah is also Rosh Chodesh in Tefillat Mussaf when mentioning Musfei Yom Hazikkaron, the two Mussafs that are offered on Rosh Hashanah – the Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah and the Mussaf of Rosh Chodesh (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 591:3 and Rama O.C. 591:2). However, the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama (ad. loc.) debate whether one should state after mentioning the Korban Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah, “Milvad Olat HaChodesh Uminchata”, in addition to the Mussaf of Rosh Chodesh. Perhaps the Shulchan Aruch does not consider Rosh Chodesh as a reason to excuse us from reciting Tzidkatcha when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat because the phenomenon of Rosh Chodesh is muted on Rosh Hashanah according to Sephardic tradition. For further discussion of the role of Rosh Chodesh on Rosh Hashanah, see Tosafot Rosh Hashanah 8b s.v. She’ha’chodesh and the Beit Yosef (O.C. 591).
Tzidkatcha on Yom Kippur that Falls on Shabbat
The Shulchan Aruch and Rama (O.C. 622:3) also disagree whether Tzidkatcha should be recited on Yom Kippur that falls on Shabbat. The Vilna Gaon (Biur HaGra O.C. 622:3) believes that this dispute is conceptually identical with the dispute regarding Rosh Hashanah. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Rama believes that both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have an element of Simcha (see Rambam Hilchot Chanukah 3:6) that makes it inappropriate to recite Tzidkatcha on either day. The Mishnah Berurah (622:12) only cites the explanation of the Levush that since Tzidkatcha alludes to Hashem’s punishment of the wicked in a profound manner (“Mishpatecha Tehom Rabba”), it is inappropriate to mention this on Yom Kippur when we seek Hashem’s mercy. It is possible that the reason that the Mishnah Berurah does not cite the Vilna Gaon’s explanation is that his explanation of the Rama does not resolve the contradiction that we discussed above.
The Beit Yosef (O.C. 622) explains that it is appropriate to recite Tzidkatcha on Yom Kippur because it is a day of “Inui” (affliction) and thus the recitation of Tzidkatcha is in keeping with the spirit of the day. The Shulchan Aruch is not concerned with mentioning “Mishpatecha Tehom Rabba” because the Sephardic tradition is to approach even Yom Kippur with a measure of confidence as expressed in the upbeat Sephardic melodies for the Yom Kippur Tefillah.
We have devoted a full discussion to what appears to be a very minor aspect of the Tefillah of Rosh Hashanah. However, it is exceedingly worthwhile doing so because it demonstrates the care and precision that Chazal, Rishonim, and Acharonim devote to every detail regarding Tefillah. This should motivate us to upgrade our level of concentration to every aspect of Tefillah (especially on Rosh Hashanah) because every letter of every Tefiilah is formulated with extreme care.
A source for the Ashkenazic approach that there is no Mitzvah to rejoice on Rosh Hashanah might be the fact that the Mitzvah to rejoice on a Chag is presented only in Parashat Re’eh, where Rosh Hashanah is not mentioned. This might prove that Simcha on Yom Tov is inexorably linked to the Mitzvah of Aliyah Liregel that is mentioned in Parashat Re’eh and does not apply to Rosh Hashanah.
There is a difference between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic liturgies whether to say “Mi Sheanah L’Choni Bimaagal Hu Yaaneinu,” “the One who responded to Choni in the circle He shall answer us,” in Selichot. It is possible that this dispute reflects the argument between the Sephardic and Ashkenazic traditions regarding the approach one takes to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Sephardic tradition is to cite the confident approach of Choni the circle maker who demanded that Hashem respond to his plea for rain. The Ashkenazic tradition does not cite the confident precedent of Choni because it is not in harmony with the humble approach that the Ashkenazic tradition wants one to have on these all-important days.