Monday, April 28, 2008

Yaaleh V'Yavo: A prayer that moves, literally

I would happily give credit b'shem chazzani, in the name of my cantor, but I don't dare name him lest I risk losing what's left of my anonymity. So let me just tell you the story:

Why, I asked him, does the Yaaleh V’Yavo prayer, which we recite on Shalosh R’galim/Pilgrimage Festivals, Chol HaMoed (intermediate days of Shalosh R’galim, when some work activities are permitted), and Rosh Chodesh (roughly. the first day of a month) appear in different places in the Amidah prayer in different services? On Rosh Chodesh and during Chol HaMoed, it appears in the brachah/blessing that ends “ha-machazir sh’chinato l’Tzion (. . . who restores His Presence/Spirit to Zion”), but on the non-working days of the Shalosh R’galim, it appears in the brachah that ends “m’kadesh [haShabbat v’] Yisrael v’ha-z’manim (. . . who sanctifies [the Sabbath and] Israel [meaning the descendants of the Patriarch Isaac/Israel] and the seasons).

My chazzan said that, during the first and last days (the non-working days) of the Shalosh R’galim, Yaalev V'Yavo is an integral part of the prayers specific to those days, and therefore, is included in the blessing that’s specific to those days. It is not, however, an integral part of the petitionary brachot recited only on weekdays (from chonen ha-daat [roughly, thanks for giving us knowledge) through sh’ma koleinu [“hear our voice”]), and so it had to be placed in a brachah that comes after sh’ma koleinu.

Ah-hah! Thanks, Cantor!

So that’s why I have to be so careful not to forget to say Yaaleh V'Yavo on Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed—since I learned the Amidah for the Shalosh R’galim first, I literally don’t expect to find Yaaleh V'Yavo in the place in the Amidah in which it’s recited on Rosh Chodesh and Chol HaMoed! The only trick I’ve found is that, when I get to the beginning of the brachah that starts “r’tzei” and ends “ha-machazir sh’chinato l’Tzion,” I must literally cover the end of the brachah with my hand so that I don’t accidentally skip Yaaleh V’Yavo, which is in the middle.


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