HaKel HaGadol

February 21, 2013

Tefillah Tips Hakel

This opening prayer of Shacharit extols the strength, greatness and awesomeness of G-d. It then states that indeed G-d shall be praised, blessed and sanctified by all of Israel i.e. from the upright, the righteous, the pious as well as the holy ones. The Aruch Hashulchan – Rabbi Yechiel Michel HaLevy Epstein (1829-1908) writes in chapter 53:1 that in earlier times the entire Pesukei Dezimra – Opening psalms of the Morning Prayers were recited without a leader; and the Chazzan –Cantorial leader would begin with Yishtabach. Nowadays, in a majority of synagogues a leader begins with the morning blessings, continues through Pesukei Dezimrah, and a different Shaliach Tzibbur ascends the Amud /platform at Yishtabach.It is interesting to note where the Shaliach Tzibbur begins chanting on Shabbat, in contrast to the Shalosh Regalim i.e. Pesach, Shavuoth, Sukkoth and the Yamim Noraim i.e. Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. On Shabbat he begins with Shochein Ad, on Regalim, Ha-kel Betaatzumot Uzecha, and on the High Holidays with Hamelech. The Tashbatz – Rav Shimon ben Tzemach Duran (1300s) explains that this is because on these different days, unique and different ideas are accentuated in our prayers. On the High Holidays, since G-d is meting out judgment for the world, the Chazzan begins HaMelech-The King.. On the festivals we recognize G-d’s strength and involvement in His world through the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai so the Chazzan begins Ha-kel Betaatzumot Uzecha-G-d who is intrinsically powerful – which emphasizes G-d’s immeasurable strength and power. Finally on Shabbat, we focus on G-d as Creator as well the future Redeemer so the Chazzan begins Shochein Ad- He dwells on high – which expresses our wonder and awe of G-d and His Holiness. I would like to point out two interesting patterns embedded within the Ha-kel Betaatzumot Uzecha and the Shochein Ad. Ha-kel Betaatzumot Uzecha, Hagadol Bichvod Shimecha, HaGibor Lanetzach… Vehanorah…. 1. These same words that are used in our introduction to Shacharit match the beginning of the silent Amida – Ha-Kel, Hagadol, Hagibr Vehanorah as if to indicate we are beginning the section of Shacharit that culminates in our recitation of the Amidah-Silent Meditative Benedictions which addresses Ha-Kel, Hagadol, Hagibr Vehanorah – The powerful, great, mighty and awesome One . 2. In the section Befi Yesharim… the beginning letter of each 2nd word – Yesharim, Tzaddikim, Chassidim, Kedoshim spells out Yitzchak and the 3rd letter of each 3rd word TitRomam, TitBarach, TitKadash and TitHallal contain the letters that spell out Rifkah. The names of the author, an early liturgist named Yitzchak, and his wife are embedded in the words of this tefillah.