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A Cry For Mercy

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 31/8/2019

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A Cry For Mercy

We blow the Shofar during the month of Elul- which consists of 29 days- as well as the two days of Rosh Hashana. This gives us a total of 31. However, the Shofar is not blown on Shabbos[1] and Erev Rosh Hashana.[2] Subtracting these five days (the four Shabbosim in Elul and Erev Rosh Hashana), we have 26 days where it is blown. 26 is the numerical value of י-ה-ו-ה, the name of Hashem that represents רחמים; mercy.[3] This is what we especially desire during this time of year.


Blowing the Shofar arouses Hashem’s mercy. This is shown in the beginning of the Torah. Counting 26 letters from the ש of השמים in the first Pasuk in the Torah we have a ו (of ובהו). 26 letters later is a פ (of מרחפת) followed by a ר (of אור) in another 26 letters.[4] These letters comprise the word שופר.


                It says תקעו בחדש שופר בכסה ליום חגנו; blow the Shofar…[5] The letters that precede[6] חדש spell גזר. That is, before a ח is ז, before a ד is ג and before ש is ר. Let us do the same with שפר. Before ש is ר, before פ is ע and before ר is ק. These letters spell קרע. Lastly, let us do the same to כסה. Before a כ is י, before ס is נ and before ה is ד. That spells דין. So, we have קרע גזר דין which is alluding to that through the Shofar, a decree can be torn up![7]


The Panim Yafos[8] tells us that during these days we say לדוד ה' אורי because it says Hashem’s name in it 13 times, corresponding to the 13 attributes of mercy.


During these days, we want רחמים. [9] As a result, we say י-ה-ו-ה, the name of Hashem that represents רחמים, in לדוד ה' אורי 13 times. Since we recite it twice daily, we mention the name י-ה-ו-ה 26 times! 26, the sum of י-ה-ו-ה![10]  


The Bnei Yissaschar explains the idea of dipping the Challa in honey: דבש has an equivalent of 306, the same as אב הרחמים and like we say during עשרת ימי תשובה in the second Bracha of Shemoneh Esrei- אב הרחמים. [11]

R’ Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. R’ Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Rosh Hashana 29b. Indeed, שבת is an acronym for שבת במקום תרועה.

[2] Rema in Orach Chaim, 581:3

[3] Breishis, Rashi 1:1

[4] Breishis 1:1-3

[5] Tehillim 81:4

[6] See Shaar Hakavanos, Inyan Pesach, Drush 2 regarding the method of exchanging letters with those that precede it. 

[7] Taamai Haminhagim, pg 316, s.v. עוד שם. Panim Yafos, Emor, s.v.ויש לרמז.

[8] Acharei Mos, s.v. והנה נהגו. The Pasuk states כנשר יעיר קנו...; like an eagle arousing his nest… (Devarim 32:11). An eagle is merciful toward his children and doesn’t enter his nest suddenly until he flaps and shakes above his children with his wings so that his children will awake and have the strength to receive him (Rashi s.v. כנשר). The same applies here as Hashem doesn't just place judgment before us rather He first gives us an Elul to do Teshuva. 

[9] The name אדנ-י represents דין. The א (which has a numerical value of 1) refers to Rosh Hashana because that is the beginning of the year.  The י hints to יום כפור (י also has a Gematria of 10 and Yom Kippur is the 10th of Tishrei). The two middle letters (אדנ) spell דן because this is when we are judged (See Maharsha to Kidushin 71a, s.v.זה שמי).

[10] See Tammai Haminhagim, pg 328 quoting the Zera Kodesh as to why we eat Kreplach (meat wrapped in dough) on Erev Yom Kippur.

[11] According to those who say אב הרחמן, it also fits, as that too has a sum of 306.  

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