Power of Three
September 21, 2023
From the Machzor’s Pages
Its pages are curled with age, letters rippled with previous years’ tears.
Or maybe they’re new—crisp leaves, jet-black, pure white.
The machzor holds our secret moments.
It catches our desperate supplications, our hushed awe and wonderment, our prayerful whispers of longing for connection.
In this piece, some of the people you’ve met on our pages share which tefillos awaken their souls.
Yud-Gimmel Middos Harachamim
All the tefillos are special and important; Chazal, with ruach hakodesh, authored and organized the various parts of tefillah in a way that is most effective. Nevertheless, the yud-gimmel middos harachamim perhaps touch me the most, as they have incredible power. They unleash unfathomable Divine compassion from one of the highest realms, even for people who are undeserving. The Torah itself refers to them as wondrous.
Rav Dov Kahan, rav of Khal Rayim Ahuvim
Tefillas Zakkah is meaningful because it encourages deep personal reflection and sets the tone for Yom Kippur. It reflects on my actions and my desire for improvement and growth.
Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsburg, educator and educational consultant
Selichos and Tefillos
Bli neder, I review the Selichos and tefillos ahead of Yom Tov. Those tefillos that I learn with the meforshim have special resonance during davening.
Rav Yosef Fund, rav of Khal Beis Ahron
The Avodah may be the closest we get to knowing how things were done in the Beis Hamikdash. We talk about the kohen gadol going into the Kodesh Hakodashim and saying the Sheim Hameforash and how Klal Yisrael responded with trembling and awe.
It’s worth mentioning that the sefarim explain that every person has their own Beis Hamikdash, their own place where the Shechinah dwells. On Yom Kippur, we each go into our own Kodesh Hakodashim, which is mechaper on any tumas hanefesh. We tap into the depths of our neshamah to find kapparah in our personal Beis Hamikdash.
Rabbi Kalman Katz, rosh kollel in Lakewood
Ki Anu Amecha
This tefillah describes the essence of our relationship with Hashem, which is the focus of the Yamim Nora’im. It teaches us how Hashem has a responsibility toward us, so to speak, and that we have a responsibility toward Him.
Rav Nochum Malinowitz, rav of the Liberty shul in Toms River
Ki Hinei Kachomer
In the tefillah that we say Leil Yom Kippur titled Ki Hinei, we mention over and over the fact that we are completely in Hashem’s hands as He is the sole controller and decision-maker for every aspect of our lives. For most of us, the examples given in the piyutim are a bit foreign. But for the most part, living in today’s Industrial Revolution world, most of us have never seen a craftsman or a stone carver.
I recently saw a live pottery-making exhibit and understood the words “k’chomer b’yad hayotzer, b’retzoso marchiv u’v’retzoso mekatzer.”I saw with my own eyes that with literally the slightest movement of the potter’s hands while the clay is on the wheel, the item’s shape can change from short to tall or from thin to wide. This gave me a greater sense and appreciation of what the paytan meant when he wrote, “Ken anachnu b’Yadcha.”
The message is that while throughout the year, we at times feel that we can somewhat veer away from Hashem and go on our own, on this day of introspection, we stress how vulnerable we are and how we are totally dependent on Hashem. Hopefully, this realization will help us yearn to be close to Him and to return b’teshuvah sheleimah.
Rav Nochum Kaisman, a posek in Lakewood
Ki Hinei Kachomer
This tefillah is said during Ma’ariv on Yom Kippur night as the aron kodesh is open. Like clay in the hands of the potter…so are we in Your Hands o Preserver of Kindness. And another stream of tears cascades onto my machzor…
As a mashal to the mashal, picture an elderly woman carrying two pots of water home from a stream; one is brimming with pristine water while one is cracked, leaking its contents along the path. Years later the cracked vessel laments to the woman about being empty, without value. The woman responds to the vessel: “Look down at the path home. It is strewn with beautiful flowers and vegetables from the seeds I planted, which your ‘flaw’ enabled to grow.”
We only need be whom Hashem formed us to be: perfect in our imperfection.
Peretz Eichler, Voice contributor
When we recite the Seder Ha’avodah in an old, haunting niggun, I picture it all happening. The kohen gadol, the korbanos,the mechilah assured at the end of the day…it’s awe-inspiring to think of what Yom Kippur once looked like. Today, we’re living in a different reality; the Seder Ha’avodah gives a taste of what’s to come.
Shira Hoffman, copyeditor at the Voice
Mareh Kohen brings to mind the kohen gadol’s face full of happiness and relief that after all the preparation and fear that led up to this moment, he was able to represent all of Klal Yisrael and fulfill the enormous task that he was chosen to do. There’s a sense of tremendous accomplishment and deep connection to Hashem.
Eli Garfinkel, job placement specialist
We have a minhag in our shul in which the children gather in the center and sing Ochila L’Keil in unison, and the men help out in the background. A tefillah so pure, sung by such precious young children, makes it all so real.
Toby Waldman, Voice coordinating editor
Hineni He’ani M’ma’as
When I hear the words “af al pi she’eini kedai…heyei na matzliach darki la’amod u’levakesh rachamim alai v’al sholchai—although I am not worthy…please help me succeed in my mission to stand before You and seek mercy for myself and for those who have sent me,” I always getchills down the spine. As a kallah, then a wife, and then a mother, I’ve felt—and continue to feel—the weight of responsibility of raising a family—please, don’t let those who rely on me be affected by my failings.
Dina Steinberg, Voice contributor
Ki Hinei Kachomer
This very powerful yet relatable piyut demonstrates that although at times we believe and feel as if we are in control, we ultimately come to recognize that we are all passive and helpless. We are always only in the “hands” of our “Craftsman,” Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Singing Ki Hinei in unison with the entire chevrah in the famous hartzike niggun of Rav Aaron Charitonov really brings this message to life.
Yisrael Meir (Ira) Rosenthal, member of Lakewood’s Kollel Ohr Shmuel
Attah Nosein Yad
It feels good to know that we can change. We are not stuck; we do not have to remain the way we are. The fact that this prayer is during Ne’ilah, which usually comes after a very inspiring speech, helps as well.
Yossi Muller, nutritionist and music composer
I’ve become very connected over the years to the Avodah. The descriptions of the zerikas hadam, Achas V’achas, and the tefillos the kohen gadol said in the Kodesh Hakodashim are very emotional to me. As we read the Avodah, it always comes as a reminder that we don’t have a kohel gadol actually performing the avodah anymore.
Yitzy Waldner, music composer
Al Cheit and Od Yizkor Lanu
When we sing Al Cheit, you would think that we should be so embarrassed to admit our wrongdoings. Yet we go on singing it. This is because we know that Hashem is going to forgive us. It’s almost a comfort for us. It’s a display of His love for us (Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson).
Another very meaningful tefillah is Od Yizkor Lanu. I daven at Kol Aryeh, where Yanky Daskal is the ba’al tefillah for Mussaf. He puts his heart and soul into his tefillos, but one piece that stand out is his Od Yizkor Lanu. He sings his original Vizhnitzer tune, which is really moving. I feel like I’m being transported to a different world when he sings it.
Bracha Ortner, life and business coach.
Kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim
Kabbalas ol malchus Shamayim brings up feelings of how grand He is—the King of the universe, Creator of everything—and still, He proves again and again how much He cares about this random Elky-person in Lakewood. And there are a lot of people in Lakewood. And He does this for each of them and their brothers. And everywhere else. Which just means He is even grander. And…I feel so grateful and lucky to be a part of Him.
Elky Handler, Voice contributor
People often ask me for the source of my song “Daddy Dear”—the concept of Hashem shedding tears along with us each time that we cry. My first connection to this idea came from a song Rebbetzin Shonnie Perr would sing in my early years in Camp Bnos: “Is it true my darling mother, what dear Grandpa used to say, in the heavens there’s a cup, Hashem keeps with Him night and day….” The song ends with the child questioning her mother, “Is this cup without a bottom, that it fills not to the brim?” (If anyone knows the words of the complete song, I’d love to have them.)
One day in 1988, Ding—Rabbi Dovid Golding—appeared at my door in Flatbush with a recording of a secular song titled “Daddy Dear.” He explained that he was on his way to the studio to record this beautiful melody but no lyrics had been written yet. “I’ll be back in 45 minutes,” he said as he ran out the door.
Panic set in as I listened to the beautiful song. Although the tune tugged at my heart, the original words were quite trite and elementary. Yet the first two words—“Daddy dear”—were so familiar as I remembered the song I knew with the words “Is it true, my darling mother…” I jotted down the same idea and before the doorbell rang, this song of ages was born. MBD’s dramatic rendition, along with a little boy I don’t even know (please fill me in!), completed the perfect picture. Great music, hartzige voices, and passionate lyrics—voilà!
Years later, I was introduced to a beautiful song “Middas harachamim…shetasim dimoseinu b’nodcha lihiyos.” Thanks to the wonderful explanation in the ArtScroll machzor, I realized that this midrash of a cup of Hashem’s tears is the source of the tefillah, making the song all the more meaningful.
Dina Storch, music composer and songwriter
Vidduy allows me to acknowledge the mistakes that I have made and ask for forgiveness. It helps me take responsibility for my actions so I can work toward self-improvement and spiritual growth in the coming year.
Rivka Resnik, Voice contributor and financial educator
Asarah Harugei Malchus
There are far too many to choose from, but Asarah Harugei Malchus is definitely at the top of my list. The realization that on Yom Kippur one must daven not only for himself but for all of Klal Yisrael, because we’re all in this together, is an awesome responsibility. It also reminds us of our former glory and that we need to daven for more than just our local and current troubles, but also for the restoration of malchus beis Dovid and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. There’s much to be done on Yom Kippur through our tefillos, and this particular one drives home many of those points.
Rabbi Elazar Meisels, dean of Sara Schenirer Institute for Higher Education
Anu Amecha V’attah Avinu
This tefillah never fails to move me because it highlights our real, raw, multifaceted connection to Hashem. Whichever way you connect best—whether as a child, a servant, or just one of the flock—you can feel the tangible love between us and Hashem in this tefillah.
Mrs. S., a mechaneches in a local high school
Chamol Al Ma’asecha
This small passage, said right after Kedushah in Mussaf, more than any other encapsulates the relationship between Klal Yisrael and Hashem. It depicts so beautifully the trust that Yidden have in the boundless love of Hashem…and, kaveh yachol, that we are the righteous source of declaring and cementing the kedushah of Hashem in this world.
Rabbi Yechezkel Auerbach, kashrus expert and administrative coordinator at KCL
Heyei im Pifiyos
The theme of Yom Kippur starts with Ma’ariv. In Ki Hinei Kachomer, we compare ourselves to clay in the hands of the creator. We recognize how small and insignificant we are, how total our reliance is on Hashem. Then we move on to “Ki k’Shimcha kein tehilasecha.” There, we say, “Adam yesodo m’afar…k’cheresh hanishbar…kachalom ya’uf.”This highlightsour utter nothingness, especially compared with the total perfection of Hakadosh Boruch Hu: “V’attah Hu Melech Keil chai v’kayam.”
Before the Avodah, the chazzan recites, “Heyei im pifiyos shluchei amcha.” Both as a shaliach tzibbur and as a mispallel, this is the tefillah that always moves me. As I prepare for the Avodah, I imagine going into the Kodesh Hakodashim, the holiest place, at the holiest time. Trying to fill a very big place with very small shoes is an extremely humbling feeling.
“Einei amcha bam teluyos”—the kehillah is looking to the shaliach tzibbur. “V’eineihem lecha meyachalos”—and the chazzan’s eyes are on You. “V’amcha masvivim osam kachomah”—Klal Yisrael is backing the shaliach tzibbur. I’m not coming alone. Although I myself am nothing, when I connect to the Ribono Shel Olam and I come on behalf of the tzibbur, I can get through this wonderful and frightening day.We ask for special siyata d’Shmaya in our tefillos—“Shelo yikashlu b’leshonam… Al yeivoshu bi kovecha…”In the final segment, Ochila L’Keil, we say, “L’adam marchei lev, m’Hashem ma’aneh lashon… Hashem, sefasai tiftach,” acknowledging that we need Hashem’s help to express our thoughts.
After admitting in this way that we are nothing, we’re finally ready to recite the Avodah, the climax of the day.
Rabbi Shragie Malinowitz, head of the Toraso B’umnaso workplace chavrusa program
The duality of the day
To be immersed in the tefillos of Yom Kippur is to become entirely absorbed in self-growth through reciting Vidduy and Al Cheit and undertaking new resolutions for spiritual development. At the end of the tefillos commemorating the avodas Yom Kippur in the Beis Hamikdash, we state, “Lucky are those who were able to witness this avodah.” For the rest of us, we commemorate those times and bring them almost to life with our personal avodas Yom Kippur, which has been designated as a day of fasting, inuyim, and also “yom sheyimas ahavah v’achvah.”
I have always been struck by how this day of intrapersonal focus, introspection, personal inuyim, and personal tefillos is also declared a day of interpersonal responsibility for friendship. I recently read an example of just how important the duality of this day is. Rav Mordechai Leib Zaks z”l, rav of Zichron Moshe in Yerushalayim, asks us to imagine the highlight of this time of day in the Beis Hamikdash, when everyone is gathered to watch the avodah of the kohen gadol and hear him utter the Sheim Hameforash. We know the individual chosen to take the sa’ir laAzazel down the mountain had to leave the Beis Hamikdash to perform his duty. What might not be so commonly known is that this individual did not perform the task on his own. Stationed along the route from the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalayim to the mountains on the outskirts of the city were Yidden who had also been assigned to leave the momentous scene of avodas Yom Kippur in the Beis Hamikdash. Their task was to escort the individual and his goat. And who were those few chosen Yidden? Chazal tell us these were the yekirei Yerushalayim, the treasured ones of Yerushalayim.
The treasured and precious role models of the nation were chosen to ensure that their fellow Yid was not left alone as the only one missing out on this pivotal occasion of the year. The holiest of holy moments of personal growth also includes caring for others.
Rabbi Sruli Fried, director of Chai Lifeline NJ/PA