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Rosh Hashanah Prayers: Ata Hu Elokeinu

“Ata hu,” “Chai Olamim.” One of  the principles of prayer is that we must know to Whom we are praying.  A prayer that is not properly directed to our understanding of God, as limited as that may be, will be ineffective. This prayer, early in the repitition of the morning Amidah, is intended to focus our attention on the Divine Attributes, especially those most powerfully expresses on Rosh Hashanah.

It is interesting to note that this prayer hints to the importance of our being able to relate to the Attributes described:
We often speak of God as “Chai v’Kayam,” – “Living and Everlasting,” the expression of “ChailOlamim,” “Lives in a multitude of Worlds,” is unusual.

The Maharil explains that this change is specific to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and is based on two verses in Deuteronomy: “Has a nation ever heard the voice of the Lord speaking from amidst the fire as you heard?” (4:33) A short while later the verse says, “For whom among all flesh has heard the voice of the Living Lord speak from amidst the fire as did we and lived?” (5:23) The verse that speaks of us as living also refers to God as the Living Lord.

However, the first verse, which does
not mention our living does not refer to God as the Living Lord, but as “the lord.”
We only refer to God as “Living,” when we experience life. It is only when we experience full  life that we can relate and therefore praise God as “Living.”

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur our lives hang in the balance and we do not experience the full taste of life.

Therefore, rather than praise God as Living and Everlasting,” we praise Him as the One Who lives in all worlds.

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