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Thought for the Day: Forgetting Ya'aleh v'Yavo On Rosh HaShanah Evening

Rosh HaShanah is the only holiday we have (besides Rosh Chodesh itself) that falls on the first of a month.  That is much more than a bit of trivia to tuck away for occasions that require showing off; this is real stuff for a few reasons.  For one thing, b'zman haMikdash (may be be rebuilt soon and in our days), Rosh Chodesh happened by decree of the Sanhedrin on the basis of eye witness testimony.  That makes things tricky.

All of our holidays are established as occurring a fixed number of days after that monthly announcement, so it was important to get the word out.  Any avodah that is Yerushalayim-centric (korbanos, shir shel yom) will be fine since the Sanhedrin held court in the Beis haMikdash.  When you needed to have chameitz destroyed, when you needed to each matzah, when you needed to start sitting in a sukkah, and so forth, required messengers be sent to get the word out.  Since that took more than two weeks, we ended up with yom tov sheini shel galius.  (It did not, however, take more than 49 days, so you may want to contemplate why we have two days of Shavu'os.  That is left as an exercise for the interested reader.)

Rosh HaShanah, being on the first of the month, was even trickier.  Suppose, for example, that the witnesses arrived at 11:37AM and by the time all the investigation was complete, it was already 3:12PM before the Sanhedrin announced the new month.  That means that all that day it has been Rosh HaShanna!  Sure you can run around to hear Shofar now, but what about the korbanos that morning.  For us nowadays, both in Eretz Yisrael and in chutza la'aretz, we could apparently have davened the wrong shmone esrei and didn't even say musaf!

Here's another interesting situation.  The new moon cannot be announced at night.  One consequence of that is that if you forget to say ya'aleh v'yavo in shmone esrei on Rosh Chodesh evening, you don't need to (and therefore are not allowed to) repeat shmone esrei.  What about on Rosh HaShanah?  Do we say that since it depends on kiddush hachodesh, don't repeat, or do we say it's like any other Yom Tov and you do repeat

What about forgetting ya'aleh v'yavo in bentching?  Do we say that at night the question is the same as above, or do we say that since a meal is required just like another other Yom Tov, that you would need to repeat bentching.  Then there is the question about the day meal: since one is allowed to fast on Rosh HaShanah day (not night), does that mean you don't have to repeat bentching?

So as unaccustomed as I am to giving advice, especially advice with halachic ramifications, I am going to go out on a limb here.  It's Rosh HaShanah.  The beginning of the year.  The day that sets the tone for the entire year.  Not only are you standing before the King, the King of kings; you are also proclaiming that fact and preparing to ask for His forgiveness and to grant you atonement.

So here's the advice: Pay attention during davening.  It's not bad advice the rest of the year, but it's really, really good advice for Rosh HaShanah.

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