Last Shabbes, I noticed that in two different nusach Ari siddurim (Torah Or and Tehillas Hashem), Modim in the Shemoneh Esrei either possesses or lacks a waw depending on whether it is a Shabbes or a weekday davening.

In the weekday davening, Modim ends with the phrase, "הטוב כי לא כלו רחמיך המרחם כי לא תמו חסדיך".

In the Shabbes davening, Modim ends with the phrase, "הטוב כי לא כלו רחמיך והמרחם כי לא תמו חסדיך".

In other words, the difference between Shabbes and weekday davening hinges on whether המרחם has a waw attached to it or not. I at first assumed that this might be a typo, but since I have seen it now in two different siddurim, I can only assume that it is deliberate.

What is the reason for the waw on Shabbes?

  • Tefila Yeshara Vehamerachem in Yom Chol
    – kouty
    Dec 30 '20 at 4:59

The Israeli Chabad site explains the difference in the following way:

בסידור אדמו"ר הזקן מופיע בחול "המרחם" ובשבת "והמרחם". וביאר בס' שער הכולל (סי' ט ס"ק לב), שדקדקו שיהיו במודים י"ב ואו"ין כנגד י"ב ברכות אמצעיות, כדי שגם בשבת וחג וכו' שאין אומרים ברכות אלו, יהיו [מלבד "ועזרתנו סלה" המכוונת כנגד ברכת המינים, הברכה ה-י"ט] י"ב הודאות ועוד 6 ברכות (ג' ראשונות וג' אחרונות) כדי להשלים מספר "שמונה עשרה" שכך נקראת כל תפילה, גם של שבת ויו"ט. ולכן מוסיפים אז וא"ו "והמרחם".‏

In the prayer book of the Alter Rebbe there is "המרחם" for weekdays and "והמרחם" for the Shabbat. And the book Shaar haKolel (9:32) explained that they were meticulous that there should be 12 letter vav corresponding to the 12 middle blessings, so that on the Shabbat and the holidays etc., when we don't say these blessings, there should be (besides "ועזרתנו סלה", which is intended as the blessing of the heretics, the 19th blessing) 12 praises and 6 more blessings (the 3 first and the 3 last), to complete the number eighteen, because this is how the prayer is called, also the one of the Shabbat and the holidays. Therefore, we add the vav [and say] "והמרחם".

One should note that in most old Ashkenazi manuscripts and prayer books the והמרחם version is present, while in the Mishneh Torah המרחם can be found (according to amendment in the editions of R' Qafih, R' Frankel, R' Sheilat and the Mifal Mishneh Torah). I assume that Kabbalists were aware of the different traditions, and the Alter Rebbe wanted to give an explanation of the two variants.

  • Thank you, I think this is an excellent answer (and have upvoted it). Unfortunately, it doesn’t explain why this waw doesn’t appear on weekday davenings! Why do weekday davenings only include eleven waws?
    – Shimon bM
    Jan 6 '21 at 23:37

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