Why is it that in the davenning for Yomim Noraim, we split up the phrases in many of the piyyutim against their real meaning? For example, in “Vechol maaminim shehu…” (p 538 Artscroll Machzor For Yom Kippur): we say “Hoochaiz beyad midas Mishpot” (1) alone. We then go on to say “Vechol maaminim shehu kale emuno” (2) together with “habochain uboaik ginzei nistoros” (3) which is really the beginning of the next “verse”.
(1) and (2) really belong together. See the Artscroll commentary which notes the practice but does not explain it.


1 Answer 1


I don't know for certain, but based on old machzorim, I have a guess.

Once upon a time, in piyyutim said responsively, the chazzan said the first phrase, and the kahal answered with the rest of the line. (This fits the pattern not only of Ha'ochez B'yad but also Attah Hu Elokenu and L'Kel Orech Din. In an inverted way, it also fits Melech Elyon.)

So as not to skip any words, (a) the kahal continued past the end of the line, saying the phrase that the chazzan would say soon, and (b) the chazzan started, not from the beginning of the line, but from where he left off in the previous line. The result is the practice that we have today.

The reason I think I'm right is that the same thing happened to Kedusha, in many shuls. But we don't notice it, because we understand it better and it's more familiar.

It used to be, the chazzan said "N'kaddesh...v'kara zeh el zeh v'amar, "l'umatam baruch yomeru," and "uvdivrei kodsh'cha katuv lemor," with the kahal saying Kadosh, Baruch, and Yimloch.

Now, what happens is, the kahal says N'kaddesh, the chazzan says N'kaddesh, the kahal says Kadosh and l'umatam, the chazzan says Kadosh and l'umatam, the kahal says Baruch and uvdivrei, the chazzan says Baruch and uvdivrei, then the kahal says Yimloch, then the chazzan says Yimloch. Exactly the same pattern!

  • 2
    +1. No idea whether you're right about the history of the piyutim, but nice connection with k'dusha. Re "This fits the pattern not only... but also...": and others. For example, the long piyutim with "kol yosh've sevel v'shochne aretz" repeated throughout are read the same way in some synagogues.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 15:16
  • @JXG. You were mekaven to a comment WAF made to the question judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/54/… . He wrote "On that last point, Rabbi Elchanan Adler(1) pointed out that in many piyutim(2) the "roles" of Leader and Follower are [intentionally] reversed or changed, so perhaps even those are not so reliable for anything more than boundary markers. (1) yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/728074/Rabbi_Elchanan_Adler/… (2) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piyut – WAF♦ Mar 16 '10 at 14:03".The key point of the shiur is from about 12 mins. Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 10:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .