Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
February 29, 2004- Number 5764-19
Prayer VII: Musaf – The Additional Service
The structure of all Liturgy in Judaism is based on the ancient order of sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem before the destruction in 70 C.E. Every morning there was a sacrifice of a lamb, and every afternoon, there was a grain offering. When the Temple was destroyed, the sacrifices were discontinued, but the Amida, the standing prayer that makes up one of the two cores of the service, was designated to fill in for this crucial part of the Liturgy. We could not offer up the lambs of our flocks, but we could perform “service of the heart” and the key to that service was the Amida. Sacrifices were a very personal form of prayer. In Hebrew, they were known as “Korbanot” the root of the word implies that we “draw near” to G-d with this service. Korbanot became the way that each individual could use to feel a closeness to G-d. When that form of worship ended with the burning of the Temple on Tisha b’Av, The Amida became our way of drawing close to G-d, and for this reason we still take three steps forward at the beginning of the Amida, to indicate our approaching the throne of the Almighty.
On Shabbat and on Holidays, in addition to the two daily sacrifices, there was also an additional sacrifice in honor of the holy day. There was no petitioning that was part of this sacrifice, it was a communal expression of thanks for the rest that was a vital part of Shabbat and the sacred nature of the holy days. On every holiday where there was an additional sacrifice in honor of the festival, there is an additional Amida that is added to the service. This Amida is called “Musaf” the “Additional” service in honor of the special nature of the day.
The Amida of Musaf begins as any other Amida, with the same three blessings going in and the same three that conclude the series. Instead of a list of petitions in the middle, there is only one blessing, a blessing that declares the day holy. In most Siddurim, the prayers of Musaf are readings about the sacrifices that once were offered by our ancestors. In a Traditional prayer book, the service points to our hope that someday our sacrificial service will once again be performed in Jerusalem, in a rebuild Holy Temple. Back in the 1940’s the Conservative movement decided that this was just no longer something that we were hoping for. The Conservative siddur made a small change in the text of the Musaf to lovingly recall the ancient sacrifices, without the hope for them to be restored. This followed the teaching of Rambam in the 11th century, who declared that sacrifices were important to our ancestors, but we had grown spiritually since then and no longer needed such ritual to feel near to G-d.
One can see this growth in the Kedusha of the Shabbat Musaf. The first time we say the Kedusha, before the Shema in the Shacharit service, we are in awe of the chorus in heaven as the angels sing praises to G-d by reciting the threefold “Kadosh” from the book of Isaiah. In the Kedusha of the Shacharit Amida, we have grown in our appreciation of the angelic choir and the text has us join in with the heavenly chorus. Now, as we recite the Kedusha of Musaf, we have grown beyond the chorus of angels. We are ready to offer our own praise to G-d, only in the Kedusha of Musaf do we recite the Shema, affirming what the angels can never affirm, that we choose to praise G-d, that we are able to exercise our free will, a free will that the angels don’t have, that makes our praise that much more precious to G-d. Is it any wonder that all of the great cantorial composers in modern times, have written such rich music for the Musaf. It is here we celebrate our human uniqueness that makes our praise of G-d as original as our Creator.
May think that Musaf is just the final part of the service before the closing prayers, but it is more than just another Amida, it is a celebration of what makes the holiday special and what makes humanity special.
Next week: Prayer VIII: Ashrei, An Original CD by the Composer of the Book of Psalms.