The Ten Days of Repentance
The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (12b) states: “Rabba bar Chinena said in the name of Rav: Throughout the year, one recites (in the Amida prayer) ‘Ha’el Ha’Kadosh’ and ‘Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat’ besides for the ten days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur when one recites ‘Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh’ and ‘Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat’.” This means that during the Ten Days of Repentance, one must conclude these specific blessings in the Amida prayer by saying “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”. Rashi (ibid.) explains that the reason for this is because during these days, Hashem exhibits his sovereignty by judging the entire world.
If one is recites the Amida during the Ten Days of Repentance and in the middle of praying he becomes unsure if he has concluded these respective blessings by reciting “Ha’el Ha’Kadosh” and “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh”, according to Maran Harav Ovadia Yosef Shlit”a, he must assume (in any situation) that he concluded these blessings the way he is accustomed to the rest of the year and he must return to the beginning of the Amida prayer.
If one concluded the blessing by saying “Ha’el Ha’Kadosh” but corrected himself immediately within the amount of time that it takes to say the words “Shalom Alecha Rebbi” (approximately two seconds) and recited the words “Ha’Melech Ha’Kadosh”, he has fulfilled his obligation and he need not return to the beginning of the Amida. The same applies to “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”: If one mistakenly concluded the blessing the way he is accustomed to all year long but corrected himself immediately and said “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, he has fulfilled his obligation.
Nevertheless, regarding “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, if one concludes the blessing by saying “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” and did not correct himself immediately and say “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat”, one need not return to the beginning of the Amida prayer; one need only return to the beginning of the “Hashiva” blessing (eleventh blessing of the Amida) and continues from there as usual. Only if one realizes that he has mistakenly said “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” after he has concluded the entire Amida will one be required to return to the beginning of the Amida prayer. “The conclusion of the Amida prayer” in this context refers to one who has concluded the recitation of the “Yihyu Le’Ratzon” verse following the “Elokai Netzor” paragraph.
The difference between the conclusion of this blessing during the rest of the year which is “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” and the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” conclusion recited during the Ten Days of Repentance is that whereas “Melech Ohev Tzedakah U’Mishpat” means that Hashem loves when His creations act in a righteous and just manner, “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” refers to Hashem Himself being the Almighty Judge of the world.
The Ashkenazi custom is that one who errs in the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” blessing does not return at all, whether he realizes his mistake in the middle of the Amida prayer or at its conclusion. Indeed, even a Sephardic individual who errs in the “Ha’Melech Ha’Mishpat” blessing, before he begins reciting the Amida prayer once again, he should make the following condition: “If I am indeed obligated to pray again, I am reciting this Amida prayer again as an obligatory prayer. However, if I am not obligated to pray again, this Amida prayer that I am about to recite should be a voluntary, ‘donated’ prayer.”
Our Sages teach us (Rosh Hashanah 18a) teach us that the words of the verse “Seek out Hashem when He is present, call Him when He is near,” refers to the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Hashem is considered to be closer and more accessible to His creations and their prayers are more easily accepted before Hashem. The Rekanati (Bereshit 22) writes that without these days, the path to acceptance of our prayers would surely be much more far removed from us, for the prosecuting angels created from one’s sins are almost always present and they prevent one’s prayers from being willingly accepted by Hashem. However, during these days when one’s prayers reach infinitely closer to Hashem and are more willingly accepted, one shall merit that his prayers be accepted during these days. One must therefore undertake the awesome responsibility of concentrating on every prayer during these Days of Awe and not to lose even one of them, for each one’s reward is priceless.
As we all know, during the days preceding Yom Kippur, it is customary to increase the amount one donates for Tzedakah. This is especially true with regards to Kaparot, for if one does not fulfill this custom using a chicken, one should fulfill it using money by placing this money on the head of the one requiring atonement and then circling this money around the individuals head while reciting the text of “Elu Ha’Ma’ot Chalifatecha/Chalifatech” which is printed in all Yom Kippur Machzorim. One must nevertheless take care to donate this money to a trustworthy group who is well-known for the integrity of their charity organization as we have spoken about several times.