“Seek Hashem When He is Present”
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.
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 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 Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l, one must assume (in any situation) that one concluded these blessings the way one is accustomed to the rest of the year and one 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, compensatory prayer.”
During all Ten Days of Repentance, it is customary to add the following four verses into the Amida prayer: “Zochrenu Le’Chaim”, “Mi Chamocha”,” U’chtov Le’Chaim Tovim”, and “Uv’sefer Chaim”, as is printed in all Siddurim. If one forgot to add “Zochrenu Le’Chaim” and became aware of this before the “Shome’a Tefillah” blessing, one may insert it into that blessing before reciting the words, “Ki Ata Shome’a Tefillat Kol Peh” since one may request one’s own personal requests during the “Shome’a Tefillah” blessing and the “Zochrenu Le’Chaim” verse is considered a personal request. On the other hand, “Mi Chamocha” is not a personal request and is rather a praise to Hashem and thus cannot be added there.