Rosh Hashanah

New Year Service at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, by Bernard Picart

This page is intended eventually to be a sort of "cheat sheet" for the New Year services, signposting all the main components with short clips.


Lamnatseah [JC]

The service begins with Ps. 81 chanted by the congregation.

The last verse of Lamnatseah is chanted to a different tune, introducing Ahot Ketana, the allegorical hymn by R. Abraham Hazan.

Ahot Ketana [JC]

The S&P have a unique kaddish text that is sung only on the high holidays. The first half is sung to the tune of Ahot Ketana, the second half to a different tune, which is then used for Barechu.

Note: There is an oral tradition in London that while the special kaddish is said on both days, it is said on the first night only. This is almost certainly due to an important minister simply having forgotten to say it on a particular second night. There is no logical reason for the custom, and indeed in other S&P communities the long kaddish is said on the second night. During my two-year tenure as Visiting Rabbi of Bevis Marks (2012-13) I was particular to sing the special kaddish on the second night too.

Kaddish (Rosh Hashanah) [JC]

The last section before the Amidah is sung by the congregation to this tune on Shabbat and all festivals.

Hashkibenu [JC]

One of the unique features of the S&P service is the Kaddish chanted by the entire congregation on special occasions. Amongst other congregations Kaddish has become exclusively a prayer for mourners, making the S&P's joyful rendition all the more striking by contrast. (For more details see the Kaddish page.) This recording was made in 1951.

Kaddish chanted by the whole congregation [SP250]

There are many S&P melodies for Yigdal, but on RH and YK the melody of Et Shaarey Ratson is traditionally used.

Yigdal [JC] 


These two hymns, both by R. Yehudah Halevi, are sung to the same tune, one on the first day and the other on the second, before Nishmat:

Elohai Al Tedineni [JC]          |               ♫ Adonai Yom Lecha [JC]

By R. Shlomo ibn Gabirol, this hymn is sung following Elohai Al Tedineni, on the first day only (note that the last line is repeated by the hazan to a different tune, that of Ohila):

Shofet Kol Haaretz [WS2]

These two hymns are sung to the same tune, one on the first day and the other on the second. In both cases the end of the last verse is repeated by the reader in the tune of kadish and barechu, which follow immediately:

Yedey Rashim [JC]               |               ♫ Yah Shimcha [JC]

It should be mentioned that some prominent latter-day authorities, among them R. Ovadia Yosef, consider the above five hymns an interruption to the halachic flow of the prayers, and have suggested moving them to the end of Shaharit (following the repitition of the amidah). This change has been made in many Eastern and so-called "Yerushalmi" Sephardi congregations. From historical, poetical, and musical viewpoints this change is unconscionable, as it transforms the hymns from an integral part of the service for which they were designed, into white elephants. In most S&P and Moroccan communities the poems are retained in their original context.

Kaddish (Rosh Hashanah) [JC]

Avinu Malkenu

Kedusha (Shaharit RH) [JC]

These two hymns are sung to the same tune, one on the first day and the other on the second.

Lema'ancha                         |               Ya'ane Bevor Avot

Tekiat Shofar

This hymn about the sacrifice of Isaac, written by R. Judah Abbas, is sung as an introduction to the Shofar blowing. This is a fascinating piece of music. The motif is clearly very old, and is identical to the version common among Moroccan Jewry. However where the London version comes into its own is that while the Moroccan version repeats the motif relentlessly some 70 times throughout the piece, the London version maintains the original motif at the opening of each verse, but then develops it musically into three variations - producing two musical "questions and answers" per verse - which rescue the historical motif from eternal boredom.

Et Shaarey Ratson [JC]

The last verse of Et Shaarey Ratson is repeated by the hazan in a different melody:

Livritecha [JC]

Adonai Bekol Shofar [WS2]

Shofar Blessings

Amongst the Sephardim the blessing Sheheheyanu ("Who has brought us to this season) is said on the first day only.

Birkat Sheheheyanu [JC]

In the following recording the names of the notes are spoken by Revd. Abinun, and the shofar is blown by Manual Cansino. This is the shofar sound used by the London S&P.

The sound of the shofar [WS2]

Note: The "Teruah" sound is in other S&P communities a more wavy - siren-like - sound. I have been told by my friend Hazzan Daniel Halfon that Mr Cansino accepted the honorary position of blowing the shofar on condition that he be allowed to blow the Teruah in the more staccato style of the Moroccan tradition. So it would seem that Mr Cansino instituted what would have been an abrupt change in the London custom. At any rate this is the sound that I and generations of London S&P youth grew up hearing, and it continues to this day.


This short poetical passage precedes the reader's repetition of the Amidah. It is considered by many one of the most beautiful parts of the service:

Ohila [JC]

Kedusha (Musaph)

Hayom Harat Olam occurs three times during the repetition of the Amidah (following each sounding of the shofar), and on each occasion it's sung to a different melody from the New Year repertoire:

In the S&P minhag, the kohanim say Birkat Kohanim for Shaharit, while at Musaph the minister sings it, using the chant below. However some communities (such as Shaarey Hayim, Manchester) have reversed this, in order to come in line with other Sephardi communities. The minister traditionally adds elaborates the musical phrases; I have minimized this in the following recording, to emphasize the underlying tune:

Birkat Kohanim sung by the minister [JC]

Veatem Hadevekim

Kaddish Titkabal

There are many S&P melodies for the following two hymns, but they are traditionally both sung to one tune on RH and YK:

En Kelohenu

Adon Olam


Kedusha (Minha)