Chief Rabbi Dr. Alberto Mosheh Somekh, Turin, Italy
was happy to find the genealogical tree of my family on your
issue number 69 of last April. I am enclosing a little up
to date addition of my branch, based on my knowledge about
my branch of the family, at your disposal for publication.
also enclose a Debar Torah connected to my family name and
to Yom Kippur as well, for the High Holidays issue.
Two Somekhim on Yom Kippur
seems that the origin of Somekh as a family name goes back
to Rabbi Yechezqel who used to sign his writings as Yechezqel
ha-Somekh, because he had been honoured with the title of
Somekh (Assistant) in the Synagogue of Baghdad. The Somekh
used to be the Assistant Minister, specially during the long
Yom Kippur Service: according to the Babylonian and Sephardic
tradition, two Somekhim stand on the Tebah at both sides of
the Hazzan, reciting the Piyutim (special liturgical poems)
together with him (Shulman 'Arukh, O.H. 619,4). Apparently,
the name Somekh with this "technical" meaning is used for
the first time only in Mahzor Bet Din, printed by Rabbi Eliahu
Benamozegh in Leghorn, 5613-1853, but of course its origins
have to be traced back to the famous verse in Ps. 145, 14,
where it is referred to G-d as "upholding all that fall."
Midrash Pirqe de-Rabbi Eli'ezer, the source of Shulhan 'arukh
has to be found in the biblical account of the battle against
'Amaleq (Ex. 17). Israel prevailed because Mosheh infused
courage and trust into his people by holding up his hands
throughout the fight "until sunset." But being himself an
old man, he could only be helped by his brother Aharon and
his brother-in-law Hur who stood on both his sides and sustained
But according to another interpretation it was not only a
matter of age. Mosheh needed some help because he was fasting:
otherwise, we canĂt understand how he could hold up his hands
unbrokenly until sunset. "Israel is in troubles - he thought
-: I wall accompany them in troubles, too" (Rashi). Even if
his age couldn't allow him to join his brethren in war, he
never took himself apart: "blessed be a man who takes part
in the troubles of his Community!" Hence the rule that on
a day of fast and, notably on Yom Kippur, the Hazzan, who
is praying on behalf of his congregation exactly as Mosheh
did, has to be supported by two assistants in his appeal against
our implacable enemy, our "spiritual 'Amaleq," the Yetzer
ha-Ra' (Evil Instinct)!
are several other reasons behind the institution of the two
Somekhim on Yom Kippur:
They assist the Hazzan even physically, taking turns in reciting
aloud parts of the service, as already mentioned.
They recite those Piyyutim (special liturgical poems) which
can't be said by the Hazzan himself, in order to prevent a
brake in the service.
It reminds us of the Beth ha-Miqdash in Yerushalaim, where
the Kohen Gadol was always accompanied by the Segan on his
right and the Av Beth Din on his left throughout the Holy
Service of Yom Kippur. According to 2Chron. 7, 8-9 the inauguration
of the First Temple took place on that Holy Day.
According to Gematriya, the Somekhim remind us of the ShekhinahĂs
Presence. The numerical value of echad.... Echad in Ex. 17,10
is 13 + 13 = 26, ultimately the same of the Tetragrammaton.
On Yom Kippur Jews are as pure as Angels, and according to
our sources Angels used to move in groups of three, as we
find with Abraham Abinu at the announcement of Itzhaq's birth
(Gen. 18,1; Yoma 37a).
Finally, the two Somekhim remind us of the two goats presented
to G-d on Yom Kippur in atonement of our sins. Once more according
to Gematriya, the numerical value of the word Somekh (126)
when doubled (252) corresponds to the expression goral echad
related to the lots of the two goats in Lev. 16,8!
wish to extend my best regards and blessings for the upcoming
year 5759 (Ta-shna-t) to all Babylonian Jewry: Tehe' Shanah
Tobah for everybody.
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