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Jewish Law Regarding Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle January 2000 The Shofar is the focus of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Blasting (Yom Teruah). The Shofar had played at various Chugim (special holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot) and at several sacrifices. But Rosh Hashanah was a special day highlighting the Shofar. What reasons were given for sounding the Shofar throughout Judaism's long Jewish history. Numbers, 29:1 provides: "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation, you shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the Shofar for you....."; Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashanah, 16b, a precondition to a good year "Rabbi Isaac further said: If the Shofar is not sounded at the beginning of the new year, evil will befall at the end of it. Why so? Because the 'Accuser' [Satan] has not been confused....." We all conjure up our own associations on hearing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Saadiah Gaon (882-942 C.E., Babylonian scholar and Jewish community leader), "When we hear the broken sounds of the Shofar, we must also address our prayers to God with broken hearts and full of humility." Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.), one of Judaism's greatest codifier and philosopher, analogized the blast of the Shofar to a jarring wakeup call: "Wake up from your deep sleep, you who are fast asleep, search your deeds and rededicate to G-d...." The Jewish Mystics, (Zohar,13th century): "[The Blowing the Shofar is like] a lover serenading his beloved: Israel seeks to awaken divine love and link the higher and lower worlds..." In modern Jewish philosophy, Rabbi Milton Steinberg (19031950) author of Basic Judaism, indicated "... a call to man to hear weeping humanity, to feel the pain of the world and resolve to battle against forces of oppression until every tear is wiped away." Sue Levi Ellwell, editor of The Jewish Women's Study Guide, declares "This day is a day of listening, perhaps with a new severity, a

renewed attention. Can we listen to one another with the same attention that we accord to the Shofar?" Hearing The Mishnah makes clear that the Mitzvah is in the hearing the Shofar blast. The Shofar during the time of fasts and feasts at the Temple was sounded along with two trumpets during sacrifices. The Shofar sounded the short notes; the trumpets, the long notes. (Rosh Hashanah 3:3) However, on Rosh Hashanah only, the Shofars sounded the long notes and the Trumpets, the short notes so that the long notes predominate . . . which is one of the reasons why Rosh Hashanah is called the Day of the Shofar." (Yom Teruah) If one hears only the beginning of the blast but not the end of the blast, it is valid. However, if one hears only the end of the blast without the beginning, it is not valid because the end of the blast may have been an echo. (Rosh Hashanah 28a) If one sounds a Shofar used in a burnt offering, it is valid because although a trespass was committed, the overriding religious precepts are meant to provide physical enjoyment. (Rosh Hashanah 28a) One cannot sound a Shofar formerly used for an idolatrous purpose. However, if the Sounder has already blasted a Shofar used in an idolatrous ceremony, the Shofar Sounder has performed his religious duty. (Rosh Hashanah 28a) The Rabbis are in disagreement as to whether it is valid for the Shofar sounder to accomplish the mitzvah if he does not sound with intent. Some say the hearer and the sounder have to perform with intent. Others say only the hearer has to hear with intent. (Rosh Hashanah 28a) Echo The Mitzvah is to hear the Shofar blast. Thus, what happens when a person is at a pit, and a Shofar blast is sounded? R. Huna ruled that, if a person is at the edge of the ditch, he hears the Shofar itself. (Rosh Hashanah 28a) However, if he stands at the bottom of the pit, he hears the echo of the Shofars blast and thus does not fulfill the mitzvah. (Rosh Hashanah 27b) What if the sound is transmitted over the radio, the TV or the Internet? The halachah is that the sound has to be directly heard with

kavanah (intention). Thus, transmission of sound does not constitute direct hearing. What if a person walks by a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and overhears the Shofar blast? Since the person did not intend to hear the blast, he does not fulfill the mitzvah. However, if the person knew that it was Rosh Hashanah and he intended to hear the Shofar sounds, then he fulfills his obligation (Mishnah Berurah 589:8) How can the Baal Tekiah perform the mitzvah if he plays the Shofar? He performs the mitzvah when he hears his own sound of the Shofar. Hearing on the Sabbath The Mishnah states that when Rosh Hashanah fell on a Sabbath, the Shofar was sounded in the Jerusalem Temple but not in the country. After the destruction of the Temple, R. Jochanan b Zakkai ordained that the Shofar shall be sounded in every place where there was a Bet Din (Rabbinic court presumptive of a viable Jewish community). In R. Johanan ben Zakkai's time, accordingly, the Shofar could only be sounded in the Bet Din court in Jabnah. The one big exception was that the Shofar could still be sounded in Jerusalem and whatever environs could hear the Shofar from Jerusalem. (Rosh Hashanah 4:1; 4:2) The Talmud comments that, on the one hand Shofar sounding is not work; however, the halachah was that, people would be enticed to carry a Shofar more than the permitted distance in order to learn how to sound the Shofar, thus constituting work . (Rosh Hashanah 29b) There seems to be a bias to action regarding the Shofar as supplied by the Talmudic story in which, when Rosh Hashanah fell on the Sabbath, the elders of Jabnah wanted to discuss the question of whether the Shofar shall be sounded on the Sabbath. R. Ben Zakkai asked them to wait until he had sounded the Shofar. After he had, he said the question was moot since he had already sounded the Shofar. It should be added that the Rabbis utilized Jwish Law to shore their jurisdiction over the affair of Judaism, after the destruction of Temple. For example, From the Talmud we learn that if Rosh Hashana fell on the sabbath the sounding of the shofar was suspended. In the Temple however the blow-ing of the shofar took precedence over the sabbath, a custom which was in vogue during the Second Commonwealth. After the destruction of the Temple, Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai introduced a takkana that in the city of Jabne, where the Bet Din was sitting, the

blowing of the shofar should take precedence over the sabbath.80 By this takkana Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai sought to demonstrate that the Bet Din took the place of the Temple. The sages not only amended ritual laws but also laws in relation to the family and civil laws. See

The Halaka: Introduction to Tannaitic Jurisprudence, The Jewish Quarterly

Solomon Zeitlin, Review, New Series, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Jul., 1948), pp. 1-40. Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Kosher and Treif Shofars A Shofar is to be made of the horn of a kosher animal except that of a cow (or bull) because such a holy instrument cannot remind us of the golden calf (Rosh Hashanah 3:2). It is preferable when the Shofar is made from a ram's horn to commemorate the akedah. It is also preferable for the horn to be curved when played on Rosh Hashanah. (Mishnah Berurah 586:1) The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah 26b records an argument that I believe is revealing. The Mishneh states that the shofar to be used on Rosh Hashanah should be of a yael (probably an ibex) and should be straight. The Gemara states: Rav Levi says that the mitzva of Rosh Hashanah is fulfilled with a bent-over shofar. The BabylonianTalmud (525) then brings a braita (ruling that were contemporary to the Mishnah but were codified into the Mishnah) in the name of Rav Yehuda who says that on Rosh Hashanah we use a bent rams horn and on Yom Kippur (for the Jubilee) we use a straight horn. After stating that the halacha is like Rav Yehuda, the Babylonian Talmud (525) explains that the more bent over we are, the more effective is our Rosh Hashanah, while the straighter we are on Yom Kippur the better. Rashi explains that being bent over is the correct posture for the prayers of Yom HaDin. It should be noted that the famous commentator Rashi (1040-1105) indicated it is preferable that ones face should be downcast. In the Jubilee Year, the Shofar is sounded from the horn of an antelope (straight horn) instead of a rams horn. (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 3:5). However, the Mishnah Berurah provide for more leniency.0 A Shofar can be shortened; scraped as thin as a wafer, overlaid with gold on the outside, if the sound does not change. It can al0so be placed inside another Shofar if the inside Shofar is sounded. (Rosh Hashanah 27a). 4

When there is a crack a Shofar, to what extent can you fix it and leave the Shofar kosher? The Mishnah (Rosh Hashanah 3:6) deals with the situation in which the Shofar is split lengthwise. It is pasul (not kosher) to cement it together. One can stop up the split with his hands if the tone is not impaired. Rabbi Johanan taught that you can repair a Shofar with its own material but not with another material. (Rosh Hashanah 27b) You cannot fill the crack with anything other than the material of the Shofar. Thus, you cannot use glue, resin, or any other filler not of the same material as the Shofar. (Rosh Hashanah 27b) You can use your hand to cover the crack, if the sound is the same as when you sounded the Shofar. If it is split lengthwise, it is not valid. If it is split breadthwise, it is valid if you can produce a blast. (Rosh Hashanah 27b). When the question arose as to how much is sufficient to produce a blast, R. Simeon b. Gamliel explained that, even if the sound is thick or dry, the sound is still valid because all sounds emitted by a Shofar are valid. (Rosh Hashanah27b). In fact, from the physics of sound, no two tones can be equally alike when the instrument is not manufactured (and has interchangeable parts). Indeed, a reasonable interpretation is that the sound should be similar to the sound prior to its repair, such sound being evaluated by a layperson. Remaking a shofar by heating it to make the keratin plastic removes all impediments because there ios no repoar. Rather, a new shofar is made. If one pierces a Shofar, it is valid because all Shofars are pierced. (Rosh Hashanah 17b) You can scrape the Shofar as thin as a wafer if it does not interfere with the sound. You can put one Shofar inside another as long as the inner Shofar is sounded. (Rosh Hashanah 27b) Who Can Sound the Shofar? Some say that only men can sound the Shofar. Others say that children and women may learn how to sound the Shofar. (Rosh Hashanah 33b)

Can a woman sound the Shofar? Can a woman sound the Shofar for the congregation? There is mention in the Talmud that a woman can sound the Shofar. However, this mitzvah is generally determined as time-bound and therefore, a man is preferred because he has an obligation to fulfill the mitzvah. A woman does not have the same obligation. She has voluntarily committed herself to this action. However, in so doing she has deprived a man of performing the mitzvah. At worst, men will be tempted to abandon their mitzvah obligations, if others perform them. Women cannot sound the Shofar because such sounding is a time-bound positive mitzvah. (Arlene Pianko, Women and the Shofar, Tradition. Vol. 14, no. 4,Fall 1974; Rachel Biale, Women and Jewish Law, NY: Schocken, 1984.) However, women are able to validly sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, performing a mitzvah without being obliged and receiving a reward. (Mishnah Berurah 589:8) The Shulchan Aruch says that one who sounds the Shofar or the one who prompts him should be learned in the torah and should be God-fearing men. They should be the best men available. (Shulchan Aruch 128:7) However, if the Baal Tekiah sees that his selection will cause dissension, he should decline the honor. If the Baal Tekiah is mourning in the first thirty days, he may sound the Shofar because Rosh Hashanah lifts the mourning obligation. However, another may do so if the Baal Tekiah is not ready due to lack of practice. However, if the Baal Tekiah is mourning Shiva, he may not. The Baal Tekiah should abstain from any contamination three days before Rosh Hashanah, taking the time to familiarize himself with the meaning of the prayers, liturgical poetry and the laws concerning the sounding of the Shofar. They should also study inspirational books. (Shulchan Aruch 128:11) After the sounds are accomplished, the Shofar is hidden so that no more sounds will be sounded that day (Shulchan Aruch 128:17) Nevertheless, if the Baal Tekiah is in mourning and another can not take his place, the Baal Tekiah can perform the mitzvah. Sounds arising form practice or by playing music from the Shofar are not valid, assuming intentionality. (Mishnah Berurah 589:8) Order of the Blasts

The order of the blasts consists of three sets of three each, the length of a tekiah is equal to three teruahs and the length of the teruah is equal to three Shevarim. (Rosh Hashanah 4:9) If the reader of the congregation makes a mistake in the calling of the notes, the congregation is obviated from error because the reader fulfills the obligation on behalf of the many. (Rosh Hashanah 4:9) Because there was a difference of opinion regarding the order of the shevarim-terurah when it was sounded in the Temple the Rabbis decided to blend the two notes together. (Rosh Hashanah 34a) Tekiah and Teruah The tekiah sound was always well defined and agreed upon by all authorities - a long, straight (without a break or pause) blast. The teruah sound, however, was not well defined and the Rabbis were unsure of how, exactly, it was supposed to sound ( While the basic definition of a teruah is a "crying" sound, it was unclear if that resembled short "wailing" sounds or longer "groaning" sounds). The Talmud ( Rosh Hashanah 33b) describes three possibilities: Shavarim as Three Short Blasts There are Rishonim (725-1100) who hold that a teruah is three short beeps. Shavarim as Nine Staccato Blasts On the other hand, we may rely on that view to fulfill our obligation (Mishnah Berurah 590:12) very short, staccato blasts - what we commonly refer to as teruah; A combination of both of the above sounds - a shevarim- teruah compound. Shevarim as a Rabbinic Compromise To satisfy all of the above opinions, the Rabbis established that the three sets of tekiot be sounded in three different ways, alternating the teruah sound in each set. Three straight blasts - what we commonly refer to as shevarim.

For the first set we sound tekiah shevarim-teruah tekiah (Ta SHV-TR Ta) three times. In the second phrase we sound tekiah shevarim tekiah (Ta SHV Ta) three times. In the third set, we sound tekiah teruah tekiah (Ta TR Ta) three times. All together that adds up to thirty different blasts - eighteen tekiot, three shevarim-teruahs, three shevarim and three teruahs. This is the minimum number of blasts that every adult male( The obligation of women regarding tekiat Shofar was discussed in The Weekly Halachah Discussion, pg. 532-534. Neustadt) is required to hear on Rosh Hashanah. These are called tekiot d'myushav, since the congregation is permitted to sit while they are being sounded. In practice, however, it is universally accepted to stand during these tekiot (Mishnah Berurah 585:2.(Note 8). A weak or elderly person may lean on a lift or a table during these sets of tekiot (Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 585:2). What Is the Irreducible Minimum of Blasts to Hear? A person in dire circumstances (a patient in the hospital, for example) who is unable to hear (or sound) thirty blasts, should try to hear (or sound) 10 sounds, one Ta SHV-TR Ta; one Ta SHV Ta; and one Ta TR Ta (Based on Mishnah Berurah 586:22 and 620:7. See also Mateh Efrayim 586:7 and Ktzeh ha-Mateh 590:1. See, however, Mateh Efrayim 593:3 who seems to rule in this case that three TaSHVTas should be sounded, with no blessing no blessing. In addition to these Biblically required blasts, we sound sixty more. Thirty more are sounded during Musaf, ten each after the malchiyot, zichronot and shofarot divisions of Shemoneh Esrei. Every adult male is rabbinically obligated to sound or hear these blasts in their designated places in the Musaf service. They are called tekiot d'meumad, since one is required to stand while they are being blasted(Mishnah Berurah 592:2. On the other hand, one fulfills his obligation if he sat during these tekiot; ibid.). In addition, it is customary to intone ten more blasts for a sum total of one hundred blasts. While this custom is based on several early sources ( See Mishnah Berurah 592:4.) and has been almost

universally adopted, there are various practices regarding when in the service, they are blasted. Generally, these blasts are sounded towards the end of and after the Musaf service, and one must refrain from speaking. ( Asher Yatzar, though, may be recited; Minchas Yitzchak 3:44; 4:47) until after all one hundred sounds have been sounded. How Long Should Each Blast Be? The length of a tekiah, both before and after the teruah, must be at least as long as the teruah which it accompanies( This is based on the minimum length of time required for the teruah, not on the actual time it took to sound a particular teruah). Thus, since it takes about 2-3 seconds to sound a shevarim or a teruah, the tekiah before and after must be at least 2-3 seconds long. Since it takes longer than 2-3 seconds to sound the combination shevarim-teruah sound, the tekiah which precedes and follows these sounds must be longer as well. Most congregations allot about 4-5 seconds for each of these tekiot. The makri (Shofar note reader) is responsible to keep time. [It is important to remember that each tekiah must be heard in its entirety no matter how long it takes. If, for example, a tekiah is sounded for 7 seconds, which is much longer than required, the entire 7 seconds' worth must be heard by the congregation. Care must be taken not to begin reciting the yehi ratzon until after the blast is concluded (Mishnah Berurah 587:16; haTekiot k'Halachah u'Behidur 1 quoting several sources.).] A teruah is at least nine short blasts (beeps), although in practice, many more beeps are sounded when the teruah is sounded. No breath may taken between the short beeps; they must be sounded consecutively. Each shever should be about three teruah-beeps long. However, if the shever is valid even if it is only two beeps long, it is considered valid, provided that all three shevarim are of that length (Shulchan Aruch Harav 590:7). No breath may be taken between each shever; they must be sounded consecutively (Orech Chaim 590:4). Shevarim Teruah - How Is It Sounded? There are two basic views of how to sound the shevarim-terurah combination. Some opinions hold that no breath may be taken between them and even b'dieved, a breath between them invalidates the blast. Others hold that a breath may be taken as long as it takes no longer than the split second that it takes to draw a breath. The custom in most congregations is to do it both ways; the tekiot before Musaf are blasted with no breath being taken between the shevarim-

teruah, while the tekiot during and after Musaf are blasted with a break for drawing a breath between the shevarim-teruah(Mishnah Berurah 590:20 and Sha'ar ha-Tziyun 18. The makri, too, should take a breath between the announcement of shevarim-teruah, so that the Ball Takiya will follow his lead (Elef ha-Magen 22). Mistakes While Sounding There are basically two types of mistakes that the tokea can make while sounding Shofar. The most common is that the tokea tries but fails to produce the proper sound. The general rule is that the tokea ignores the failed try, takes a breath, and tries again (Based on Mishnah Berurah 290:34, Aruch ha-Shulchan 290:20 and Da'as Torah 590:8). The other type of mistake is that the tokea intones the blast properly, but loses track and blasts the wrong blast, e.g., instead of shevarim he thinks that a tekiah is in order, or instead of teruah he thinks that a shevarim is due and he sounds the shevarim. In that case, it is not sufficient to merely ignore the wrong blast; rather the tokea must repeat the tekiah which precedes the shevarim (Another example is when the tokea mistakenly sounds [or begins to sound] two sets of shevarim or teruot in a row. The original tekiah must be repeated). When a tekiah needs to be repeated, it is proper that the makri notify the congregation of that (by banging on the bimah, etc.), so that the listeners do not lose track of which blasts are being sounded. The Ba'al Shem Tov, Founder of Chassidism in the eighteenth century sums up compassionately a human's effort that often fails: Once, a man who was blowing the Shofar thought so hard about why he was blowing the Shofar that he was overwhelmed and couldn't blow. Tears filled his eyes until, finally, a blast came forth. Said the Ba'al Shem Tov: "Don't mind all the meanings. The main message is your tears." Additional Hiddurim


As there are different views and/or stringencies pertaining to various aspects of tekiot Shofar, one who wishes to be extremely particular in this mitzvah may sound (or hear) additional blasts after the davening is over in order to satisfy all opinions. These include the following hiddurim: There are several ways of sounding the shevarim sound; while some sound short, straight blasts, others make a slight undulation (tu-u-tu). Some opinions maintain that l'chatchillah, each shever should be no longer than the length of two beeps (Orech Chaim 590:3). Some opinions hold that when the shevarim-teruah sound is sounded, there may not be any break at all between them (even if no breath is taken); the shever must lead directly into the teruah (Avnei Nezer 443; Chazon Ish Orech Chaim 136:1. This is difficult to perform properly. Some authorities insist that the tekiah sound be straight and clear from beginning to the end, with no fluctuation of pitch throughout the entire blast ( Harav Y.L. Diskin, based on the view of the Ramban and Ritva, see Moadim u'Zmanim 1:5. Chazon Ish, however, was not particular about this; Orchos Rabbeinu 2:183). Traveling To hear the Shofar, you are not allowed to travel more than 200 cubits; nor remove debris; nor climb a tree; nor ride on an animal; not to swim (Rosh Hashanah 12a) Practicing The Baal Tekiah is supposed to practice during the month of Elul, 30 days before Rosh Hashanah. The Shofar is sounded during the Shacharit service during this month. However, on the day before Rosh Hashanah, the Baal Tekiah does not sound the Shofar. Children are encouraged to learn how to sound the Shofar, even during Sabbath (Rosh Hashanah 4:8) Practicing does not fulfill the mitzvah. But making musical sounds does fulfill the mitzvah. (Rosh Hashanah 33b) On the other hand, is the Ball Tekiah make music, it is considered valid. (Rosh Hashanah 33b) When Is the Shofar Sounded?


The Shofar is sounded when Hallel (toward the end of the service) is recited because Roman soldiers had mistaken the Shofar sounds as a signal for a revolt when the sounds sounded in the Shacharit. (Rosh Hashanah 7) There are four specific places in the service when the Shofar is sounded: the Malkiyot, Zichronot and Shofarot sections of the shemonei esrei of the Musof Service and sometime during the reader's kaddish at the end of the service. The Sefer Halkkarim (Rav Josef Albo) posits the axioms of Judaism in to three categories: the existence of God; reward and punishment (accountability) and the divine origin of the Torah. The Sefer Halkkarim mentions that these axioms correspond to the Malkiyot, Zichronot and Shofarot in the Rosh Hashanah service. Rav Joseph Soloveichik indicates that we state and explain each truth one by one. We then prove it by quoting Biblical passages that have a definite order. The first three from Torah relating to the past; the middle three from the Writings relating to the present; finally, the last three from Prophets relating to the future. For the tenth verse in each section, we add a request asking God to bring about the ideal of the specific themes. The Shofar cry itself is actually considered a prayer. That is why it blends so well in the Shemonah Esrei (any other mitzvah would be considered an interruption). The sages discuss the shape of the Shofar as corresponding to the mood one would have in prayer. Gods mercy will accept our prayer (the Showers cry, as a prayer in anguish. Generally 30 blasts are sounded in each section after the Torah service. Then the remaining ten are sounded during the Readers Kaddish in the Musof Service, for a total of 100 blasts. (Rav Yehuda (Jeffrey) Silver, Rav Soloveichik Explains the Structure of the Special Rosh Hashanah Prayers, The Jewish Press, September 18, 1987) The Shofar is sounded after the Neilah service. Interestingly, the halachah is to sound the Shofar at the close of the Neilah service. However, many Rabbis face a practical problem. If the Shofar is sounded during Neilah, then everyone leaves the shul. Because the congregations have programmed in the Havdalah and Maariv services, many Rabbis sound the Shofar immediately after the Maariv service so that their congregants will stay for the whole event.


What Other Holidays Involve The Shofar? Jubilee Year (Lev 25:8-17). On the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishrei), proclaim with the Shofar. Commemorate the emancipation of slaves; each man returns to his hereditary property. New Moon, Every Hebrew Month The Shofar used to be sounded when a new moon was confirmed. Now it is only sounded during the month of Elul (one month before Rosh Hashanah) at the morning service. (Psalms 81:4) Fast Days Two Shofars were sounded, along with two trumpets. The Shofars notes were short and the trumpets were notes were elongated. The opposite occurred on Rosh Hashanah. (Rosh Hashanah 3:8)