LAWS OF THE FESTIVALS
LAWS OF ELUL AND ROSH HA-SHANA
In memory of
Yissachar Dov Shmuel bar Yakov Yehuda Illoway
and Leah Ruth
Illoway bat Natan Naso Jacobs
3: The Reason for and Nature of Mitzvat Tekiat
upcoming shiurim will be dedicated to
studying the laws of shofar, including the physical properties and
characteristics of the shofar, the nature of the mitzvah and the role of the shemia (hearing the shofar) as opposed
to the tekia (blowing the
shofar). We will also discuss the
minimum fulfillment of the mitzvah, as well as the custom to sound 100 or more
shofar sounds on Rosh Ha-shana! Finally, we will analyze Musaf (additional) prayer on Rosh
Ha-shana and its relation to the accompanying tekiat shofar.
before we begin our study of the laws of shofar, I would like to discuss the
reasons behind the mitzva itself.
While the legitimacy, methodologies and styles of the endeavor of
searching for ta'amei ha-mitzvot, reasons for the commandments, has been
discussed at length by the Sages and the Rishonim, we will simply present the
various reasons as they appear in the Bible, as well as in the halakhic and
philosophical passages of the Talmud and of the Rishonim. Along the way, we will address some of
the halakhic issues relevant to the mitzva of shofar.
for the Mitzva of Shofar:
14th-century Spanish Rishon, Rav David ben Yosef Abudraham, known by
his work, the Sefer Abudraham,
records that Rav Se'adya Gaon (10th century) enumerates ten reasons
for the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana. Many machzorim (prayer-books for
the High Holy Days) include these reasons before the blowing of the shofar. We will focus on three of
to Rav Se'adya Gaon, one function of tekiat shofar, as appears in the Bible,
is to praise God and to crown Him as our King. He explains that when a king is crowned,
at the beginning of his rule, trumpets and horns are blown in order to announce
the beginning of his kingship. We,
Rav Se'adya Gaon explain, also coronate God, through the blowing of the shofar,
on Rosh Ha-shana.
Sefer Tehillim states (98:6), "With trumpets
and THE SOUND OF THE SHOFAR, shout before the King, God;" and (150:3), "Praise
Him with the BLOWING OF THE SHOFAR; praise Him with the psaltery and harp." Furthermore, Bilam tells Balak, "Nor has
He seen perverseness in Israel; God his God is with him, and THE KING'S SHOUT
(teruat melekh) is in him" (Bamidbar 23:21).
Gemara (Rosh Ha-shana
16a), discussing the three central blessings of the Musaf prayer, also
implies that this is a function of the tekiat shofar:
you should recite before me Malkhuyyot, Zikhronot and shofarot. Malkhuyyot, in order that you should
coronate Me for you; Zikhronot, in
order that your remembrance should rise to Me with favor; and how? Through the
the Gemara (10b) relates a debate between Rabbi Eli'ezer and Rabbi Yehoshua,
respectively, whether the world was created in Tishrei or Nissan. The Gemara (27a) records that our
prayers follow the opinion of Rabbi Eli'ezer, as we say in the Musaf prayer, "This is the day, the
beginning of Your work, a remembrance for the first day."
the Torah never actually states explicitly that we blow the shofar on Rosh
Ha-shana; rather, it simply describes the day with the term terua (Vayikra 23:23-25, Bamidbar 29:1). The Torah only explicitly commands to
blow a shofar on Yom Kippur of the yovel (jubilee) year, as it says
you shall number seven sabbaths of years for you, seven times seven years; and
there shall be for you the days of seven sabbaths of years — forty-nine
years. Then shall you make
proclamation with the SHOFAR OF TERUA on the tenth day of the SEVENTH
MONTH; on the Day of Atonement shall you make proclamation with the shofar
throughout all your land.
Gemara (33b) derives that all of the laws of the shofar in "the seventh month"
(even those written by Yom Kippur of a yovel year) apply equally to Rosh
might ask, is the relationship between yovel and Rosh Ha-shana merely
coincidental, or do they share a common theme?
Rambam, in his Sefer
Ha-mitzvot (Positive 137), writes:
it is known that this blowing, on the yovel, in to publicize the freedom [of
the slaves]… as it says, "And you shall proclaim liberty" (ibid., v. 10) - and
it is not similar to the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana, which is a
remembrance before God; whereas this [yovel] is to release the slaves, as we
to the Rambam, we should not search for the meaning of the shofar in the laws of
the Sefer Ha-chinnukh (published
anonymously in 13th-century Spain),
a work which systematically discusses the laws and reasons for the 613
mitzvot, offers a different reason for this mitzva. The Chinnukh, as the author is known,
explains (Mitzva 130):
reason for this mitzva, according to the simplest understanding, is that God
wishes to declare to His nation that everything is His, and that everything
which He wishes to bestow will ultimately be returned, because the land is
His… The message of yovel is similar to that which earthly
kingdoms practice, that the lord of the land periodically takes control of the
fortified cities he has given to his vassals, in order to instill in them fear
of their lord.
as we shall soon see, the Chinnukh himself does NOT believe that this is the
reason for the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana, certainly, based upon this reason, one
might suggest that just as the shofar on yovel comes to declare the kingship of
God, so too the shofar of Rosh Ha-shana crowns Him.
Se'adya Gaon, listing his second reason for the shofar,
second reason is that the day of Rosh Ha-shana is the first day of the Aseret
Yemei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance), and we blow the shofar… as if to
warn: whoever wishes to repent should do so; and if not, he will suffer the
prophet Amos's (3:6) description of the blowing of the shofar, "Shall a shofar
be blown in the city, and the people not tremble? Shall evil befall a city, and God has
not done it?" illustrates its potential impact upon a
the Rambam (Hilkhot Teshuva 3:4) writes:
though the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Ha-shana is a decree of the Torah,
there is a hint in it, as if to say: awake, sleepers, from your sleep, and
slumberers from your slumber; search your actions and repent; and remember your
Creator… Because of this, the
entire house of Israel maintains the custom of increasing their charity, good
deeds and involvement in mitzvot from Rosh Ha-shana until Yom Kippur,
above the level of the rest of the year.
Chinnukh (405) elaborates, describing the impact of the shofar
a physical being will only awaken to certain things upon being called… on Rosh
Ha-shana, which is a day designated from antiquity for judging all creatures…
the sound of the shofar wakes the heart of all who hear it, AND CERTAINLY THE
SOUND OF THE TERUA – i.e., THE BROKEN SOUND. And not only should a person be aroused,
a person should remember to break his evil inclination to desire the pleasures
of the world and to sin WHEN HE HEARS THE BROKEN SOUNDS.
fulfills a third function, which we will elaborate upon in a future
shiur: its serves as a vessel or instrument of
Torah (Bamidbar 10:1-10) relates the
numerous functions of the trumpets in the desert. For example, they were sounded in order
signal the camps to move, or even merely to assemble the people (10:5-7). It is in this context that we first
encounter the Scriptural term "to
blow" "li-tkoa" — from which the Talmudic word for a
straight note, tekia, is derived. It appears only as a verb in Tanakh; in fact, the Torah even uses the verb form
of tekia to command us to blow a terua!
the Torah describes the preparations before going out to war, it relates that
the trumpets are also blown:
when you go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you, then
YOU SHALL SOUND A TERUA with the trumpets; and YOU SHALL BE REMEMBERED
before Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your
sounding of the trumpets in this context, apparently, is meant either to arouse
the nation to repent, or, possibly, to serve as the vehicle of prayer
fact, as we pointed out previously, the Ramban (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, Positive 5)
derives from this verse that prayer in times of crisis is a biblical
obligation. So does the Rambam
(Hilkhot Ta'aniyyot 1:1-3), who writes:
is a positive commandment to cry and call out with the trumpets upon every
crisis which confronts the community…
This is the way of repentance, that during a crisis they should cry and
call out; they should know that their condition is a function of their bad
behavior… This is what will allow
them to avert the crisis. This is
the way of repentance, that when a crisis comes, [the nation] should cry and
call out, and all should realize that because of their deeds, their situation
we saw above, this may be the intention of the Gemara (16a), in which we see the
shofar as the tool for bringing our remembrance before God. Next week, as we explore the various
laws of the shofar and its sounds, we will further demonstrate the role of the
shofar in our Rosh Ha-shana prayers.
of the Mitzva of Tekiat
halakhically speaking, is the nature of tekiat shofar? Might this be related to our previous
two components comprise the mitzva of shofar: tekia and shemia,
blowing and hearing the shofar, respectively. The Posekim have struggled for
generations to understand the relationship between these two parts, and to
determine whether the tekia or the shemia defines the mitzva.
order to determine whether the primary component of the mitzva is the tekia or shemia, it seems that we should search
for cases in which either the hearing or the blowing is
Mishna (3:7) teaches that one
who blows the shofar into a hole or pit has only fulfilled his obligation if he
heard the sound of the shofar, not an echo. Seemingly, this mishna strongly indicates that even if
one properly blows the shofar, one must still HEAR its pure
other sources indicate that this may not be so simple. For example, the Mishna (ibid, 8))
deaf person, a mental incompetent and a minor cannot fulfill the public's
obligation. This is the rule:
[only] one who is obligated in something can fulfill the public's
a deaf person (cheresh), one might ask whether the Mishna refers to a deaf-mute, who is
generally exempt from all mitzvot, or a deaf person who can speak, who may be
obligated in mitzvot not affected by his condition. The Me'iri (29) cites two divergent
opinions regarding this question.
This question may be dependent upon our discussion. Rav Yonatan of Lunel (ibid, 29a) rules
that a deaf person who can speak MAY fulfill another's obligation. The Shulchan Arukh (589:2) strongly
implies that he may not. We will
return to this issue shortly.
Gemara also extends this principle to women, who are exempt from shofar, as it
is considered to be a mitzvat aseh she-hazzeman geramah, a time-bound
were the shemia really the focal point of the mitzva, it should hardly
matter whether the person who blows the shofar is technically obligated or
the Rishonim, we find evidence that there is a disagreement regarding this
question. For example, what is the
proper blessing to recite over the shofar?
Rambam rules that the listener should recite the blessing "li-shmoa kol shofar," "to hear the sound of the
shofar" (Hilkhot Shofar 3:10). While that alone may not irrefutably
indicate how the Rambam understands the mitzva of shofar, a number of other
sources do. For example, he
introduces Hilkhot Shofar by counting the mitzva "TO HEAR the sound of
the shofar on the first of Tishrei."
fact, in a responsum (Teshuvot Ha-Rambam 142), he explains
mitzva which is commanded is not the tekia, but rather hearing the tekia… and if the mitzva would have been
the tekia [alone], each and every
male would be obligated to sound [the shofar], just as each and every male is
obligates in the mitzvot of sukka and lulav; and one who listens but does not
blow would not have fulfilled his obligation… and similarly one who blows but
does not hear — for example, one who covers his ears — would fulfill his
obligation!… [Rather] we only blow
in order to hear… and therefore we recite the blessing "to hear the sound of the
shofar," and not "on the blowing of the shofar."
Rambam clearly maintains that the mitzva is to HEAR the shofar, not to blow the
shofar. He also raises another
fascinating point. He claims that
since the mitzva is to hear, the congregation does not fulfill their obligation
through the principle of "shome'a ke-oneh" (equating listening to a sound
with making it) as the Gemara (27b) implies, but rather by simply hearing the
sound of the shofar!
Shulchan Arukh (OC 585:2) rules in accordance with the Rambam (as well as
the Behag, Ra'avya and Rosh), that one should recite the blessings of "li-shmoa kol shofar" and "Shehecheyanu," the blessing over new or
seasonal experiences, before blowing the shofar.
Tam (as cited by the Rosh, 4:10) disagrees. He maintains that one should recite the
blessing "al tekiat shofar" ("on the blowing of the
shofar"), as "asiyyatah hi gemar mitzvatah," "its performance is the
conclusion of the mitzva." Rav
Achai (She'iltot 171) and the Semag (Positive 42) also rule that one
should say "al tekiat shofar" before blowing the
Rabbeinu Tam believes that the tekia
is the primary component of the mitzva.
However, one might question this understanding, especially based on his
explanation that "asiyyatah hi gemar mitzvatah;" instead, one might
suggest he merely believes that one recites blessings over mitzvot when
one performs the act (ma'aseh), rather than when its aim is fulfilled
(kiyyum). This might be
supported by Rabbeinu Tam's position regarding the berakha over eating in
the sukka, as well as his position
regarding women reciting a blessing over a mitzvat aseh she-hazzeman
geramah, but this lies beyond the scope of this shiur.
Yerushalmi (Sukka 3:1) questions why one may not fulfill one's obligation
with a stolen lulav, but one may do
so with a stolen shofar. The
Yosa said: "Regarding a lulav, it
says, 'And you shall take for yourself' (Vayikra 23:40) - that which
belongs to you, and not that from which it is prohibited to derive benefit. But here [regarding shofar, it says] 'It
shall be a day of terua for you' (Bamidbar 29:1) - in any way."
Lazar said: "There, he fulfills the mitzva with [the object] itself; here, he
fulfills the mitzva with its sound, and no prohibition exists to benefit from a
Rambam (Hilkhot Shofar 1:1) writes,
"There is a positive commandment TO HEAR the sound of the shofar of Rosh
Ha-shana…" He even rules (1:3) that "one who blows a stolen shofar has fulfilled
his obligation, as the mitzva is fulfilled through the sound… and the sound
cannot be stolen."
in accordance with Rabbi Lazar, the Rambam once again demonstrates his view that
shemia is the dominant component of
the mitzva of shofar.
might suggest that Rabbi Yosa disagrees with Rabbi Lazar regarding the nature of
the mitzva of shofar, focusing on the tekia, as opposed to the shemia. The Ra'avad, commenting on the Rambam,
accepts the first explanation offered by the Yerushalmi, and writes (ibid, 1:3),
"Even if a sound could be stolen, the verse says 'It shall be a day of terua for you' — in any way".
Hagahot Asheri (4:14) cites the Or Zarua, who rules that a stolen shofar may NOT
be used for the mitzva. Seemingly,
he believes that the fulfillment of the mitzva of shofar is no different than
the mitzva of lulav, and that both
mitzvot are fulfilled through an action performed with the object, the tekia in the case of the shofar.
approach, in its extreme form, seems to fall short. The Rambam, for example, does not
explain why one must still hear the sound of the shofar from a person who is
obligated in the mitzva (29a)! Rabbi Aryeh Leib ben Asher Gunzberg
(1695–1785), in his commentary (29), discusses this issue.
it is unclear why the Rambam (ibid, 2:4) rules that both the person blowing the
shofar and the person listening must have in mind to fulfill the mitzva, and the
person blowing must have in mind to fulfill the obligation of the listener, if
the mitzva is fulfilled merely by listening!
Rishonim differ as to how to interpret a passage in the Gemara (28b) in which
Rabbi Zeira says to his friend, "Have in mind, sound [the shofar] for me." Some (Rosh, 3:11) maintain that the
Gemara must be understood according to those who believe that commandments must
be fulfilled with intent (mitzvot tzerikhot kavvana). Others (see the Ran's discussion, 7b)
insist that one needs intent in order to fulfill another person's obligation of
might suggest that Rabbi Zeira merely reminds his friend to blow the shofar for
the public properly, not merely "to play around." He is not referring specifically to the
intention to fulfill one or another's obligation. Some interpret the Rambam in this
manner. In any case, the Rambam's
position still remains difficult.
those who focus upon the tekia, such
as Rav Achai, the Semag and Rabbeinu Tam, must explain why a deaf person would
be unable to fulfill the mitzva.
Furthermore, they must also find difficulty with the Mishna's assertion that one who blows
the shofar into a pit and hears the echo has not fulfilled his obligation! If the mitzva is truly fulfilled through
the tekia alone, then one should
fulfill one's obligation in these cases.
Finally, they must confront the Rambam's question: how can the principle
of shome'a ke-oneh apply to a mitzva performed with one's
Acharonim grapple with these questions, and offer numerous solutions. Some attempt to adhere to the extreme
positions, suggesting, for example, that although the mitzva may be TO HEAR, one
must still hear a halakhically recognized kol shofar, which can only be produced
by a person obligated in the mitzva of blowing a kosher shofar. Alternatively, some suggest that
although the mitzva is fulfilled through the TEKIA, one must still produce a sound
that may be heard. The Maharam
Alashkar (Responsa, 10), for example, explains that "for those that state
there is a mitzva to blow… nevertheless, one must blow in a way that the sound
reaches his ears, as we find by the recitation of the Shema and similar
mitzvot, that although the mitzva is reading, it must be a reading that
suggest a more moderate approach, explaining that all must agree that BOTH the
tekia and shemia are integral components of the
mitzva of shofar. Rav Yosef ben
Moshe Babad (1801–1874), author of a commentary on the Sefer Ha-chinnukh known as the Minchat
Chinnukh, writes (405):
what the later commentators have written regarding this mitzva, that both the
hearing and the blowing are part of the mitzva, and one without the other is
insufficient. For one who hears
from someone who is not obligated, e.g., from women and the like, does not
fulfill his obligation. Thus, the
mitzva is not only hearing; one must also blow, and thus he can fulfill his
obligation only via someone who is obligated. Similarly, blowing without hearing is
not sufficient, as is explicit in Tractate Rosh Ha-shana: "One who blows
into a pit…"
it would seem that the Rishonim cited above disagree as to the PRIMARY aspect of
the mitzva, not as to which is the ONLY component of the mitzva.
of the most intriguing and innovative suggestions is offered by Rav Yonatan of
Lunel (24b). He explains:
does not say: And you shall blow the shofar, as it says regarding lulav, "And you shall take…"
(Vayikra 23:40); rather, [it says] "zikhron terua" (ibid, v. 24) and "yom terua" (Bamidbar 29:1);
therefore, if one hears the sound from his friend, it is a "yom terua," and it is a "zikhron terua."
Rav Yonatan of Lunel believes that the mitzva, fundamentally, is neither to blow
nor to hear the shofar. Rather, the
mitzva is to create "a day of terua,"
which is accomplished by a person obligated in the mitzva blowing a kosher
to our original question, we might consider the view of those who maintain that
the PRIMARY reason for the mitzva relates either to the shofar's role in the
coronation of God or its role as an instrument of prayer. According to this approach, one might be
inclined to focus more upon the blowing of the shofar and less upon hearing the
shofar. Alternatively, those who
view the sounding of the shofar as a call to repent may be more inclined to
focus upon the "hearing" of the shofar.
The Rambam, for example, who explains that the shofar is a "wake-up call"
to repent (Hilkhot Teshuva 3:4), also strongly asserts, as demonstrated
above, that the mitzva lies in the shemia, not the tekia.
course, Rav Yonatan of Lunel's suggestion, that the Torah commands us to
transform Rosh Ha-shana into a "yom terua," matches the themes we discussed
last week regarding the nature and experience of Rosh Ha-shana.
week, we will study the laws of the shofar in greater