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Sep 25, 2006

Did you blow the shofar on the 1st day?

The actual mitzva of blowing shofar on Rosh Hashana is on the first day. The Rabbis, in a bold and daring move, decided to cancel the shofar blowing when the first day of Rosh Hashana falls out on Shabbos. The reason they did so is because they were concerned somebody would accidentaly carry the shofar outside (with no eruv). In order to avoid the possibility of desecration of shabbos, they decided nobody should blow shofar on shabbos.

That is in brief. There are more specifics, such as how Rosh Hashana became 2 days instead of one, etc..

This year Rosh Hashana fell out on Shabbos and Sunday. In keeping with tradition, shuls did not blow shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Most shuls that is.

About 100 years ago there was a Rabbi in Jerusalem named Rav Shlezinger. Rav Shlezinger was an erudite man and very learned and talented. He studied the issue and felt that the ban on blowing shofar should be cancelled. I do not remember what exactly the reasons were, but he wrote a very scholarly article supporting his view. He travelled around to the Rabbinic leaders of the time trying to drum up support for his view.

Most Rabbis did not support him, though some gave him their quiet support. They liked the idea but were concerned about having their name behind such a drastic change. After much debate, he ended up having to go it pretty much alone. He held his own small minyan in jerusalem in which he blew the shofar (when Rosh Hashana fell out on shabbos). He had to do it very privately as he had been threatened by the zealots of Jerusalem. Rumors have it that some of the gedolim of his time would go to listen to the shofar blown, but would do so in secret. A number of responsa have been written about the issue.

This year, reports have it (I have not yet personally substantiated the reports but will try), that a minyan in Jerusalem blew the shofar on shabbos. The minyan was a small minyan in the Old City consisting of about 25 people. It was under the auspices of the "New Sanhedrin" (you can go to their website by clicking in the links section in my sidebar).

The New Sanhedrin considers themselves a continuation of the original Sanhedrin. While not yet universally accepted as such, they are working on drumming up the support. They paskened that the shofar should be blown on shabbos, as it was originally meant to be. I do not know the details of how they came to the psak, but it seems they were following in the trail blazed by Rav Shlezinger. The minyan supposedly consisted of mostly members of the Sanhedrin, which is a very diverse body of scholars, including (and were present at the minyan) Sefardic and Ashkenazic Rabbis, members of Toldos Aharon, Ger Chassidim, Litvishe Rabbis, etc..


  1. Of course we had no Shofar blowing on the first day in my Shul but this story is very interesting to me as it always somewhat bothered me that Chazal had so little faith in people that they cancelled important mitsvos to prevent a possible transgression.

  2. it's about time! The cancellation of 1 di'oraysa for concern over another is hard enough to accept. But the fact remains, that it was done for a specific reason. when that reason is not applicable, we should reinstate the halacha. otherwise, we are "over" on the issur of "navi b'kirbicha". One of the ways we tell a false navi, is if he eliminates a mitzva for good, not just temporarily. In that case, how is this different?

    we need to have rabbis who are willing to take back judaism and return it to the way it was meant. Which is to the rabbis of each generation. not just from 1000 years ago and nothing changes. The torah is a living concept and adaptable to life within guidelines. Unfortunately, we've thrown that out. Similar to a second day yom-tov, now that we have a calender form hillel no less, we've eliminated the issue of the timing of the eidim. at minimum, no one in eretz yisroel should hold 2 days e.g. a yeshiva boy/girl studying in e"y. chutz la'aretz could be negotiated and discussed, but for sure within eretz yisroel, no one should have to keep 2 days. it should be like oleh l'regel in the time of the bais hamikdash!

  3. see my take on it here.

    I don't think this is an undoing of the conclusion of the Amoraim not to blow, nor is it a changing of halacha because the old reasons don't hold.

    rather, it seems a straightforward application of the gemara to blow specifically in front of Bet Din when the court is in session, as brought down lehalacha bizman hezaeh by the Rif. Perhaps they are only restricting the court defined by the gemara as Sanhedrin, which they consider themselves.

    but they likely would tell you not to blow in your own shul.

    See my above-linked blogpost for more details.

  4. a REAL sanhedrin would have declared, or at least discussed, the cancellation of the 2nd day of RH.

  5. I'm with you, adderabbi. Our rabbi mentioned in shul that for several hundred years, only one day was observed in Eretz Yisrael.

  6. Not to beat the same old drum, but, I still fail to understand how rabbis get to override clear d'oraysa's,ie: pruzebul, korbonot, shofar on 1st day, and are considered orthodox. There are far fewer issues with using a microphone on shabat or mixed seating etc but that is considered deviancy.

  7. They were following the Rambam, it was the logical conclusion of claiming semicha and a fixed beis din.

    See the discussion on their website http://thesanhedrin.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=346

  8. You all make good points, but let's say they told you that your shul should blow on shabbos. Would you run to do it? I think most of us would hesitate and probably be too afraid to implement it.. it is easy to go l'chumroh and not do something, it is much more difficult to go against the trend and do something that has been banned for hundreds/thousands of years.

    Josh - I knew the issue was with being in front of beis din but I am unclear as to how that applies, which is why I did not mention it. I mean - does not every shul have an automatic beis din of 3 as any 3 men together according to halacha makes a beis din. Do they need to have the status of mumche in something specific? Many shuls have numerous scholarly people praying in them - would those shuls then be able to declare a beis din and blow on shabbos? It is very unclear hwo this beis din applies..

    Dan - that is a very troubling poitn and something that has bothered many including myself. I do not have an answer to the question - maye somebody can help. As part of being religious we believe our Rabbis are creating these decrees for our benefit with the authorization of God, but it is still a good question.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. rafi:
    indeed, it is a good question to what type of Bet Din the Rif applies. but they also are holding by the Rambam, etc., as others have mentioned. And if they consider themselves the Sanhedrin, then I think everyone would agree (except perhaps Rabbi Eliezer in the Mishna, depending on how you read the restriction to Yavneh). (My personal understanding of Rif is specifically an authentic Bet Din that regularly rules on cases, but that is besides the point.)

    If they would try to cancel the gezeira -- well, that would be another issue, depending on whether they were greater in chochma/minyan. I am not sure they would try to do this, at least at this point.

    in terms of Dan's question:
    I know that I'm not going to successfully and persuasively answer such a deep-rooted question "al regel achat," and it is kind of pointless to try, so I will not get into a lengthy back and forth on this issue here.

    however, just some quick points, which you likely already know:

    * Chazal in the gemara deduce specific parameters in which they have power, and where they do not. Whether we agree with their deductions (and thus are Pharisees) or not is a separate issue. Thus, in general, ain koach beyad chachamim laakor davar min haTorah, they do not have power to uproot a deOrayta. This is only beKum veAseh, where they would tell you to actively do something. However, with "shev veAl taaseh," to sit back and do nothing, they do have the authority, they say.

    * korbanot, I don't think is an issue of deRabbanan cancelling deOrayta. I'm pretty sure they would consider there to be deOrayta problems like "issur bamot" and "chullin baChutz." Whether one is a Pharisee and agrees that these are deOrayta issues is beside the point. Within the system, it is consistent.

    * There is also the concept of "haarama," halachic "trickery" to accomplish lofty ends, in which they operate entirely within the halachic system. Thus, the Yerushalmi relates how in time of famine, one Kohen betrothed (but did not consummate the marriage) many, many unmarried women in order to allow them to eat terumah. In terms of pruzbal, if you look in the Torah (Devarim 15), the institution of forgiving loans on shemitta is followed by a statement אֶפֶס כִּי לֹא יִהְיֶה-בְּךָ אֶבְיוֹן, and talks about how one should not hold back from giving because of fear of losing the money. Indeed, Rabbi Akiva instituted this because of tikkun haOlam - one might say שלא תנעול דלת בפני לוין, the idea of not shutting the door before the poor, since people will refuse to lend, and is basing himself on the very concerns mentioned in the pasuk. Indeed, he might even be making a derasha, but I won't elaborate here. The halachic trickery in this case is such that one transfers his loan to a bet din, such that it is not in his posession, and shemitta does not apply to the Bet Din's property. Thus, there is no active violation of the command to forgive debts in one's own posession. And Hillel thus enables the fulfillment of the later command, and prevents widespread violation of the prohibition, of לֹא תְאַמֵּץ אֶת-לְבָבְךָ, וְלֹא תִקְפֹּץ אֶת-יָדְךָ, מֵאָחִיךָ, הָאֶבְיוֹן, later in the perek.

  11. correction:
    chullin bachutz should be kodshim bachutz.

  12. rafi: I am disappointed that you have no faith in me. If it's banned - I'm the first in line!

    Josh: Great points, but.... It doesn't answer how they pick and chose in practicality. also, assuming all is perfect with the rabbis(which it isn't, and that statement does not make me an apikores), why are todays rabbis so anti continuing the same gedarim and removing those fences when applicable? Just to say they are being cautios or humble is baloney, they are quick to institute all types of new chumros! I read your blog post as you linked it. I still maintain we need more Rabbis willing to recapture the real Judaism and get rid of this "chumra" one we are stuck with now. We are in a renaissance of jewish orthodox learning. we have more sefarim from past rabbis along with current piskei halacha. There is no reason the rabbis are behaving like a bunch of cowards and assuring everything for the public (yes, in private for individuals there are koolot). But it's the public p'sakim that show how strong we are religiously and chumros don't show it. we simply become more and more like the Taliban instead.

  13. josh: as well, explain the logic to me in this. we have hilchos eruvin, which the rabbis allowed to be applied to any community meeting the requirements. We then create heterim to carry almost anything on shabos within the eruv, EXCEPT a shofar/Lulav which are di'oraysa because some yo-yo may ferget he has no eruv. Call me a kofer, but the logic escapes me.

  14. shaya:
    I'll see what I have time to answer. But before I do, let me first establish my bona fides.

    some posts on my blog, as just a few examples:
    Talking Between Yishtabach and Yitzer Or: The Development of an Erroneous Prohibition

    Why I Support Talking In Shul

    The Learner/Burner Series, post 7 -- part of the upshot of this series it a claim that one can nullify chametz on Pesach, against an explicit gemara.

    (Note in each of these cases, consult your local orthodox rabbi.)

    Still, while I argue for various positions that might be terms leniences (and others that might be called stringencies), I do not concur with you in this, and perhaps I'll have time to explain why.

  15. Joshwax,

    so help me understand, when you say chazal you mean a number of intelligent human men who lived about 2000 years ago. And these men decided that they A) would be the men authorized to explain the rules and B) the men authorized to create perameters adjusting the rules.

    Or to put it more succinctly, "we are in charge because we say we are in charge and you can't disagree because we are in charge. How do you know we are in charge? Because we deduced from the writings we are in charge."

    I wont debate the issues of korbonot or pruzebal because as you say, it is trickery. And if you are in charge you can create any trickery you like and claim it smells like roses. The one point I will however dispute is the idea that sitting down and not doing is different then actively doing. Both stem from a concious choice, and choice is active. See Ghandi for further details.

    And finally, to sum up and make sure I understand; doing things much more difficultly than the torah says is good and not doing some things at all that the torah says is also good so long as the people who say they are in charge say so.
    A line I heard comes to mind, if jesus came back he would feel at home in a shul and if moses came back he would ask where did all the jews go?

  16. Dan:
    I am not going to engage you on this, just because I do not like arguing just for the sake of arguing. Where I've done it in the past, it proved to much a distraction from personal life, work, school, blogging, etc.. I was attempting to clarify some of the points that underlie the position. Yes, Pharisaic Judaism is axiomatic in the position I laid out. We *could* get sidetracked into a whole discussion about the legitimacy of Chazal, but I just am not interested in having this discussion on this blog at this time.

    However, just to clarify - I did *not* say that korbanot was trickery. I said it about pruzbul. And I did not use "trickery" as a loaded term, but as a technical term to mean making use of a legal loophole.

    In terms of sitting and doing as opposed to taking an action - once again, I was being descriptive not prescriptive. While one *can* make the argument that not performing a positive command is less serious than violating a prohibition, I was just being descriptive of the parameters in which Chazal feel they do and do not have power. Look for the term שב ואל תעשה at snunit.

    All the best.

  17. shaya:
    Firstly, you might enjoy Daniel Sperber's article, "Paralysis in Contemporary Halakhah?" Tradition 36:3 (Fall 2002), 1-13, if you haven't checked it out yet.

    While there are many sociological and methodological factors that have led to adoption of more and more chumrot in recent times (such as an approach to try to satisfy all possible positions, loss of mimetic tradition, etc.), there still are some fairly old and well established positions that make it difficult to overturn halacha established by the gemara, or later.

    Three examples/factors that are likely to come up, among others:
    From Bava Metzia 86a: רב אשי ורבינא סוף הוראה.
    This is taken to mean that the end of the Amoraic period, with Ravina and Rav Ashi, is the close of Rabbinic institutions. (Later enactments have a different status.)

    You will see this come up even to the point of leniency. E.g. the Nodeh Biyhuda rejects a prohibition of marrying someone if you have the same name as your potential father-in-law, on the basis that it is post-Talmudic, and we see Amoraim with the same names as their fathers-in-law.

    That same statement is taken to mean that Rabbinic law is fixed, for Ravina and Rav Ashi, redactors of the Talmud, were the last to give rulings, and the legitimate role of later generations is to determine which statements in the gemara were the conclusive ones in terms of actual practice, and then to apply these laws to various situations.

    This restriction does not really apply to other generations of Gaonim/ Rishonim/ Acharonim to each other (says me. perhaps others may argue)

    There is also the idea, based on an incident in Talmud, that when a community accepts upon themselves a restriction, and does this not in error, subsequent generations may not be excused from this restriction.

    A third point can be found, for example, in Moed Katan 3b:
    אין ב"ד יכול לבטל דברי בית דין חבירו אלא אם כן גדול ממנו בחכמה ובמנין

    Thus, this is a restriction recorded in the gemara about how one can change halacha or more specifically gezeira established in a Bet Din.

    Which is an issue that the new Sanhedrin is going to have to face.

    There is also the issue that halacha, like many legal systems, does pay heed to precedent.

    That is not to say that there is not room for new (or old) leniencies, given new evaluations. I have argued for some, but not based on arguing with Tannaim and Amoraim. But it is problematic, *within the established halachic system*, to overturn established halacha on the basis of disagreement with the relevance or appropriateness of certain gezeirot.

    Perhaps more later, in terms of shofar.
    All the best.

  18. shaya:
    In terms of tekiat shofar, the relevant gemara is Rosh HaShana 29b:

    מנה"מ אמר רבי לוי בר לחמא אמר רבי חמא בר חנינא כתוב אחד אומר (ויקרא כג) שבתון זכרון תרועה וכתוב אחד אומר (במדבר כט) יום תרועה יהיה לכם לא קשיא כאן ביו"ט שחל להיות בשבת כאן ביום טוב שחל להיות בחול אמר רבא אי מדאורייתא היא במקדש היכי תקעינן ועוד הא לאו מלאכה היא דאצטריך קרא למעוטי דתנא דבי שמואל (במדבר כט) כל מלאכת עבודה לא תעשו יצתה תקיעת שופר ורדיית הפת שהיא חכמה ואינה מלאכה אלא אמר רבא מדאורייתא מישרא שרי ורבנן הוא דגזור ביה כדרבה דאמר רבה הכל חייבין בתקיעת שופר ואין הכל בקיעין בתקיעת שופר גזירה שמא יטלנו בידו וילך אצל הבקי ללמוד ויעבירנו ד' אמות ברה"ר והיינו טעמא דלולב והיינו טעמא דמגילה

    One can analyze this gemara straightforwardly, or from the perspective of academic Talmud -- which will distinguish between the statements of Amoraim and the post-Talmudic connective tissue, in which case a different perspective of the prohibition may come to light, where your difficulty may be resolved. I will perhaps only partially dissect it here. This is all off the cuff, so please excuse any errors or awkward phrasing. At the end, I even offer a defense of the standard reason for the prohibition.

    First, one should note that there are different conceptions of the mitzvah of blowing shofar. Is it incumbent upon the entire community, or upon each and every individual? (Rabba's statement is certainly that the obligation is on everyone.) This obligation of the community, or Bet Din, to blow, was initially every Rosh Chodesh. There are several academic papers on the subject, and how this is actually found in several gemaras, but also see Ibn Ezra on the pasuk "tiku bachodesh shofar." perhaps that of Rosh haShana is of the same kind.

    We might then distinguish between blowing done in the Bet HaMikdash, or by Sanhedrin, and that done by everyone all over the place. They might be two different levels of obligation.

    Rabbi Levi bar Chama cited a position that the distinction (not necessarily prohibition) between Shabbat Rosh HaShana and weekday Rosh haShana is *Biblical*, not rabbinic. He would presumably only be referring to that outside of the Mikdash/Sanhedrin. That in the Temple could be construed as part of the order of korbanot, or as the communal command of blowing.

    Rava rejects the Biblical nature of the distinction. This may is in line with the idea that blowing a shofar, like playing any musical instrument, is a chochma rather than a melacha - a skill rather than a labor. Thus, it is not forbidden Biblically.

    What is the status of a chochma on Shabbat? The simple meaning of this gemara implies that it is normally entirely permitted (and the prohibition comes from a decree lest one blow), and this causes conflicts with other gemaras. Check out Shabbat daf 4a where removing bread skillfully from a bread oven is a skill - chochma, and thus permitted only in certain circumstances.

    It would seem that a chochma is Rabbinically forbidden on Shabbat by virtue of being a chochma, a skillful task. If so, one could disconnect it from the reason of Rabba of lest one come to carry. (This requires arguing with the post-Talmudic narrative voice of the Talmud, the setama de-gemara.) If so, here is a second reason it is prohibited, that has nothing to do with Eruvs.

    But let us consider Rabba's reason - lest one come to carry four cubits in the public domain. That is, we agree that there is an obligation of every individual to blow - separate from the obligation of blowing in the Temple or in front of Bet Din. Yet, not every individual is expert. If we establish and maintain this obligation for the individual (over and above that of the Bet Din for the community) even on Shabbat, then every individual, even in the boondocks, is obligated. Not every Jew knows how to blow. And then, it stands to reason that Jews who do not live within an eruv, who do not know how to blow, will take it to an expert to teach him how to blow. Thus, in general, let us not set this up or maintain it as an obligation on Shabbat.

    They had eruvs in the time of the gemara as well. Indeed, from an incident in which Amoraim were criticized for not establishing an eruv for their community, it is understood to be a mitzvah to do so. Yet, even in such a situation, Rabba stated that this was the reasoning.

    Is modern times so different? Sure, we have places with eruvs. Just as was the case in the days of Rabba. But we also have places (like Manhattan) where there is no eruv.

    (Finally - this was a reason given for a law in a Mishna. If one dislikes the reason given by Rabba, and thus feels it should be discarded, then -- assuming one actually has authority to discard it -- it is similar to how Rava dismissed the first suggestion. If so, the law in the Mishna simply stands unexplained, and there is some better reason that was unknown to the Amoraim. Who says that Rabba's is the TRUE reason for the law, once we say that it is wrong?)

    There are probably other mainstream defenses and explanations, but I like to mix things up. ;)

    Kol Tuv.

  19. great eaplanation Josh, and it helps understand things a certain amount. But it still does not clear up how the Rabbanim originally gave themselves the power to make such changes. Yes, the mishna says to make fences for the Torah, but how do we know that means they can cancel certain mitzvos (even b'shev v'al taaseh)?

  20. it's a great question.
    check out this article, where the author discusses various opinions about the issue, and the basis for its legitimacy.

  21. rafi: glad to see you kick in here. I thought I was alone on this disturbance(aside from danny's POV).

    Josh: regardless of our agreement or disagreement, thank you for taking the time to respond and respond so in depth. I think that while your answers address the issue, they do so a) more peripherily than directly, and b) They are from a hashkafa perspective that assumes and accepts some basics w/o really having a definite answer.

    While I believe that I approach it from an orthodox perspective (I am shomer shabbos/kashrus), I can no longer accept the answer "because". Too many rebbeim hide behind the answer "how can you ask that, they are chazal. what's wrong with you, are you an apikores"? Well, I learned it's not enough, and it's not what Judaism is about. Judaism asks questions - all types and looks for the truth. Not just a certain hashkafa's answers.

    Ok enough soapbox. once again, thanks

  22. I guess ultimately it depends on whether you see judaism as an army. By which I mean this: A)either you believe that chazal were me similar to all men and prone to mistakes and emotional judgments or B) you believe point A but subdjucate your will for the greater good of the unit; for choesiveness's sake.
    The problem with subdjucating you will is that it does not bring unity. Note the variety of judaism that does and always has existed. What subdjucating one's will does do is create a system that becomes intellectually dishonest and prone to corruption and ultimately a faint mirror of its origional intentions.

    There is a third alternative and that is that chazal were a groupof "malachim" but I won't debate that issue.

  23. Many Issues are raised. Why is Rosh Hashanah still observed over two days?, not blowing the shofar on Shabbos?, blowing the shofar in front of a Bet Din.

    All these questions are very pertinent.

    Was the sounding of the shofar misinterpreted by the Jerusalem police as a political action rather than as religious action (even if possibly somewhat political.)?

    Would the Jerusalem police have reacted in the same way if Rosh Hashanah had not been on Shabbos. [Interesting Note it was blown on the Sunday.]


  24. UPDATE - --- --- -- -- -- -

    I am still looking around for info about this and am finding more and mroe name sof gedolim who have blown privately on shabbos. Supposedly some Rishonim did so. Specifically I found out about the author of a sefer called "Lev Ha'Ivri" who wrote very strongly about the requirement in yerushalayim to blow shofar even on shabbos. I do not know when he lived, but he commanded his descendants to blow on RH that falls on shabbos and supposedly they do so.

    As well, he seems to be famous for writing that someone who is "mezalzel" in the words of chazal (in general) wil have a big problem. After all, the Torah requires shofar blowing on shabbos and only based on chazal are we allowed to not blow on shabbos. If somebody is mezalzel in divrei chazal, he has no excuse not to blow, as he does not accept chazals authority, and then when he gets up to heaven after 120, hashem will ask him why he did not blow shofar on shabbos and he will not be able to answer that he was relying on divrei chazal.

    I also found a story about a Rav Frank of Yerushalayim from about 50 years ago who held that one must blow on shabbos. he instructed his grandchild (today a Rav in Yerushalayim) to blow shofar for him. The young man said on shabbos they do not blow shofar. So the grandfather said you call out the blows and I will blow. The grandson son, fine but I will also scream "Shabbbes" at the same time when you blow. Thus they did, he blew and the grandson screamed shabbess.

  25. According to this article, Rav Shlesinger is the Lev Ha'ivri. Read the whole article.

  26. On the same topic, but a different issue, you can look here
    or here
    and here

    Thanks for all the discourse, Rafi, Dan, Josh, shaya and others - sorry I chimed in so late.

  27. ths self-proclaimed "sanhedrin" blew the shofar on shabbat only in order to confirm its pretention it is the sanhedrin. which it isn't because they did NOT renew smicha. if they distort the halacha, how can they be the sanhedrin? curse on them!

  28. shilo - I actually recently spoke to a member of Sanhedrin who told me that it was not done under the auspices of the sanhedrin but was rather done independently. The Sanhedrin opposed such an act but did not come out publicly with an official ruling. These were members of sanhedrin who blew shofar on their own volition.

    Then again, it is not so clear you need sanhedrin in order to blow. The Halacha just refers to beis din, not necessarily sanhedrin..


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