Blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashannah

Commandments that deal with the seemingly superficial side of man, express a deeper foundation of unconditional commitment to the covenant with God  Op-ed.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed ,

Shofar blowing
Shofar blowing
צילום: Kupat Hair

There are many worthwhile things to think about on Rosh Hashannah – regarding the clal (Jewish collectivity) and the prat (the individual) – however, the primary theme of the prayers on Rosh Hashannah is the crowning of God as our king. For this reason, the third berakha of the Amida concludes with “ha-Melekh ha-kadosh” (the holy King) instead of the usual “ha-Kel ha-kadosh” (the holy God).

We continue using this alternative conclusion throughout the Ten Days of Repentance. This change is so significant that if one forgets to make it, and concludes with “the holy God,” he has not fulfilled his obligation and must repeat the Amida. The reason for this is that in prayer, a person stands before God, and if one did not pay attention to the fact that during these days His kingdom is revealed in the world, it is as if he has not stood before God, and has not fulfilled his obligation of prayer.

The meaning of accepting God’s kingdom is the readiness to be a Jew, faithful to the Divine destiny of revealing His faith in the world, to walk in His ways, and to add goodness and blessing to the world, as God said to our father Abraham:

God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse” (Genesis 12: 1-3).

Similarly, the wording of the blessing “Ha-Melech ha-Kadosh (“the Holy King”) in the Amida prayer of the Yamim Nora’im (The Days of Awe):

And so, grant that Your awe, our God, be upon all Your works… and may they all form a single band to do Your will with a perfect heart …Now, O Lord, grant honor to your people… And you, O Lord, will reign alone over all your deeds…

In this way, blessing and goodness will be added to the world:

Joy to your land and gladness to your city… and then the righteous will see this and rejoice, and the upright will be jubilant, and the pious will exult with joyous song… when You remove the rule of evil from the earth.”

So as to express enlistment for our great mission, it is appropriate during these days to strengthen our observance of the mitzvot that express our acceptance of God’s kingship and our commitment to keeping the Torah and mitzvot by arriving on time to prayers, answering amen out load, and in wearing Jewish attire – tzitzit and a nice looking kippa for men, and halakhically modest dress for women.

The Covenant Revealed in the Declarative Commandments

Some people tend to underestimate these mitzvot because they ostensibly concern the superficial side. In truth, however, they express the deepest foundation – the acceptance of God’s kingship. Thus, we find that one of Israel’s greatest accolades was saying at Mount Sinai ‘na’aseh v’nishma‘ – first “we will do”, and afterwards “we will listen.” By doing so, the People of Israel showed that its relationship with God is absolute, beyond comprehension and emotions – a bond based on a ‘brit‘ (covenant).

That is why the People of Israel are the ones destined to repair the world, by revealing the Heavenly ideals according to the instructions of the Torah.

The Shofar Blasts – Awe and Joy

It is a mitzvah to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashannah, and the main mitzvah is to hear a teru’a, which expresses brokenness, fear, crying, and radical change. The previous year has ended; people experience anxiety over lost opportunities of the past year, and great trepidation in anticipation of the judgment of the upcoming one. On the other hand, it is a mitzvah to hear before and after each teru’a a teki’a, which expresses joy and stability. This is because the fear and teshuva (repentance) are intended to elevate us, and therefore, out of emunah (faith) and simcha (joy), we are fearful, and by way of this fear, we add simcha and emunah.

How A Person with a Hearing Aid Should Act

One who hears the shofar by means of an electronic hearing aid does not fulfill the mitzva according to most poskim. Some say that this is because the sound produced by the device is not the sound of the shofar. Rather, the device receives the sounds as electronic signals and then translates them into a new sound – the sound of the device, not the sound of the shofar (R.Uziel and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach).

Others say that one may fulfill other mitzvot that require listening by means of an electronic hearing aid, but when it comes to the shofar, one should be stringent, because if one heard the echo of the shofar, he did not fulfill his obligation (Maran Rav Kook).

However, some are lenient and consider hearing the shofar by means of a device to be the equivalent of regular hearing.

In practice, since most poskim maintain that one does not fulfill his obligation by hearing through an electrical device, one who has such a device must remove it, for as long as it is in his ear, he cannot hear the original sound of the shofar. However, one who cannot hear the shofar at all without the device should leave it in, because according to some poskim he fulfills the mitzva in this way.

The same applies to someone with cochlear implants. It would seem that when hearing by means of implants improves to the point that it is really like hearing normally, we can accept the view that hearing in this way is considered hearing normally (see, Peninei Halakha: Days of Awe, Chap.4, note 4).

Prohibition of Preparation from First Day to Second Day

One should be careful not to do any preparatory actions from the first day of Yom Tov of Rosh Hashanah to the second day, because the first day of Yom Tov is a Torah ordinance, while the second day is from Divrei Chachamim (rabbinical status). Therefore, it is forbidden to cook or heat food, or to set the table from the first day of Yom Tov to the second day (S.A., O.C. 503:1). Likewise, it is forbidden to wash the dirty dishes used on the first day in order to use them on the second day; wash them only after the stars come out, tzeit ha’chochavim (7:15 P.M.in Jerusalem), and then is one permitted to prepare food and heat it up, wash the dishes, and set the table for the second Yom Tov evening meal.

Food should not be removed from the freezer on the first day to be eaten at the second night’s meal. In a sha’at dachak (extenuating circumstance), when waiting for the first day of Yom Tov to end will cause discomfort and a significant delay of the meal, it is permissible to take the food out during the day (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2, footnote 12).

Candle Lighting on the Second Night

It is proper to light the candles of the second Yom Tov after tzeit ha’chochavim, so as not to prepare from the first day of Yom Tov to the second day. A woman who usually lights bein ha’shmashot (the time between sunset and tzeit ha’chochavim) has a halakhic opinion on which to rely, since at that time there is also a certain amount of honor and enjoyment from the candles.

Since it is forbidden to kindle a new fire on Yom Tov, a candle should be prepared before the holiday that will remain lit for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light candles on the second night. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should seek assistance from neighbors who have a lit candle (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2; 12: 9, footnote 5).

Good news for the New Year: The dedication of schools in Har Bracha

On last Tuesday, the 23rd of Elul 5781, we were privileged to inaugurate the permanent building of the ulpana (young women’s school) on Har Bracha, with the participation of President Yitzhak Herzog and the rabbis of the Tzvia school network, and my rabbis, Rabbi Isser Klonsky and Rabbi Eitan Eisman.

Although the building was designed, approved, and built at a relatively fast pace (about three years), now that it is finished, there is not an empty classroom left, and we must immediately begin construction of an additional wing. As customary, the community leaders were scrupulous to request a building that would be big enough for three classes for each school year, but the heads of the Ministry of Education naively thought they were exaggerating – as usual – asking twice as much as needed. They also did not imagine that in Gav Ha’Har, on the front-line of Jewish settlement, there would be so many students.

In practice, we have already reached the point that in the seventh grade, there are three classes in a graduating class, and in the entire ulpana, there are about three hundred and twenty students. In all of the educational institutions in Har Bracha, there are approximately fifteen hundred students.

The words of Isaiah to Knesset Yisrael have been fulfilled through us:

Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you… Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste – now you will be too small for your people… The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’ Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I (thought) I was bereaved and barren, exiled and rejected. Who brought these up?” (Isaiah 49: 18-21).

With God’s help, the community continues to grow and expand. About eighty apartments are currently in various stages of construction, and in the coming months the construction of another one hundred and thirty apartments will begin, and another three hundred apartments are planned for the coming years. All of the apartments are five rooms or more, intended for large families. May the words of the Prophet be fulfilled in us:

The Lord God proclaims: I will also allow the house of Israel to ask me to do this for them: that I increase them like a human flock. Like the holy flock, like the flock of Jerusalem at its festivals, the ruined cities will be filled with a human flock. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 36: 37-38).

Prayer for the Success of the Ulpana

Instead of words of Torah and blessings, I offered a prayer to God on behalf of those present:

“May it be the will of the Lord our God and the God of our fathers, that in the ulpana we happily inaugurate today, the teachers will merit to educate their students to believe in the great vision that God has revealed to Israel His nation, to bring blessing to the world by walking in his ways and settling the Land, as the Torah says:

God said to Abram, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you great. You shall become a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you‘ (Genesis 12:1-3).

With the pattern of the Beit Ha-Mikdash (Holy Temple) in our minds, including the entirety of all its values, we offer a prayer to our Father in Heaven.

“May it be the will of the Lord our God and God of our fathers, that the Kodesh ha-Kodashim (Holy of Holies) of the ulpana be expressed through the education to loyalty to the brit between God and Israel his nation, to the study of Torah and the observance of its commandments, and to the establishment of blessed families, with love and joy – for the Tablets of the Covenant, the Torah, and the cherubim in the Kodesh ha-Kodeshim – express the Torah, and the sanctity of the family in Israel.

May it be God’s will, that inspired by the menorah (lamp) in the Mikdash, which symbolized the values ​​of wisdom and science, education towards study of the world’s wisdoms and the various sciences, out of curiosity and diligence, will continue. And inspired by the Shulchan – the table on which the Lechem HaPanim [Showbread] was brought in the Temple, which symbolized the values ​​of work and livelihood, engaging in yishuvo shel olam (settlement of the world), with loyalty and diligence, each girl according to her unique character, will continue to be taught.

May it be His will that inspired by the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret (The Golden Inner Altar) on which the ketoret (incense) was burned, symbolizing prayer and the purification of middot (good traits, virtues), the dear teachers will merit to educate all their students in good middot, honesty, and love of people, and teach them to believe in the talents God has given them, and pray for their fulfillment, until each young woman is privileged to refine her special talents, similar to the ketoret on the Golden Alter.

May it be God’s will that in the inspiration of the Great Altar in the Temple courtyard, which symbolized the values ​​of devotion and sacrifice, teaching continues for devotion and sacrifice for all sacred values – Torah and family, derech eretz, and good deeds, science and work, the Ingathering of the Exiles, yishuv ha’aretz, redemption of the Jewish people, and Tikkun Olam, because nothing of value can exist in the world without devotion and sacrifice.

May the sacrifice be expressed in a life of devotion, and not in the sacrifice of the lives of soldiers and settlers killed ‘al Kiddush Hashem’ (for the sanctification of God), the nation, and the Land.

May it be the will of our Father in Heaven, that from this ulpana will blossom women who will establish glorious families, rabbaniyot, and teachers who will illuminate the world with their Torah, scientists revealing the secrets of creation for a blessing, women of action and public activity in all areas of life.

And when the graduates of the ulpana are grandmothers, and their grandchildren ask them to tell them a little about how they were able to fulfill such important values ​​in their lives, they will remember how wonderful and formative was the time they were privileged to study in their ulpana in Har Bracha.

May we all be privileged to see the ingathering of all the exiles, the settlement and complete redemption of our cherished Land, and in the building of the Beit Ha-Mikdash speedily in our days.”

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew



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