Rabbi Eliezer Melamed
Rabbi Eliezer MelamedPR photo

When Rosh Hashannah falls on Shabbat, one should ideally complete the third Shabbat meal three hours before sunset, in order to be able to eat the meal for the second night of the holiday with an appetite *

According to Torah law, even if Rosh Hashannah is on Shabbat the shofar is blown. However, our Sages ordained that the shofar is not blown on Shabbat, because while everyone is obligated in shofar, not everyone is knowledgeable about the laws pertaining to carrying in the public domain on Shabbat. The Sages were concerned that people who did not know how to blow the shofar, might take one to an expert to teach them. If they were to carry the shofar four amot within the public domain, they would transgress the Torah prohibition of carrying on Shabbat (Rosh Hashannah 29b; SA 588:5).

Nevertheless, in the Temple they blew the shofar even on Shabbat, as rabbinic ordinances did not apply within the Temple.

Although the ordinance to refrain from blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashannah on Shabbat is rabbinic, the Torah alludes to it: One verse says, “A day of blasts (yom teru’a)” (Bamidbar 29:1), while another says, “A sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts (zikhron teru’a)” (Vayikra 23:24). The Gemara explains that when Rosh Hashannah is on a weekday it is a day of teru’a, while when it is on Shabbat it is a commemoration (zikhron) of teru’a, when we mention the teru’a without actually sounding the blasts (Rosh Hashannah 29b).

Kabbalists explain that when Rosh Hashannah is on Shabbat, blowing the shofar is not necessary because the holiness normally achieved by blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashannah is largely achieved on Shabbat by virtue of its intrinsic holiness. True, shofar blasts would add even more holiness, but on such an exalted plane that it would be almost impossible for us to perceive or absorb it. However, in the place of the Temple and Sanhedrin, people were able to absorb it. Therefore, in those places the shofar was blown even on Shabbat (see, Peninei Halakha: Days of Awe 4:9).

The Transition from Shabbat to the Second Day of Rosh Hashannah

One must eat three Shabbat meals, and ideally complete the third meal by three hours before sunset, in order to be able to eat the second night holiday meal with an appetite.

If finishing prayers late makes it difficult to have a third meal, the second meal should be split into two, first eating one portion and reciting Grace After Meals, taking an intermission of about half an hour during which one should learn or take a walk, and then washing hands again and having an additional meal on the second portion.

One must be careful not to prepare on Shabbat for the holiday. Therefore, only after Shabbat ends is it permitted to wash dishes for the holiday, and set the holiday table. However, when waiting for Shabbat to end will cause significant distress and delay of the meal, it is permitted to take food out of the freezer on Shabbat for the holiday night meal.

The holiday candles are lit after Shabbat ends, after reciting "Blessed is He who differentiates between holy and holy". Since it is prohibited to ignite a new flame on the holiday, a candle must be prepared before Shabbat to remain lit for over 24 hours, that can be used to light the holiday candles. If such a candle was not prepared, one should ask assistance from neighbors who did light a candle.

In the kiddush and prayers, one incorporates the havdalah blessing. A blessing over the candle lighting is recited, but not over spices.

Reading the Banishment of Ishmael

As on all the festivals, five people are called up to the Torah. On the first day, we read the story of Yitzḥak’s birth and the banishment of Hagar and Yishmael (Bereishit 21:1-34), and the haftara is the story of Ḥanna and the birth of Shmuel (SA 584:2). This is appropriate, as three righteous women conceived on Rosh Hashannah: Our matriarch Sarah, mother of Yitzḥak; our matriarch Racḥel, mother of Yosef; and Ḥanna, mother of the prophet Shmuel (Rosh Hashannah 10b). These women were so exceptionally righteous that they were destined to give birth to children whose souls were radically new. These souls could not be born naturally, which is why their mothers remained barren for so long. It was only through the renewal of Rosh Hashannah that they could be helped.

However, most of the Torah portion discusses the banishment of Ishmael. Seemingly this is not a pleasant story, so why did the Sages enact reading this seemingly accusatory portion on Rosh Hashana (see Ramban and Radak)?

Rather, the question itself flips to become the answer! This portion is fitting to read specifically on the Day of Judgement. For despite the pain, there was no moral failing in banishing Ishmael. Had there been a failing, our Sages would not have enacted reading it on Rosh Hashannah, so as not to provide the accusers with material. In other words, Sarah our matriarch's initial intent was good, just she placed too much trust in Hagar and her son, until tensions built up and it was clear they would not accept Yitzchak as Abraham's primary successor. Therefore, there was no choice but to banish Ishmael. Specifically on the Day of Judgement, one must recognize that sometimes there are no good options, and one must choose the less bad option, between two difficult choices. Only through this can one continue building and improving, until a way is found to benefit everyone as much as possible.

Additionally, especially on Rosh Hashannah, the day of judgment, it is important to distinguish between the Jewish people and the rest of the nations, who are not willing to accept upon themselves the great and awe-inspiring mission of repairing the world under the kingship of God – just as it was necessary to separate Yishmael from Yisrael.

Israel's Virtue and the Blessing for the Nations

Sometimes it appears that emphasizing Israel's virtue comes at the expense of other nations. But the truth is the opposite. The essence of Israel's virtue is their desire to add goodness and blessing to the entire world. Therefore, specifically when Israel entered the Land of Israel, and accepted the covenant to be responsible for one another, they also wrote the Torah in seventy languages for all the nations of the world (Deuteronomy 27:8; Mishna Sotah 7:5).

Hearing Aid Use on Rosh Hashannah

One who hears the shofar by means of an electronic hearing aid does not fulfill the mitzvah 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 without the device should leave it in, because according to some poskim he fulfills the mitzvah in this way. And it appears that, with God's help, as hearing aids (or cochlear implants) are improved to the point one hears through them like people normally hear, we will rule even hearing via an electric aid is like natural hearing (see, Peninei Halakha: Days of Awe, Chap.4, note 4).

Rabbi Uziel ztz"l

As a follow-up to last week’s column's, focusing on the Rishon Le’Tzion, Rabbi Uziel ztz"l, whose 70th yahrzeit was this week on 24th of Elul, I will add a few more stories about him.

His Exceptional Diligence

Yakov Rimon, who knew Rabbi Uziel from childhood and later as community secretary in Tel Aviv, seeing his constant work as Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, wrote: "He had unlimited diligence and persistence. I always found him leaning over books and manuscripts, pages of commentary laid out before him, as he wrote ceaselessly. When I would remark that he should guard his health, he would respond, 'What can I do, there is no spare time - life is short, there is much work to do, and time presses!'" (‘Shana be’Shana’, eve of Rosh Hashannah 1965).

Shabbtai Don Yechia likewise wrote in his book on Rabbi Uziel (p. 211): "He acquired his Torah knowledge through tremendous diligence...he studied at home, while traveling, and anywhere he stayed. Whenever he journeyed, he would fill his suitcases with books on the Bible, Mishnah and Talmud. 'I have no choice, there is no spare time - the day is short and the work plentiful,' he would tell confidants who suggested he rest a bit from his toil. In his sparse daily moments of rest, he studied French, English, Greek, Turkish and Arabic... He learned Torah commentary extensively, systematically, and according to plan. With outstanding talents he easily grasped complex matters, and remembered them fully. He would listen to long detailed lectures, and absorb them in his memory. He read extensively, and remembered the contents."

He Instructed Yeshiva Students to Enlist in the War of Independence

During the War of Independence, "when Jerusalem was bombarded by enemy cannons, he did not take cover in a shelter, but rather, participated in consultations, walked among falling shells, and fulfilled his duty as Chief Rabbi and community leader...He temporarily ceased writing his scholarly halachic and aggadic responses. He was entirely focused on the war's developments in Jerusalem, and the rest of the country...When some yeshiva students came requesting draft deferrals, he adamantly dismissed their request, saying: ‘Were I not elderly and ill, I would personally take up arms and grenades...I would go out to defend each house, synagogue, and alley of my dear Jerusalem. Every good young man is today on the front line. This is a war of life or death. How can one conceive the thought of evading this milchemet mitzvah? Go and enlist in the war, and let each man say to his fellow: Be strong!’ (ibid. pg.227). Incidentally, this was also the position of our mentor and teacher, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook.

No Boycotting

One of his greatest students and followers was Rabbi Chaim David Halevy ztz"l, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and author of 'Mekor Chaim'. He wrote in his book (‘Asei Lecha Rav’, p. 97): "It was in 1949, I believe. The Chief Rabbinate declared a grand assembly to protest the first Shabbat desecrations in the young state. He, Rabbi Uziel ztz"l, gave a moving speech at that assembly, tearfully reading verses from the prophet Nechemia (13) about Shabbat desecrations in Jerusalem in his time. Leaving the assembly, a taxi was called to bring him home. That taxi's window displayed the day of the week it did not operate (due to gas rationing, each car had to be off one day a week, marked on the windshield). It was not a Shabbat designation (meaning the driver desecrated Shabbat). His escorts, who obviously were still moved after hearing his stirring speech, 'advised' him not to ride in such a taxi. But Rabbi Uziel did not heed them, and entered the taxi, explaining to those around him: 'I do not boycott any individual Jew, even if he does not observe Shabbat.'"

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