Halachot of Tekiat Shofar
Join Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman and cover the halachot of tekiat shofar including: the technical points of what sort of sounds need to be heard, the number of sounds, who is obligated to hear the shofar, as well as some of the ideas for explaining the mitzvah of tekiat shofar.
Since the shofar is supposed to awaken us to do teshuva and the seriousness of the moment, in the second lesson of this course, Rabbi Fischman delves into the question of why we don’t fast on Rosh Hashanah.
Halachot of Tekiat Shofar: Lesson 1
Dear Everyone, First, thanks to all the people who got up early in the morning to join the shiur, and to all the new members as well as to returning members. Today we saw that even though the mitzvah of Tekiat Shofar has been performed by the Jewish people for thousands of years, different methods of performing the mitzvah have evolved. In our own time there are at (at least) two customs regarding the “shvarim”- whether to blow 3 unmodulated tones (“toooo-toooo-toooo”) or three modulated tones (toorooh-toorooh-toorooh). These two customs can be traced back to the Ritvah and the Ramban. About 1500 years ago the Gemarah says that the leader of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Avahu, initiated the practice of sounding not only the already known “shvarim” and “teruah” but a new, previously unknown combination of the two, “shvarim-teruah.” Why, or even how, could Rabbi Avahu institute a new way to perform a mitzvah which had been performed by the entire people for thousands of years? We saw two answers to this question. The Ritvah, quoting Rav Hai Gaon, said that all three methods of blowing shofar are equally acceptable. However, many lay-people thought that the methods of blowing shofar are mutually exclusive- only one method could be correct. Rabbi Avahu legislated that all three methods should be practiced by all communities with the aim of minimizing arguments . Rav Dessler explains the matter differently. Rav Dessler differentiates between “Halacha” and “custom.” Halacha cannot be questioned. By “Halacha” Rav Dessler means any law whose provenance is unquestionable. For example, the Gemarah says that the straps of our tefillin must be black. The statement is unambiguous; so our tefillin straps are black. However there are many mitzvot which we perform every day ( or every year) but nonetheless not all the details of their performance are firmly based on clear sources. In these cases Rav Dessler says that scholars are REQUIRED to analyze these details critically and if their analyses of these details lead them to the conclusion that current practice is wrong, then they must follow their analyses and abandon the current practice. According to Rav Dessler this is the reason that Rabbeinu Tam felt the need to abandon the method that his grandfather, Rashi, had for writing Tefillin. I think that this may also explain why Rabbi Avahu felt obligated to re-examine how the shofar was being blown in his time and felt bound to introduce the shvarim-teruah.
Halachot of Tekiat Shofar: Lesson 2
Hello Everyone, Today we studied the laws about fasting on Rosh Hashanah. There are two opinions about this; one opinion is that fasting is a good thing to do not only on Rosh Hashanah but on Shabbat Shuva as well. The other opinion is that Rosh Hashnah is like any other holiday when fasting is forbidden. The Netivot Shalom ( the Rebbe of Slonim zt”l) explains the two aspects of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is not a Day of Judgement as usually understood. Rather it is the day when Hashem renews the Creation and He views all the objects on Earth to see how they can help or hinder progress on Earth. This is truly a solemn process. But Rosh Hashanah is also the day that Hashem renews His covenant with the Jewish people. So for the individual, Rosh Hashanah is a day for serious reflection. But individuals need to remember that they are part of a nation that has a covenant with Hashem and on the day that the covenant is renewed the Jewish people should rejoice. Shanah Tovah to everyone.
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.