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Shofar on Shabbat? Not Yet...

In my article, "The Misswa of Lulav on Shabbath-Getting Back on Track", I presented the Halakhic foundation for taking the Lulav on the first day of Sukkoth which falls on Shabbath. I was subsequently asked by several readers if we should also have blown the Shophar since Rosh HaShanna this year fell on Shabbath. There were indeed reports in Israeli newspapers that a minyan in Jerusalem had done just this.

As we shall see the issues of Lulav and Shophar are clearly disparate, and I do not currently advocate blowing Shophar when Rosh HaShanna falls on Shabbath.

Regarding Shophar, the Mishna states (Rosh Hashana 4:1; Talmudh Bavli 29b):

When the Festival of Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbath, the Shophar was blown in the Beth HaMiqdash [the Temple], but not in the rest of the country. After the destruction of the Beth HaMiqdash, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the Shophar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din.

Regarding Lulav, however, the Mishna states (Sukka 3:11; Talmudh Bavli 41b):

When the first day of Sukkoth falls on Shabbath the people bring their Lulavim to the synagogue [on Erev Shabbath because of the prohibition of carrying from one domain to another]; and [the next day] everybody identifies his Lulav and takes it. Because [the Sages] taught: 'One may not fulfil one's obligation on the first day of Sukkoth with the Lulav of his fellow.' On the remaining days of Sukkoth, however, one may fulfil one's obligation with the Lulav of his fellow.

In fact, the Mishna (Sukka 4a; Talmudh Bavli 42b) leaves no room for error, expounding this very issue in detail:

The Lulav and the Arava (willow) [are taken] six or seven [days]....When is the Lulav [taken] seven [days]? When the first day of Sukkoth falls on Shabbath, one waves the Lulav seven days; on other days, [when the first day of Sukkoth falls on the rest of the days of the week, one does not wave on Shabbath in the middle of the holiday because only on the first day of Sukkoth does the misswa of Lulav override Shabbath and thus one waves Lulav] six [days only].

Clearly the two are not one and the same: Lulav overrides Shabbath in all places, while Shophar overrides Shabbath only in the Miqdash. The question is why?

According to the Talmudh Bavli (Rosh Hashana 29b; Sukka 42b) the matter is murky: we are told that due to the possibility that some people may carry the Shophar or Lulav in the street - something that is prohibited on Shabbath - the Sages decreed that both these commandments, Lulav and Shophar, be left undone when the festival coincides with Shabbath.

This explanation is problematic; the Mishna plainly distinguishes between the two. The Talmudh Bavli (Sukka 43a) is aware of this difficulty and posits:

As for the first day - when Lulav is a Torah-mandated misswa throughout the Land [as opposed to the Beth HaMiqdash where Lulav is Torah-mandated for all seven days] - the Sages made no decree. On the remaining days, when Lulav is not Torah-mandated throughout the land, the Sages decreed [that the Lulav not be taken on Shabbath].

But what of the Shophar - is this too not a Torah-mandated misswa? And if so, why is it limited to the Miqdash? The Talmudh Bavli, surprisingly, skirts the issue. The Tosaphoth (Rosh HaShanna 29b; Sukka 42b) are disturbed by this deafening silence and attempt to elucidate the matter, with dubious success.

Which brings us to the Talmudh Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmudh, also known as the Talmudh of Eress Yisrael) which asks the following question: "If blowing the Shophar is Torah-mandated, why should it not override Shabbath everywhere? And if it is not Torah-mandated, why does it override Shabbath in the Temple?"

The Talmudh Yerushalmi's explanation is characteristically simple:

Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai taught: [The Torah states (Leviticus 23:24): "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall keep a solemn rest, a day of Remembering proclaimed by the blowing of a horn, a holy convocation. You shall do no manner of work;] and you shall bring an offering [made by fire before HaShem]" - [the misswa of Shophar applies] in the place where the sacrifices are offered.

Why is the Shophar blown only in the Miqdash when Rosh HaShanna falls on Shabbath? Because the misswa of Shophar is Torah-mandated only in the Miqdash, "in the place where the sacrifices are offered"!

In other words, blowing the Shophar is essentially part of the sacrificial service prescribed in the Torah for Rosh HaShanna (as it is part of the Musaph prayer today). The Mishna informs us that although this misswa is traditionally extended beyond the walls of the Miqdash, when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbath it is performed only in its elemental format, i.e. in the Miqdash.

The Talmudh Yerushalmi goes on to explain that all this is clearly indicated in the text of the Torah itself. Regarding the other occasion where we are commanded to sound a horn we read:

And you shall count seven Shabbaths of years, seven times seven years; the total number, seven Shabbaths of years, being forty nine years. Then shall you cause the sound of the horn to be heard far and wide, on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall cause the horn to be heard throughout your Land (Leviticus 25:8-9).

On Yom Kippur of the Yovel (Jubilee year), the Shophar is to be sounded "throughout your Land" and is "to be heard far and wide" (the Torah's expression "ta'aviru Shophar" clearly suggests that we are to relay the sounding of the Shophar throughout the country). Here we are told to blow the Shophar in all places, not just in the Miqdash (see Maimonides, Shemitta and Yovel 10:13-14; 10:10-11 in Vilna ed.). Regarding Rosh HaShanna, however, the Torah makes no such stipulation.

The once-murky picture now comes into focus: the Torah-mandated commandments of Lulav and Shophar are not overridden by Rabbinical edict, nor are they identical. Both misswoth are performed on Shabbath, but with a difference: Lulav is performed in all places while the Shophar is blown only in the Miqdash.

So what is to be done when no Temple exists? "Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the Shophar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din". As with similar edicts pronounced in the wake of the national calamity that was the destruction of the Miqdash, Rabban Yohanan and his Court wished to ensure that the Temple-based tradition of sounding the Shophar in one central location when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbath not be forgotten. In the absence of the Miqdash, the seat of the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of 71 Rabbis) becomes the focal point of the nation and it is only there (or in a similarly constituted Beth Din), that the Shophar is blown (Maimonides, Shophar 2:9). When we succeed in reconstituting such a Beth Din, we shall be required to blow the Shophar on Shabbath once again.

Due to the bright and penetrating light shed by the Talmudh Yerushalmi, we can now understand this conundrum. So too can we fully appreciate the profound precision of the Torah and the way in which the Oral Tradition complements and embodies the Written Law.

It is with good reason that our Sages taught, when commenting on the verse "And the gold of that land is good" (Bereshith 2:12): "There is no Torah like the Torah of Eress Yisrael, and no wisdom like the wisdom of Eress Yisrael" (Bereshith Raba 16:4).

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