Shofar, Blessings, and Glad Tidings

How many shofar blasts must one hear on Rosh Hashanah * Sitting and standing for the shofar blasts * Differences customs regarding blowing the shofar during the Silent Prayer * Someone who uses a hearing aid but can hear without it should remove it during the blowing of the shofar * When two prayer quorums are held at the same time and can hear each other, it is advisable not to blow the shofar at the same time * The custom of women to hear the shofar, and the difference of opinion whether to recite the blessing * The prohibition of preparing from the first day of Rosh Hashanah to the second day * When, and how to light the candles on the second night * The order of blessings over the ‘simanim’ * God’s blessing in the past year: growth and strengthening of the communities in Judea and Samaria

The Torah Mitzvah of Shofar

It is a mitzvah from the Torah to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and the intention of the mitzvah is to hear three teru’ot (blasts), and to sound before and after each teru’ah a simple tekiya. Thus, the Torah commandment is to hear nine shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah. Since there are three types of teruahshevarim, alluding to sighing, teruah, connoting crying, and shevarim-teruah, a combination of both – it follows that in order to fulfill the commandment in the most complete way, we need to hear thirty shofar blasts (shevarim-teruah are considered as two blasts) (Peninei Halakha:Yom’im Nora’im 4: 1-2).

Rabbinic Additions and Minhag

The fulfillment of the mitzvah in its finest way is to blow the shofar during the chazan’s repetition of the Mussaf prayer. Our Sages fixed an additional measure to adorn the mitzvah by also sounding the shofar before the Mussaf prayer in “Tekiyot Me’yushav” (the blasts sounded while sitting). On the one hand, the important blasts are the ones in the Mussaf prayer, and therefore, according to the strict law, one may sit during the blasts preceding the prayer, and this is the custom of Sephardim. On the other hand, since one fulfills his obligation by hearing these blasts, seeing as they are the first ones to be heard, the Ashkenazi custom is to stand.

There were some rabbis who went even further, adorning the mitzvah by sounding a hundred blasts, as written in the book “Aruch” according to the Jerusalem Talmud. But during the times of the Rishonim, only a few people were accustomed to do so, but after the Ari HaKadosh arranged kavanot (intentions) for one hundred tekiyot, the minhag (custom) spread to most Jewish communities (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im 4:3-4).

Should the Shofar be blown during the Silent Prayer?

The minhag of Sephardim and Chassidim is to blow thirty blasts during the Silent Prayer of Mussaf as is done in the repetition of the chazan, because by combining the blasts during the prayers, the blasts and the prayers themselves are more acceptable. For those who follow this minhag, the person blowing the shofar determines the pace of prayer, and the worshipers try to pray at his speed, in order to hear the blasts in their proper place at the end of the blessing. To do so, the shofar blower should pray unhurriedly and in a steady pace, and it would be best for someone who completes the blessing before him to wait until he blows the shofar. Nevertheless, those who want to pray faster or slower may do so, and say, “Hayom Harat Olam” at the end of every blessing and when hearing the blasts, although in the middle of a different blessing, they should stop and hear the blasts and afterwards, continue their prayers. In order to complete a hundred blasts, ten more blasts are blown during the ‘Kaddish titkabal’.

According to the Ashkenazi minhag, blasts are not sounded during the Silent Prayer, so as not to interfere with the intentions of the worshippers, who would have to match the pace of their own prayers to that of the chazan. In order to complete a hundred blasts at the end of the chazan’s repetition, forty blasts are missing. Thirty are blown after “Aleynu l’Sha’bay’ach“, and another ten after “Anim Zemirot” (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im: 4:4).

A Person with a Hearing Aid

Concerning a person who uses an electric hearing device, if he can hear the shofar without the device, it would be best for him to remove the device from his ear so as to hear the sound of the shofar naturally. This is because there are contemporary poskim (Jewish law arbiters) who are of the opinion that the sound emanating from the electrical device is not considered the sound of the shofar, rather, the device receives the sound as electrical signals and then converts them into a new sound, and thus, it is considered a mechanical sound (Rabbi Uziel, Rabbi Goren, Rabbi Auerbach). Additionally, some say that although for other mitzvoth hearing by means of an electrical device is fit for use, but regarding hearing the shofar one should be ‘machmir’ (strict) (Maran Rabbi Kook, Iggrot Moshe). However, those unable to hear the shofar without the use of a hearing aid should use the device, seeing as some poskim say one may fulfill the mitzvah in this fashion (Rabbi Orenstein, ‘Assiya’ 77-78; Yibeah Omer). In my humble opinion, it appears to me that, God-willing, when we are able to improve hearing aids (or a cochlear implant) to the point where by using it one can hear as naturally as others normally do, the halakha will be that hearing by means of an electrical device will be the same as normal hearing (see, Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im: 4, footnote 4).

Simultaneous Shofar Blasts

When two minyan’s (prayer quorums) pray in close proximity, if one minyan had started blowing the shofar, it would be advisable for the other minyan to wait until the first minyan finishes their series of blasts. This is because there are poskim who say that if one hears other shofar blasts in the middle of hearing blasts with which he fulfills his obligation, even though he has no kavanah (intention) to fulfill his obligation by hearing them, they invalidate the tekiyot. And although the halakha goes according to the opinion of most authorities that such blasts do not invalidate others, l’chatchila (from the outset), it is good to take their opinion into consideration (Peninei Halakha; Yomim Nora’im 4, footnote 4).

Shofar Blowing for Women

Men are obligated in the mitzvah of shofar, while women are exempt seeing as it is a positive commandment dependent on a specific time. Women who wish to hear the shofar fulfill a mitzvah, and receive reward for it. The minhag of most Jewish women is to voluntarily fulfill the mitzvah.

In regards to reciting the blessing, there are different customs. Some poskim say that the blessing was fixed only for men obligated in the mitzvah, but a woman who blows the shofar for herself does not recite the blessing, and if a man blows for women he does not recite the blessing. Others say that although women are exempt from the mitzvah, seeing as they fulfill a mitzvah by hearing the shofar, the woman blowing the shofar should recite the blessing. Also, when a man blows for a group of women, one of the women would recite the blessing for all of them (Peninei Halakha: Yom’im Nora’im ibid 4:6).

Women’s Prayer

Women are obligated to pray. Some halachic authorities say the intention is they are required to pray the Amidah (Eighteen Benedictions) once a day – Shacharit (Morning Prayer) or

Mincha (Afternoon Prayer). Others say they are required to pray twice a day – both Shacharit and Mincha; and according to all opinions, they are obligated to recite Birkot HaShachar (the Morning Blessings). And although throughout the year a woman who wishes to be lenient and pray only one Amidah a day may do so, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is proper for every woman to pray the Amidah of Shacharit, Mussaf, and Mincha.

A woman who is scrupulous in the performance of mitzvoth and wishes to pray all of the High Holiday services in the synagogue – ‘tavo aleyha bracha‘(this is pious conduct for which one is blessed for being strict).

However, as long as a woman has young children to care for, it is preferable for her to remain at home, because in any event, the rabbis did not obligate women to pray with a minyan. If taking care of her children makes it difficult for her to concentrate on her Amidah prayers, she should suffice by reciting the Birkot HaShachar. How fortunate is her lot; taking care of her children is her prayers, and there is no better ‘siman tov‘(good sign) for the entire year than to take care of a small child, patiently and happily. And just as God provides life to all living things on Rosh Hashanah, so too, she takes care of her child and provides him life.
Nevertheless if a woman so wishes she can coordinate with a neighbor that each one watch their respective children for a certain amount of time, allowing them both to go to synagogue and pray.

The Transition from the First Day of Rosh Hashana to the Second

One must be careful not to make preparations for the meal, or set the table, from Yom Tov Rishon (the first day of Rosh Hashana) to Yom Tov Sheni (the second day). Therefore, it is forbidden to wash the dirty dishes from the first day in order to use them on the second night or day; rather, only after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’ (nightfall) arrives, and the first day has ended, may one wash the dishes to use them for the holiday meal, set the table, and heat-up the food.

This is why, in practice, the second night meal is delayed at least an hour after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’, and it is my custom to prolong the sermon on the second night so that in the meantime food will be able to heat-up.

Food should not be taken out of the freezer on the first day for the meal on the second night. In a “sha’at dachak” (time of distress), when waiting for Yom Tov Rishon to be over will cause anguish and a significant delay of the meal, the food may be taken out of the freezer during the day (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2; 12).

Candle Lighting on the Second Night

Candles for the second night of Yom Tov should be lit after ‘Tzeit Ha’Kochavim’ (nightfall).

One should prepare before the first night of Yom Tov a candle that will burn for more than twenty-four hours from which one can light the candles for the second night of Yom Tov. If one did not prepare such a candle, he should transfer fire from one of his neighbor’s candles to light the Yom Tov candles.

It is permissible to push the candle forcibly into the candlestick holder, even though this causes the candle to be slightly crushed. Similarly, one may remove by use of a knife the remaining wax in the candlestick which interferes with the placement of the new candle, and one is allowed to remove the metal disc stuck to the bottom of the glass cup in which ‘neronim‘ (candles that turn into oil) were used. It is also permitted to insert a floating wick into a floating cork.

However, it is forbidden to heat a wax candle to attach it to a candlestick holder, and it is also forbidden to cut or scrape the bottom of the candle to insert it into the candlestick (Peninei Halakha: Moadim 2:2; 9:5).

When to Eat the ‘Simanim‘ and Their Blessings

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, it is customary to eat foods that symbolize a good ‘siman‘ (sign) for the upcoming year, such as apples, dates, pomegranates, beets, and carti (leek). Some people perform the minhag on the first night alone, but many also do it on the second night.

The correct minhag is to recite the blessing over bread first, due to its importance, and afterwards, to eat the ‘simanim‘.

One should recite the blessing “ha’etz” on one of the fruits of a tree, and thus exempt the rest of the fruits. This is because the blessing of “ha’motzi” over the bread exempts foods intended for satiety, which “come due to the meal”, but fruits of the tree used as ‘simanim‘ are intended to add flavor and are not part of the meal, and as such, require a blessing.

Although dipping an apple in honey is the most famous ‘siman‘, since dates are one of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel, it is proper to recite the blessing “ha’etz” over it, and with this blessing, exempt all other fruits grown on trees. The date comes before the pomegranate, because in the Biblical sequence of the Seven Species, it is closer to the word “eretz” (land). After reciting the blessing over the date, one should eat a little bit of it, and only then say the ‘yihi ratzon’ prayer normally recited, in order not to cause an interruption between the blessing and the eating.

Over the ‘simanim‘ whose blessing is “ha’adama” there is no need to recite a blessing because they are cooked, as are the salads eaten during the meal intended for satiety, and are therefore considered as “coming due to the meal”, and are exempted by the blessing of “ha’motzi“.

The minhag is to recite ‘yihi ratzon’ over each ‘siman’. One of the guests can say it out loud and everyone answer ‘Amen‘, and then eat it.

Cheerful Numbers from Samaria

Towards the new year, may it come to us for good, out of reverence and gratitude to Hashem, we are obliged to be thankful for the abundance of blessings we have merited receiving in the strengthening and intensification of settlement. I do not have data on all of Judea and Samaria, rather, only on the Samaria Regional Council where close associates of mine diligently toil on building its’ communities, and the blessings therein are incredible.

With God’s help, the number of residents grew approximately ten percent, and the number of students in the school system grew about thirteen percent.

The population continues to grow, evident in that the younger the grade levels are, the greater number of students there are in each class.

The statistics are for the Samaria Regional Council, not including Ariel, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Elkana, and Alfei Menashe.

This past year the number of students who started school in Grade 6 was nearly 700 students; in Grade 1 there were 1,150 students, and in pre-kindergarten (age 3), 1,327. Thus, during the period of eight scholastic years, with the grace of God, we merited growing almost two-fold!

Naturally, a large amount of the welcome increase occurred in the communities located in western Samaria, adjacent to the Dan region (Greater Tel Aviv), and therefore, we, the residents of the community Har Bracha, are doubly obliged to be thankful, because in spite of all the accusations, and the self-sacrifice required of those living on the frontline of settlement, we also merited growing and expanding in equal measures. As expected, every year in each community there are families who move in, and those who leave; last year, the number of families that left Har Bracha was the lowest in the past few years. And now, we are already approaching the stage where we will number over 2,000 people. Who would have believed this fifteen years ago, when we numbered only a few hundred?!

Our souls are extended in prayer for the new year, may it come upon us for good, that we merit to grow and expand in the mitzvah of ‘yishuv ha’aretz’ (settling the Land), and alongside that, merit deepening study of Torah and “settling” the divine and sublime ideas here in the physical world.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting, informative, and thought-provoking articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at:

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