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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Shabbat and Shofar

 Shofar Sounds for the Shabbat

 Arthur L. Finkle

When I was in Babylon  I thought,  That which was taught, If the Day of Atonement fell on the eve of the sabbath [Friday], it [the Shofar] was not sounded,  while [if it fell] at the termination of the Sabbath, habdalah was not recited,  is a unanimous opinion. But when I emigrated thither [to Palestine]. I found Judah the son of R. Simeon b. Pazzi sitting and saying, This is according to Akiba [only];  for if [it agrees with] R. Ishmael, — since he maintains, The fats of the Sabbath may be offered on the Day of Atonement, let it [the Shofar] be sounded, so that it may be known that the fats of the Sabbath can be offered on the Day of Atonement,  Whereupon I said to him, The priests  are zealous.
Mar Kashisha son of R. Hisda said to R. Ashi: Do we then say, Priests are zealous? Surely we learnt: Three [blasts were blown] to cause the people to cease work; three, to distinguish between the holy [day] and weekdays?  — As Abaye answered, it was for the rest of the people in Jerusalem; so here too it was for the rest of the people in Jerusalem.
Yet let it [the Shofar] be blown, so that they might know that the trimming of vegetables is permitted [on the Day of Atonement] from the [time of] minhah  and onwards?  Said R. Joseph: Because a shebuth  is not superseded in order to give permission. While R. Shisha son of R. Idi answered: A shehuth [of] immediate[importance] was permitted; a shebuth [of] distant [importance] was not permitted  But did they permit a shebuth [of] immediate [importance]? Surely we learnt: If a Festival falls on Friday, we sound [the shofar] but do not recite habdalah;  [if it falls] at the termination of the Sabbath, we recite habdalah  but do not sound [the shofar]. But why so: let it be sounded so that it may be known that killing [animals for food] is permitted immediately [the Sabbath ends]?  Rather it is clear that it is as R. Joseph [answered].
R. Zera said in R. Huna's name — others state, R. Abba said in R. Huna's name: If the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath, the trimming of vegetables is forbidden. R. Mana said, It was taught likewise: How do we know that if the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath, the trimming of vegetables  is forbidden? Because it is said, Sabbathon; it is a shebuth.  Now, in respect of what [is it stated]: shall we say. In respect of labour  — surely it is written, thou shalt not do any work?  Hence it must surely refer to the trimming of vegetables;  this proves it.
A. Hiyya b. Abba said in R. Johanan's name: If the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath, the trimming of vegetables is permitted. An objection is raised: How do we know that if the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath, the trimming of vegetables is forbidden? Because sabbathon is stated: it is a shebuth. In respect of what: shall we say in respect of labour, — surely it is written, 'thou shalt not do any work'? Hence it must surely refer to the trimming of vegetables! — No: in truth it refers to actual work, but [it is stated] to [show that] one violates an affirmative and a negative injunction on account thereof.  It was taught in accordance with R. Johanan: If the Day of Atonement falls on the Sabbath,

Although the sounding of the shofar on Shabbat violates no biblical precept—as it's not included in any of the 39 creative works forbidden on the Day of Rest. The Sages nevertheless forbade the sounding of the shofar on any Shabbat, because it is a "weekday-like activity." See Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 588:4.)

Below you will find an article the posts Rabbi’s asserting their independence over Temple custom:

SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 2010
Shabbat and Shofar: Initiation of Rabbinic Independence

Arthur L. Finkle

However, on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year, usually the first new moon in September), the Priests sounded two Shofars and one Trumpet. (See Chofetz Chaim, Mishnah Berurah 586 et seq.) Another differing source indicates that, although normally the trumpet plays the long notes and a Shofar sounds the short notes. On Rosh Hashanah, however, the trumpet takes the short notes; the Shofar, long notes. See Rosh Hashanah 33b. Either way, the Shofar accompanied the special sacrifices on Rosh Hashanah, the holiday designated as "Yom Teruah" ("A day of blowing"; Num. 29:1). The Shofar also proclaimed the Jubilee Year on Yom Kippur (Lev. 25:9–10). The special year freed property to its original owners, forgave debts and gave freedom to slaves, among other things.
Indeed, the Temple service provided Shofar sounds on the Sabbath, itself. There was within the temple an inscription on the lintel of the wall at the top of the Temple that said, "To the house of the blowing of the trumpet (Shofar)". Each Sabbath 2 men with silver trumpets and a man with a Shofar made three trumpet blasts twice during the day. On Rosh haShanah, this was different. The Shofar is the primary trumpet. According to Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29, Rosh HaShanah is the day of the blowing of the trumpets. The original name is Yom (Day) Teruah (The staccato sound of the horn, which also means “Shout”). According to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 16a, 3:3), the trumpet used for this purpose is the ram's horn, not trumpets made of metal as in Numbers 10. On Rosh HaShanah, a Shofar delivers the first blast, a silver trumpet the second, and then the Shofar the third. Accessed March 1, 2010.

Subsequent Rabbinic Prohibition of Sounding Shofar on the Sabbath

However, the Midshnah makes clear that , prior to the destruction of the Temple, the Shofar was sounded on Rosh Hashsnah from in the Temple. Rosh HaShanah Mishnah 4:1; 4:2

After the destruction of the Temple, Yochanan ben Zakkai substituted the Shofar to be played first in Jerusalem; then he enlarged to the area to Jerusalem and its environs; then in Jamnia (where the Rabbi’s were situated immediately after the Temple’s destruction. Thereafter the Rabbi’s enlarged the areas to cover those area on Judea that had Jewish courts, which bespoke a population at oeast 120 people. RH 4:1 and notes from Yad Avraham.

• As time passed, the further away from the rituals of the Temple practice and the predominance of the Rabbi’s, the practice came to be that the Shofar was not sounded on the Shabbat. It was later codified in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 588:5, Taz, Mishna Brurah 13; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 143:1 ; Ran to Tractate Rosh Hashana ch. 4; and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 135:14

Indeed, we look to the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch 588:4) and we see:

When the festival of Rosh HaShanah fall on Shabbos, the Shofar is not sounded. Sounding the Shofar is not a forbidden labor; it is forbidden [because ] it is considered mundane activity which can lead to a mundane assembly which is forbidden on the Sabbath.

The Rabbi Sholom Dovber ("Rebbe Rashab" -1860-1920) clears this up when he staters athat the ban of sounding is Rabbinic; not Biblical. But the ban is due to Rabbah’s Decree. In another Chasidic interpretation is that the Sabbath takes on a spiritual glory and does not need another spiritual glory to carry the day. But, on other days, the Shofar sounds provide this spiritual glory; which otherwise is lost after the Sabbath.
After the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai established that they would blow in every place in which there is a Rabbinic court." (Rosh Hashanah 4:1)

The first statement of the Mishnah is puzzling. If blowing Shofar is melakhah (the category of work forbidden on the Sabbath), then why is it not forbidden inside the Temple? And if blowing Shofar is not melakhah, why would it be forbidden outside of the Temple? Clearly, any solution to this problem will need some other kind of understanding of blowing Shofar.

Nevertheless, the Gemara (the commentary/interpretation of the Mishnah by the sages of the 3rd-6th centuries CE) continues:
"From where in the Torah does this law come? Said R. Levi bar Lachma said R. Hama bar Haninah: One verse says "a day of complete rest commemorated with the blowing of the Shofar"(Leviticus 23:24), and one verse says "it will be for you a day of blowing the Shofar"(Numbers 29:1). There is no problem. The [first] one is when the festival occurs on Shabbat. The [second] one is when the festival occurs on a weekday" (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 29b).

The Gemara asks a typical question: What is the biblical basis for the law that one does not blow the Shofar on Shabbat outside of the Temple? R. Hama bar Haninah is quoted, providing a clever reading of the Torah. Since the rabbis assume that the Torah is perfect, and perfection implies that no words are wasted, the two verses quoted above from Leviticus and Numbers, which appear to say the same thing, cannot, indeed, be saying the same thing. According to Hama bar Haninah, the verse from Leviticus which uses the language שבתון זכרון תרועה--shabbaton zikhron teru’ah (a day of complete rest commemorated with the blowing of the Shofar)--should be understood as “on the Shabbat, a remembrance of the blowing,” or as Rashi explains, “and not a real blowing; rather, they recite verses about the blowing of Shofar.” This is a very clever reading of the verse from Leviticus.

Basically, R. Hama bar Haninah’s approach is that, based on a midrash on the Torah, blowing Shofar is permitted on weekdays, but forbidden on the Sabbath. But, as the Gemara asks next:

“Said Rava: If it [i.e. the prohibition to blow Shofar on shabbat] is based on the Torah, how did we blow Shofar in the Temple?…” 

Of course we knew this. At our first look at the Mishnah, we knew that any approach that argued that blowing Shofar was strictly forbidden on the Sabbath would not explain the Mishnah; if Shofar-blowing is forbidden on the Sabbath, how were they permitted to blow Shofar in the Temple. As clever as R. Hama bar Hanina’s reading is, it is inadequate to the task of explaining the Mishnah. 
So why did the Gemara even include his midrash if it was so plainly and obviously incorrect? 
The answer to this question reveals one of the underlying truths of rabbinic Judaism. More important than the conclusion is the process. The message of the Gemara is not that a correct understanding is irrelevant, or that there aren’t correct (and incorrect) understandings; to the contrary, careful thinking and evidence-based argument are crucial. But they are not as important as allowing diverse views to be expressed. When we examine and discuss the logic of the Mishnah, we make sure that diverse opinions, divergent opinions, and even clearly false opinions are given voice. To shut off the creativity of a Hama bar Haninah in this case might indicate that all that matters is the final word. To indulge that creativity, even when it is clearly wrong, sets the opposite precedent, and encourages creative thinkers to take intellectual risks for the sake of Torah. If the conversation of Torah she’b’al peh--"Oral Law"--is to proceed, we must foster and encourage our risk-takers.

Rava does end up revealing how the Mishnah makes sense. Rava quotes his teacher Rabbah, who argues that the prohibition against blowing Shofar outside of the Temple was a rabbinic prohibition (and not a biblical prohibition, as Hama bar Haninah argued), which simply did not apply to the Temple. 

The Talmud now turns to the second part of the Mishnah: “After the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai established that they would blow in every place in which there is a Rabbinic court.” The Mishnah’s language “established” is bland and undramatic. The Talmud fills in the details:

Rabbah’s Decree includes three classic cases where Rabbah rules that a particular
mitzvah must be postponed or cancelled due to the concern that the mitzvah implement might be inadvertently carried on Shabbos. 

• Taking a lulav on the first day of Sukkos,
• Blowing Shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashana (Rosh Hashana 29a)
• Reading of Megillas Esther (Megilla 4b). 

In each case, the Gemara mentions that Rabbah made his ruling not only in the case being discussed, but in the other two cases, as well.
The opinion found in the Jerusalem Talmud and the subsequent Sifra is that blowing a Shofar on Shabbat is a Biblical prohibition which received a special dispensation to be blown in the Temple on Shabbat (Rosh HaShannah 4:1) On the other hand, in the Babylonian Talmud blowing a Shofar is interpreted as only a rabbinic prohibition and outside of the Temple it was prohibited lest one carry it more than four amot in the public domain (Rosh HaShannah 29b).

Indeed, the Sages are empowered to "overrule" a Torah precept (if their instruction involves restraint from action, not a proactive violation of a biblical command).See See Talmud Yevamot 89b-90b. This authority is subject to many limitations. For example, the Sages can only use this power in order to preserve another Torah statute (as in our case, the Torah prohibition against carrying in the public domain on Shabbat.
Our obligation to follow such directives is implicit in the verse,8 "And you shall do according to the word they tell you, from the place that G d will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all they instruct you." Although, It should be noted that the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 4:1) maintains that the original biblical command to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah only applied to when Rosh Hashanah falls on a weekday 

In a further emendation, the Alter Rebbe’s accents the prohibition of the mundane activity to buttress the argument that one should not carry rather than the other way around.

Halakhah (Jewish Law) rules that the Shofar may not be sounded on the Sabbath due to the potential that the Ba'al T'kiyah (Shofar Sounder) may inadvertently carry it, which is in a class of forbidden Sabbath work. (R.H. 29b) 

One can not blow the Shofar on Shabbat because of temptation to carry more than four cubits in a public domain [thus, breaking the prohibition of carrying on the Sabbath.] Mishnah Berurah, 588:5

The historical explanation is that in ancient Israel, the Shofar was sounded in the Temple on the Sabbath as were other sacrifices and musical instruments.

Passover and Shofar

Passover: How the Holy Temple Observed

Arthur L. Finkle

The shofar sounds during all the holidays in the Jewish year:  the New Year, the Day of Atonement and the three pilgrimage festival. For the three pilgrimage festivals there are three very different rituals that the Priests practiced in the Holy Temple.

During the Passover in the Temple, there was a ceremony with golden and silver bowls through which the sacrificial blood of lambs were Pesach, the Priests sounded the shofar was sounded 3-times each for three parts of the Temple ceremony. The Mishnah Pesachim 64, it states:

The priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basins (to received blood) of silver and basins of gold; a row which was entirely of silver was of silver, and a row which was entirely of gold was of gold: they were not mixed; and the basins had no [flat] bottoms, lest they put them down and the blood become congealed. The Israelite killed [the lamb], and the priest caught [the blood]; he handed it to his colleague and his colleague [passed it on] to his colleague; and he received the full [basin] and gave back the empty one. (Thus it was worked on the endless-chain system.)
The priest nearest the altar sprinkled it once over against the base [or the altar].the first division [then] went out and the second entered; the second went out and the third entered. As the manner of the first [group], so was the manner of the second and the third. they recited the hallel
Babylonian Talmud in Pesachim 64b gives an example of the great number of people who entered Jerusalem and partook in this mitzvah by retelling that one year King Agrippa wanted to count the number of people. He instructed the high priest to count the number of sacrifices that were brought as the sacrifice (Korbán Pesach). When they reached 1,200,000 the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) stopped the count. This was double the number of people who had left Egypt.

There was usually a lamb for each family. Interestingly the Ethiopian Jews, who were cut off from Rabbinic Judaism, performed the lamb ceremony as was stated in the Bible, very similar to the Temple ceremony.

The Torah requires that the sacrifice be offered publicly. On the 14 day of Nisan the Kohanim (Priests) would open the doors of the temple and allow the people in with their offerings in three large groups of no less than thirty people but each group which usually were more numerous than the minimum. The Priests would stand in long lines shoulder to shoulder from the courtyard of the people into the courtyard where only Priests could enter all the way to the foot of the altar.

The first man would come with his lamb and slaughter it in front of the first Priest who would catch the blood in golden holy vessels and pass it to the next Priest and so forth until it arrived at the base of the altar where the blood was deposited.

The vessels had a round bottom to them so that the Kohanim could not put them down even for a moment in order to prevent the blood from coagulating rending the offering unfit. The vessels would be passed from Priest to Priest back and forth. The person would then move to the next station where the carcass was hung from a hook and skinned and the prohibited fats and other parts were removed.

Behind the Kohanim on a platform stood the Choir of Levites. When the process began, the Shofar was sounded with the three traditional sounds: tekia; teruah; tekia and the choir recited the Hallel prayer. This continued until the entire group that had been let in had finished offering both the Pesach offering and also the other sacrifice for the holiday called the Hagiga offering. (The first meat eaten was the meat of the Hagiga sacrifice and then later the Passover Sacrifice which was eaten with bitter herbs and matzah.)

An important feature is the Shofar’s prominence of solemnity, holiness and reminder of the significance of freedom from slavery. These blasts focused attention on the sacrifice of blood, representing giving one’s own life through animal blood as a metaphor of obeisance to God.

Origin of Hallel
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism. It is recited by observant Jews as praise and thanksgiving on Jewish holidays, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on other occasions such as Hanukkah and the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh).

Rabbinic tradition credits King David with having written almost all of the Psalms, including those which now make up Hallel. R. Eleazar ben Yosé, however, ascribed Hallel to Moses and the Israelites; while R. Judah taught that the prophets had decreed that these psalms be recited to mark national events and deliverance from peril. Other sages maintained that Hallel was recited by various leaders of Israel throughout the biblical period----by Joshua, Deborah, and Hezekiah, by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, by Mordecai and Esther (Pes. l l7a-118a).

They would chant the Hallel for each group at least three times. Accordingly, there were nine shofar blasts. When all of this was finished they would allow the next group in after the first group left. This occurred three times. If the 14th day of Nisan were Shabbat everything was done the same way except that the people could not take the meat home with them until after Shabbat.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shofar Use for Succot and Simhat Torah

Shofar Use for Succot and Simhat Torah

Arthur L. Finkle

Interestingly, some traditional synagogues sound the shofar during the seventh day of Succot (also Hosanna Raba – when the book s of Life and Death) are closed.

These rituals of Hoshana Rabbah go back to the times of the Holy Temple.
In reading the tractate Succah, both Palestinian and Babylonian, we come across some fascinating social history regarding the role of the shofar in the ceremonies of the Holy Temple.

We learn that part of the Succot ceremony is celebrated today insofar as dwelling in the sukkah and handling the lulav (palm branch), etrog (related to the lemon, indigenous to Israel), myrtle branch and water willow branch (Arava).

Many ritual services omit two other important rites of the Holy Temple on Succot: the Aravot Ceremony and the Water Libation Ceremony.
The Rabbi’s transformed the Water Willow Dance, performed on the seventh day of Succot, into Hoshana Rabba on the seventh day of Succot. 

Water Libation Ceremony

The Water Libation Ceremony rationale taught the Jewish people to bring water before Him on Succot, petitioning for adequate rains, paramount to the success of their agricultural commerce and society. (Succah Bavli 37; and Rosh Hashana 16a).

The Midrash (book of ethical stories and interpretations) interprets the water ceremony as the sadness when God separated the waters to upper and lower (to form the firmament). God noted their distress; thus, elevated the lower waters during this rite. (Rabbaynu Bachya to Lev 1:13)
The Water Libation ceremony was an elaborate ritual emitting great joy, in fulfilling of Isaiah 12:3:”You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation.”

The Rabbi’s in Yerushalmi Succah 31b (Palestinian) give a social history of the role of the shofar in the Holy Temple, with particular emphasis on Succot. Further, the Rabbis agreed that the Water Libation Ceremony is Scriptural) See Bavli Zevachim 110b.

The seven times around the Temple is replicated in Rabbinical ordained holiday, (Simhat Torah). Each circling with Torahs in hand, the congregation circles the prayer house at the signal of a shofar blast.

Aravot Ceremony

The Mishnah (Sukkah 4:5) indicates that the custom was to circle the altar one time on each day of Succot and seven times on the seventh day (similar to Joshua’s circling of Jericho). We circle the center of the synagogue (Bimah) and seven times on the seventh day.  We also perform this ceremony on the newer holiday of Simchat Torah, established by the Rabbi’s.

Jonatan Adler discusses this ceremony as he describes ancient coins which depicted this ceremony. The depiction shows the golden flasgon used to gather the water from the well of Sheloah; a willow branch
"What was the rite of the willow-branch? There was a place below Jerusalem called Motza. The Talmud indicates that Bavli Talmud cites that city to be Kalonia. Because it was tax-exempt, the trees were ownerless; thus, there was no taint of theft involved. See Meiri Bavli 45a.

Priests collected young willow branches, and then came and set them upright along the sides of the altar, with their tops bent over the top of the altar, after which the trumpets made a long blast, a quavering note, and a prolonged blast". These trumpets were sounded by Kohanim (Priests) See Num. 10:8, 9 and Mishnah Succot 5:6.

With reference to what we have learnt, '''Every day they walked round the altar once, and on that day they went round seven times"', your father, citing R. Eleazar, stated: "[This was done] with the lulav (BT Sukkah 43b Soncino translation). This statement was challenged by contemporary sages, who held that the altar was encircled while holding willow-branches, and not the "four species" (ibid.); See also 1. L. Rubenstein: The History of Sukkot in the Second Temple and Rabbinic Periods, Atlanta, 1995, p. 109, who writes: "Most likely the circumambulations were performed with willows - the description says nothing of the lulav but we should not advance solid historical claims where the traditions are silent".  M Sukkah 4: 5, The statement by R. Johanan b. Baroka (M Sukkah 4: 6) regarding the beating of palm fronds should be seen as complementing this tradition (Rubenstein, above, n. 7, p. liS). Jonatan Adler, ,The Temple Willow-Branch Ritual Depicted on Bar Kokhba Denarii, Israel Numismatic Journal, 16 (2007–2008), pp. 129–133

In Tractate Zevahim 110a-b, the Rabbi’s discuss the water libation service is described in detail in Tractate Sukkah (p. 48) . The Priest bought water from the  Shiloah spring (underneath the Temple) to the Temple with great fanfare. The Priest took the jug of water, walked up the ramp to the altar and turned left, where there were two bowls that drained into the foundation of the Temple. The bowls were for the the water libation on Sukkot and for the wine libation that accompanied many of the sacrifices

Here we get into a fine point of Jewish Law. Rabbi Elazar prohibits such copying of Temple practices. See Zevahim 110a-b. However, the later commentators differ.
Rabbi Akiva who derives the service of the water libation from passages in the Torah (Numbers 29:31), the Talmud concludes that this obligation is a law given by Moses on Mt. Sinai, an oral tradition received by Moses on Mount Sinai). In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Maimonides (1140-1215) suggests that the Jewish Law will be different depending on whether the source for this mitzvah is actually in the Torah or if it is an oral tradition.
While many of the commentaries object to this distinction, arguing that both are considered biblical, it appears that Maimonides follows the approach of the Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 11:4) that distinguishes between them, and understands that Jewish Law from the oral tradition of Moses is similar to the oral tradition of the Rabbi’s.

An interesting note is that the Pharisees opposed this holding. Yersul. Succah 27a.

It should be also noted that, although most trees in ancient Egypt were not considered holy, the willow tree was the primordial tree on which the sun rested in the shape of a bird at the beginning of the world. It was sacred to Osiris and gave shade to his coffin while his soul rested on it.
Trees were possibly less important in the Egyptian religion than in others. But some trees had divine connections, being home, birthplace or resting place of some deities. In the temple at Denderah one inscription proclaims: The names of the sacred trees are jS.t, kbs, tr.

Shofar and Willow Branches

In Tractate Succah (45a) the mitzvah, the Rabbi’s discuss the "Arava" (willow branches).  During the time of the Holy Temple, the priests would go down on the Succot holiday to a place called Motza that was below Jerusalem to cut large willow branches. They would then bring the branches to the Temple and lean them against the side of the altar, with the top part leaning over the top of the altar.
They would then blow the shofar in the standard fashion, with one broken sound (teru'ah) preceded and followed by a solid sound (teki'ah).
Although the Rabbi’s disagreed over the exact time this ritual began, they concurred that the Prophets instituted this custom. Thus, it was not likely occurring in the Frist Temple but was in the Second Temple.
The Rabbi’s taught that willows of the brook mean of special type of willow as opposed to another species of willow (zafzafah) which grows in the mountains. (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 34a)
Accordingly, the Rabbi’s decreed the seventh day of Succot as Hoshana Rabba, the day of many petitions for salvation ( the time that the Book of Life and Death are finally sealed).

Shofar and Water Ceremony

The Rabbi’s explored some history. (Bavli, Rosh Hashana 16a). As the world is judged for water on Succot, we used to bring a water offering so that the rains for the coming year should be blessed.  Water was the lifeblood of the Israeli agricultural society. Petitioning adequate water was a prayer to further one’s livelihood and life.

Another reason is that the holiday of the harvest moon (on which Succot begins) occurs five days after Yom Kippur in the harvest season. During the harvest season, a person may become haughty and forget God. The Rabbi’s reflect that haughtiness affects not only farmers, of course. The wise may take credit for their knowledge and those of fine character may take credit for their graces. The bottom line is that all we get, whether it be money, wisdom, or respect, comes from God. See

Succot 4:5 indicates that The shofar blew three times (tekiah, teruah and tekiah) before the priests circled the altar, in order to draw attention to this important festival.

The Sages from the 11th through 16th centuries explain that the reason that this is specifically done on the seventh day of Succot is that it is a day of judgment for water. This means rain and, in a broader sense, all livelihood. We therefore add special prayers to ask for a good year. The Talmud records a dispute as to whether this is a prophetically ordained custom or not, but we do know that it traces back to the Holy Temple. 
Transition of Water Willow Dance to Hoshana Rabba
The name for this holiday probably comes from Psalm 118:25. Hoshana means to save. This is the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It comes one day before Shimini Atzeret (Special Day petitioning for rain which also is the last day of Succot). It is usually observed on the 21st day of the Hebrew month Tishri. It is also called "the great Hosanna."
  • This practice in the Temple serves as the basis for our modern custom of Hosannas. As reported by The TUR (14th century German-Spanish Legalist, in Orech Chaim 660), we circle the bema once a day with a Torah being taken to the bema (a practice based on the Yalkut Tehillim) and thus serving as the focal point and in place of the altar. We also bring a Torah to the middle since during the time of the Holy Temple the marchers would recite the name of God while walking, and we have a tradition that the entire Torah is made up of various names of God. According to the Yerushalmi (Palestinian Talmud), our current practice reflects not only what was done during the time of the Temple, but also is meant to mimic the siege and conquering of Jericho in the time of Joshua, when they circled the city once a day for six days and seven times on the final day, causing the walls to come tumbling down (Joshua 6).
R. Joseph Caro (compiler of the Code of Jewish Law, 1565) notes that on Hoshana Rabba (seventh day of Succot), even a person who does not have the four species (palm branch, myrtle, water willow and etrog) should take part in the seven laps around the Torah. His rationale is that since there is a special remembrance of what was done in the Temple - see Succah 41a for more on this concept). The common practice is that a person who does not have the four species never takes part in the walking around the bima.

Importance of the Shofar

Rosh Hashana is the festival of the shofar. Yom Kippur sounds the shofar at the end of the service, originally to announce the Jubilee Year. The shofar called ATTENTION TO Succot, to petition God for abundant rains and consequent harvest. It also echoed, in a minor form, the elaborate Water Libation Ceremony during which the shofar sounded 15 times, for every step to climb to the altar.

Some synagogues retain traces of the Holy Temple.. No longer do we make animal and meal sacrifices. But keep the intent of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. And we  have spiritualized the festival of Succot to one of petition for agricultural needs, to one of remembrance and thanksgiving. Further, Hoshana Rabba celebrates the closing of the book of accounting. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Preparations One Whole Month Before Rosh Hashanah

Preparations One Whole Month Before Rosh Hashanah
Arthur L. Finkle
Tisha B’av signals to me that there are 7-weeks before Rosh HaShanah. Therefore, I spiritually prepare myself by practicing the shofar at the beginning of the next month - Elul. During Elul, we customarily sound the shofar at the end of morning services.
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Sounding the shofar at services is a practical way of preparing for the “real deal” on Rosh HaShanah. In addition, this period serves as a reminder to orient my attention to appropriate repentance.
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Being a Shofar Sounder and Shofar teacher for 30+ years, I want to share a routine is based on sound musical principals expressed (hopefully) in plain English.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact me at:


Or any of the websites below:

Joint Effort with Michael Chusid, an expert Shofar sounder and commentator
Shofar Sounders WebPage
Shofar WebPage


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WE MUST WARM-UP! This should not be left to chance nor treated lightly by a serious musician on any instrument. If I do not warm-up properly, my performance certainly suffers. Most brass players have several routines. For Shofar sounding, I suggest warming up on the fundamental note. In simple terms, a noise from a musical instrument plays more than one note, called Harmonics, but the principal musical tone produced by **vibration** (as of a string or column of air) is the fundamental or most prominent tone. ****

Then, focus on your attack (how you articulate the note). Then play the Tekiah, Shevorim, Shevorim-Teruah, and Tekiah. Your warm up should be at home because the shul does not offer privacy. In shul, you should hold the Shofar between your arms so that the horn will become the same temperature as your body because the instrument should be the same temperature or more than the room. A cold note becomes flat (off-tune or atonal).

The shofar’s sound is similar to creation as that of a brass instrument (Trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, etc) in that the lips vibrate creating a “buzzing.”

You should practice buzzing; (brass players do this by playing the mouthpiece alone. In the case of Shofar playing, you can buzz by shaping your thumb and forefinger in the shape of a mouthpiece and blowing into it to stimulate your embouchure. (See The Art of French Horn Playing by Philip Farkas, The Complete Method by Milan Yancich, and Embouchure Building by Joseph Singer; there are many good resources out there.)

When Should I Warm-Up? How Much Should I Practice?

Professional brass players warm-up every time they get the instrument out of the case to play. The first warm-up in the morning is the most important, as it sets up your embouchure for the rest of the day. The second and third warm-ups are usually shorter, but need to be there to maintain and build the embouchure.

Related issues are how much to practice, and when. I feel, if time allows, the serious brass student or professional usually practices three times a day for no more than one hour apiece. A Shofar sounder, not being a professional in the brass instrumentalist sense of the word, should practice each day at the same time of day. Practice standing up; sitting down will change your embouchure.

Initially, practice the fundamental note until you feel your muscles get adjusted. Do not play too much beyond this level. If they tire, your muscles are telling you that they have had enough. By repeated playing, however, your musculature will develop into high quality sound and endurance. Ten minutes is the usual limit.

Once, you have mastered the one fundamental note, you should concentrate on the attack. The quality of an attack is determined by the position of the tongue’s touching the lips. In some cases, the tip of the front of the tongue can be the part of the tongue used to tongue the attack. In other cases, you can use the side of your tongue. Some use the side of their side tongue and move it back. The technique that is most effective for the Sounder – and still allows maintenance of the correct embouchure -- is the correct way.

Week 1

During the first week, work on your embouchure (muscle tone of your lip and surrounding facial muscles) by sounding the most prominent note (fundamental).
How long – start with no more than 5-minutes per day; gradually increase this practice time so you will build and tone your embouchure.



Week 2

You should begin with phrase 1.

The tekiah is one blast – some end it with a small ‘up’ not (but is not necessary)

The shevarim is three moaning sounds. In music we call these slurs. They begin with a low note and slide up to the dominant note. You accomplish this by tightening the lips.

The Teruah – nine staccato notes. To avoid confusion, count the nine notes as three triplets, thus: xxx xxx xxx. The notes are articulated by touching the tongue to the tip of the shofar for nine times.

Tonguing needs practice and repetition to become natural.

Begin the play the sets


Phrase 2 - T-SH-T (3X) Tekiah-SHevarim -Tekiah

Phrase 3 - T-R-T (3X) Tekiah- teRuah-Tekiah

You may sustain ‘lip fatigue’ – your lip will tire and will not respond the way you desire.

Week 3

Continue practicing the phrases for as many times as you can In doing so, you will memorize the association of the sounds and their names . Also, you will build stamina and embouchure definition. Note that you are focusing on endurance athletics but you do need a certain amount of stamina and lip strength to beat fatigue.

Learn Prayer To Be Recited On Rosh Hashanah


Praised are You, O Lord, Master of the Universe who has commanded us to hear the shofar

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech
Ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b-mitz-votav
Vi-tzi-vanu Lish-moa Kol Shofar.

First Day Only


Week 4

Work from the prayer book to practice each series of sounds. Some congregations sound thirty note; others, ninety; most, 100 sounds.

On a couple of the days, I suggest you work with the kri’ah (the one who pronounces the sounds so you can coordinate your activities. You also will ‘feel each other out,’ as so often happens in musical schemes.

On the day before Rosh HaShanah – do not practice. Although Jewish law forbids such practice, the musical reason is to enable your embouchure to rest on the day prior to performance, such as soloists do prior to musical recitals.
Shofar Practice Guide

To watch video on Shofar Practice Guide go to:

Or in writing

Arthur L. Finkle

Musical Notes

Special thanks for significant input of premier shofar Sounder Michael Chusid, RA FCSI