Qualifications for a Shofar Sounder (Ba'al T'kiyka)
Arthur L. Finkle
The general rule is that women are exempt from mitzvahs which are time-dependant.1 This would include the Mitzvah of hearing the Shofar -- which has a very specific time designation; it must be fulfilled during the daytime hours of Rosh Hashanah.
Nevertheless, there are certain time-contingent mitzvahs which women have accepted upon themselves to observe. Hearing the sound of the shofar is one of these. Indeed, there are Halachic authorities which maintain that because it has become a universally accepted custom for women to hear the shofar, today it is has become mandatory -- as is the case with any custom which has become accepted practice.
Qualifications for Sounding the ShofarThe Shulchan Aruch begins its exploration of fitness by citing excluding classes of people:
- Whoever is not obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of sounding the shofar should not substitute his efforts for another whose duty it is to perform a mitzvah. For example, the Baal Tekiah sounds a shofar for a synagogue in Chelm cannot perform he same mitzvah when another in the town of Lodz can fulfill the mitzvah.
- The mitzvah is not valid for a deaf mute (cannot hear), moron (lacks the capacity) and a child (lacks the adult status).
- Women are exempt because the mitzvah is time bound.
- A hermaphrodite may make his shofar sounding serve for other hermaphrodites.
- Women should not be Baal Tekia’s because they would be substituting her efforts for another whose duty it is to perform a mitzvah. However, if a female Baal Tekiya has already intoned the shofar for other women, it is valid. However, women should not make a blessing.
- Only a freeman (not even a slave who will become free in the next month) can be a Baal Tekiya. MB 590:1–5
"The one who blows the shofar on Rosh Hashanah . . . should likewise be learned in the Torah and shall be God-fearing; the best man available. Nevertheless, every Jew is eligible for any sacred office, providing he is acceptable to the congregation. If, however, he sees that his choice will cause disruption, he should withdraw his candidacy, even if the improper person will be chosen” See Shulchan Aruch 3:72.
Moreover, the Baal Tekiya shall abstain from anything that may cause ritual contamination for three days prior to Rosh Hashanah. See Shulchan Aruch 3:73
A Baal Tekiya can sound the shofar for shut-ins and home-bound women who have had baby.
If a blind blower was dismissed, but the community did not find a blower as proficient, he should be appointed as community blower. The touchstone is proficiency not disability.