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Monday, August 05, 2013

Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul



Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul

Arthur L. Finkle

The Code of Jewish Law (Shulhan Arukh, I28:8) instructs that the shofar be sounded in the period between rosh hodesh (new month) Elul until after Yom Kippur. The religious rationale was that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets; dwelt there for 40 days; and descended on the tenth of Tishre, when the Israelites completed atonement for creating the Golden Calf. The musi­cal rationale is that a forty-day period provided the necessary practice for the Shofar Sounder to develop the appropriate embouchure.

The religious rationale come from the Midrash (Pirkei d'R' Eliezer 45; R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (80-118 C.E.), a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva):
[During the Jews' first year in the desert,] they received the [Ten] Commandments on the sixth of the month [of Sivan], [and then] Moshe forty days on the mountain studying, [and then] on the seventeenth of [the month of] Tammuz he came down and broke the Tablets. [Forty days later] on Rosh Chodesh Elul, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to him "Come up to Me on the mountain" (Devarim 10:1), and an [announcement through blowing] shofar was spread throughout the camp, [saying] that "Moshe has gone up on the mountain!" - so that they would not be [led] astray after strange worship [once] again, and [the honor of] HaKadosh Baruch Hu was uplifted through that shofar [blowing], as it says (Tehillim 47:6) "G-d rises up at [the blowing of] the shofar." Accordingly, the Sages instituted that shofar be blown each and every year on Rosh Chodesh Elul [the authorities' text - unlike ours which says "Tishrei" (from here on are the words of the Tur and the Rosh - possibly their text to the Midrash itself)] and [throughout] the entire month, in order to urge Israel that they do teshuvah [i.e. "return to Hashem" (repent)], as it says (Amos 3:6), "If a shofar shall be blown in a city [can it be that the inhabitants will not be shaken?]," and in order to confuse the Satan [i.e. angel of Heavenly prosecution].
In rabbinic commentaries, the Rosh (1250 – 1327) ruled: ‘it is the Ashkenazi minhag (custom) to blow [shofar] throughout the month of Elul, morning and evening, after the prayer [services]."

The Code of Jewish Law of 1665 (with glosses 1797) brings a variation - blowing only after the morning service (Shacharis). The Mishnah Berurah, an update of religious laws in the Code of Jewish Law, (dated approximately 1900) confirms the accepted custom. See www.learnhalacha.com/ElulShofar.pdf




The musical rationale is what any instrumentalist would do preparatory to a performance. See Arthur L. Finkle, The  Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding, LA: Torah Aura, 2003







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