Chodesh Elul - Shofar
QUESTION: What is the reason that we blow shofar during Elul?
ANSWER: The Tur (siman 581) writes that on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe Rabbeinu climbed Har Sinai to receive the second set of luchos (tablets of stone). His ascent was accompanied by the blast of a shofar. This was a very auspicious time for teshuva. Therefore, Chazal instituted that we begin blowing shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul and continue for the entire month (except the last day when we do not blow to confuse the Satan) as a means of arousing us to do Teshuva.
Rosh Chodesh Elul is always two days. Do we start blowing shofar the first day or the second of Elul? The Magen Avrohom (581:2) cites two opinions on this matter. He says the disagreement hinges on whether Moshe ascended Har Sinai on the first day of Rosh Chodesh (30th day of Av), or the second day of Rosh Chodesh (1st day of Elul). We know that Moshe was on Har Sinai for 40 days and descended on Yom Kippur. Elul is generally 29 days. As such, it must be that Moshe ascended Har Sinai on the first day Rosh Chodesh, which is the 30h day of Av. However, the Magen Avrohom supports the second opinion that we begin blowing shofar on the second day of Rosh Chodesh. He explains that this view holds that Elul was 30 days (which means that Rosh Chodesh Tishrei was two days) on the year when the Torah was given, and therefore Moshe Rabbeinu ascended on the first day of Elul, which was the second day of Rosh Chodesh. The Mishnah Berurah as well cites both customs. Every community should follow its custom.
Kovetz Halachos ( Yomim Noraim 1:19) quotes Rav Shmuel Kamenetzky that since the purpose of blowing shofar during the month of Elul is to inspire us to do teshuva, the halachic requirements for blowing shofar on Rosh Hashana are not applicable when blowing during Elul. Though it is preferable that an adult blow shofar in Elul, a child (even before bar mitzvah) may blow the shofar if an adult is not available.
The Gerald & Karin Feldhamer OU Kosher Halacha Yomis is dedicated to the memory of Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt"l, who served as halachic consultant for OU Kosher for more than 28 years; many of the responses in Halacha Yomis are based on the rulings of Rabbi Belsky. Subscribe to the Halacha Yomis daily email here.