Behar 5778

והעברת שופר תרועה בחדש השבעי בעשור לחדש ביום הכפרים תעבירו שופר בכל ארצכם  כה:ט

When it comes to the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana, the Rambam (Hilchos Shofar 1:1,3) explicitly says that the mitzvah is to hear the shofar blasts, as opposed to the act of blowing, and that is why, for example, one has fulfilled the mitzvah (b’dieved) if he heard the blasts of a stolen shofar. In his responsa, the Rambam underscores this point by elaborating that the relationship between the act of blowing the shofar versus hearing the shofar blasts is akin to the relationship between building a sukkah and sitting in the sukkah. This is all insofar as the mitzvah of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana is concerned. When it comes to the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Yom Kippur of the Yovel year, though, the Rambam (Sefer Ha’Mitzvos, 137) says that the mitzvah is to blow the shofar. It is the act of blowing which is the mitzvah. It is quite possible, then, that if a stolen shofar was used for Yom Kippur of Yovel, the mitzvah has not been fulfilled (even b’dieved). Another possible ramification is relevant to how many people have to blow the shofar. On Rosh Ha’Shana, when the mitzvah is to hear the shofar blasts, it is sufficient to have one person blow and everyone else listen. But, on Yom Kippur of Yovel, when it is the act of blowing the shofar that is the mitzvah, it is wholly possible that every individual would have to blow for himself (since shomeiah k’oneh cannot apply to an action).

The Rambam identifies yet another fundamental difference between the mitzvah of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana and the mitzvah of shofar on Yom Kippur of Yovel. Whereas the shofar of Rosh Ha’Shana, explains the Rambam, is a remembrance before Hashem, the shofar of Yovel is a publicizing and announcement of the obligation for people to free their Jewish slaves. This is what the Rambam says in Sefer Ha’Mitzvos, and it is important to understand that in Sefer Ha’Mitzvos the Rambam is not explicating taamei ha’mitzvos (the underlying, spiritual significance of the mitzvos), but is defining and qualifying those legal characteristics of the mitzvah that are part and parcel of the basic fulfillment of the mitzvah. Taamei ha’mitzvos is what he discusses in Moreh Nevuchim. Regarding shofar of Rosh Ha’Shana, one can contrast what the Rambam says here in Sefer Ha’Mitzvos about the mitzvah being a remembrance before Hashem with what he says in Hilchos Teshuvah that the shofar contains an allusion to the need to arouse ourselves to teshuvah. In other words, that spiritual awakening is not a part of the statutory definition of the mitzvah, but is a spiritual component that the mitzvah carries with it – that when we fulfill the mitzvah of shofar it can and should trigger in our souls a spiritual awakening. But the function of being a remembrance before Hashem is part of the essential definition of the mitzvah. It is possible that the Rambam saw this through the words of the Gemara that says that the reason a cow’s horn is not valid for the mitzvah is because of the rule ein kateigor naaseh saneigor, a prosecutor cannot become a defender. Since a cow was used in the sin of the golden calf, it cannot be used for the mitzvah of shofar. The Gemara challenges this, though, with the qualification that ein kateigor naaseh saneigor only applies regarding avodah which is done “inside” (in the Kodesh Ha’Kadashim), to which the Gemara responds, “since shofar is for a remembrance, it is as if it is inside”. The fact that the Gemara applies the shofar’s characteristic of being a remembrance in respect to the practical halachah of a cow’s horn being invalid shows that it is not just an underlying spiritual quality that it carries, but it is part of the basic, legal definition of the mitzvah.

But, as the Rambam underscores, the mitzvah of shofar on Yovel is not like that; rather, its function is to declare freedom for all the Jewish slaves. What is so interesting about this is that, despite this difference, the bulk of the halachos of shofar on Yovel are the same as those of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana, including the fact that the Mussaf of Yom Kippur of the Yovel year contains the brachos of malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros, and the shofar is blown following each bracha just as it is done on Rosh Ha’Shana. Regarding Rosh Ha’Shana, that is readily understandable. Insofar as the function of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana is to bring the remembrance of the Jewish People before Hashem, it fits perfectly into the davening. The shofar of Yovel, though, is simply about declaring freedom for the Jewish slaves, so what does that have to do with davening? It’s a very interesting point that requires further consideration.

Incidentally, it is not only from the Rambam that we see this dichotomy between the teffilah-oriented nature of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana versus the declaration-oriented nature of shofar on Yovel. From Rashi, as well, we see this. The Gemara says that, according to the Chachamim, the shofar of Rosh Ha’Shana should be straight (as opposed to bent or curved) and according to Rabi Yehudah it is the shofar of Yovel that should be straight. Interestingly enough, the Gemara provides the exact same explanation for both: kamah d’pashit inish daateih tefei maalya, the straighter one’s mind is on this day the better. However, in explaining this expression, Rashi provides two completely different comments. As far as the “straight mind” vis a vis the opinion of the Chachamim that the shofar of Rosh Ha’Shana should be straight is concerned, Rashi explains that it is in accordance with the pasuk that says, “we lift our hearts into our hands”. Meaning, that our minds and hearts should be laser focused on our davening. But when it comes to the “straight mind” vis a vis Rabi Yehudah’s opinion that the shofar of Yovel should be straight, Rashi explains that this is because it is to call out freedom for the Jewish slaves. They are not free and can walk out upright. They are no longer bent over and subservient. Clearly, from Rashi as well, we see the difference between the defining characteristic of shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana and that of shofar on Yovel.

The Gemara describes the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Yom Kippur of Yovel as being mesurah l’Beis Din, given over into the hands of Beis Din. The way Rashi explains this, it is simply an expression of ease of execution. It is a mitvah that can be readily upheld because Beis Din can see to it that their representatives carry it out. The Rambam, though, clearly understood this characterization of mesurah l’Beis Din as being amongst the classifying laws of the mitzvah. The Rambam says (Hilchos Shemitah v’Yovel 10:10), “It is a positive commandment to blow the shofar on the tenth of Tishrei in the Yovel year, and this mitzvah is given to Beis Din first, and each and every individual is obligated to blow.” It is possible that the Rambam is going like the Ritva who says that the mitzvah of shofar on Yovel is accomplished by having the shofar blown in Beis Din first, and then, subsequently each and every individual blows. The truth is that it is not completely clear exactly what the Rambam means, but, at the very least, it would seem that he is implying that it is the responsibility of Beis Din – not only to have the shofar blown in Beis Din on Yom Kippur of Yovel – but to see to it that it is also blown throughout Eretz Yisrael (that this mitzvah is limited to Eretz Yisrael is stated clearly by the Chinuch, and that is certainly the most straightforward way to understand the Rambam’s expression of “kol gevulos Yisrael”). It also makes sense that only the shofar blowing in Beis Din is fundamental to the mitzvah to the extent that without it the mitzvah goes unfulfilled.


Preparing to Receive the Torah

The Mishna in Avos (2:12) says, “Fix yourself to learn Torah for it is not an inheritance for you.” The obvious question on this is that the pasuk seems to say the exact opposite! “Moshe commanded us Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov.” The Imrei Emes answered this question by saying, yes, Torah knowledge in and of itself is an inheritance, but the preparation for it is not. It is up to each and every individual to make himself into a fitting vessel to receive the Torah by “pouring out” jealousy, lust, and kavod. That work does not come by automatic inheritance, but is up to each person to fix himself up. And, quite possibly, we can add to the words of the Imrei Emes, that it is not only “pouring out” the bad stuff which is part of fixing up our personal Torah-receptacle, but also injecting the positive by cultivating a deep yearning for acquiring true knowledge of the Torah.

Rav Zelmaleh, the brother of Rav Chaim Volozhiner who was an incredible genius, once asked the Gra how is it possible that many Jews are not accomplished Torah scholars? After all, we are all the descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and the Gemara says that once Torah scholarship has been in a family for three consecutive generations, from that point on, the Torah will always return to its regular place of residence! To that the Gra answered, one needs to make the residence habitable in order for the Torah to return to dwell there.

I once heard and idea quoted in the name of the Likutei Yehudah. There is a pasuk that says, “Your statutes are my eternal inheritance for they are the joy of my heart.” But how can this be? The Mishna says that Torah does not come to a person automatically as an inheritance?! The answer is that if, by the father, the Torah is the joy of his heart, then indeed will the Torah be passed down to his children by inheritance!

The Beis Ha’Levi says a similar idea on the pasuk that says, “In His mitzvos he had powerful desire…a generation of upright ones will be blessed.” From this we see, said the Beis Ha’Levi, that one who serves Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu with a genuine desire to fulfill His will, that person’s children will learn from him and follow in his ways.



“Maamad Har Sinai is not just a one-time event that we experience each Shavuos, but it is something we need to remain connected to throughout the year.”



“My father told me that when he would hear Rav Yehudah Zev Segal discuss and describe Maamad Har Sinai, he would shiver and begin to shake. ‘Listening to Rav Segal describe it,’ my father told me, ‘I felt as though I was actually there!” (Reb Meshulam Twersky)

Provided courtesy of