Parashat Va-yelekh/ Shabbat Shuvah 5769/ October 4, 2008
the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
Rosh Hashanah 5769
Midrashah for Women
The Sages made two unique rulings concerning the commandments of the shofar: increasing the number of blasts required by the Torah and canceling the Torah’s commandment to blow the shofar when the New Year falls on the Sabbath.
Increasing the number of shofar blasts
The Sages deduced that the Torah commands us to hear nine blasts on the shofar on the New Year. Due to uncertainty arising in the course of long years of exile as to the correct way of blowing the teruah, the practice became to blow thirty blasts, in order to cover all possibilities (Maimonides, Hilkhot Shofar 3.1-3). In time many communities developed the custom of sounding the shofar one hundred times, thirty de-meyushav (“of the seated series”) before the Musaf service, thirty de-meumad (“of the standing series”) during the silent recitation of Musaf, thirty during the cantor’s repetition of Musaf, and another ten at the end of Musaf.
Canceling the shofar blowing when the New Year falls on the Sabbath
When the New Year falls on the Sabbath, the shofar is not blown, the reason being that “everyone is obligated by the commandment to blow the shofar, but not everyone is expert at doing so. It was decreed [that one should not blow on the Sabbath] lest someone take it [the shofar] in his hands to an expert in order to learn, and thus find himself carrying it four cubits in the public domain” (Rosh ha-Shanah 29b). 
Regarding the Sages’ ruling increasing the number of shofar blasts beyond the requisite number deduced from the Torah, Tosafot ask whether this does not violate the principle of not adding to the commandments (Rosh ha- Shanah 16b; 28a), noting the Torah’s words, “Be careful to observe only that which I enjoin upon you: neither add to it nor take away from it” (Deut. 13:1). Ostensibly it might seem that adding shofar blasts is equally forbidden as adding a fifth plant to the “four kinds,” or adding another passage to the four passages enclosed in phylacteries, etc. The Tosafot responded to this query as follows: “It must be said that the principle of not adding is not germane when it comes to performing a single commandment two times, as in the case of a priest who blesses a public assembly and repeats this act, blessing them again himself, or a person who blesses the lulav repeatedly. Likewise with blowing the shofar repeatedly.” In other words, a commandment which must be performed once may be performed any number of times without violating the principle of not adding to the commandments.
Rabbi Solomon ben Aderet (Rashba) had a unique answer: “When it comes to a takkanah which the Sages perceive as necessary, there is no issue of not adding, for the Torah instructs us to act ‘in accordance with the instructions given you.’” According to him, “neither add” applies to cases where a person adds something to a commandment on his own counsel, such as a priest adding a blessing of his own, but does not apply to legislation by the Sages. The same applies to the prohibition against taking away (Hiddushei ha-Rashba le-Rosh ha-Shanah 16a):
The same applies to the principle of not taking away when there is a compelling need. For example, when the New Year falls on the Sabbath, even though the Torah says to blow the shofar, the Sages ruled that it not be blown, and this is by necessity. Similarly, they viewed it as necessary to repeat the shofar blasts, and we are commanded to obey the words of the Sages by virtue of the principle of "not deviating" [Deut. 17:11]. So it seems to me.
Rashba drew a connection between the two rulings – increasing the number of shofar blasts and canceling the shofar blowing on the New Year when it falls on the Sabbath. According to him, the prohibition against adding or taking away does not apply to takkanot legislated by the Rabbis. 
Rashba’s analysis was challenged by Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Metz (Turei Even, Rosh ha- Shanah 16b), arguing that the prohibition not “to take away” applies in cases where a person performs a commandment but not in its entirety, as in having only three passages in his phylacteries rather than the ordained four, or three varieties in a lulav. But when a commandment is not performed at all, this is not a matter of 'doing less' but of altogether abrogating a mitzvah!
The argument Turei Even made against Rashba was resolved by Rav Kook, from whom we learn an important principle regarding the prayers and blowing of the shofar on the New Year. According to Rav Kook, (Etz Hadar ha-Shalem, par. 15), Rashba’s remarks should be explained in the light of the words of his teacher, Nahmanides:
Nahmanides wrote (on Leviticus
23:2: “These are the fixed times of the
Lord, which you shall proclaim as sacred occasions”) that the commandment of
proclaiming the holiday a sacred occasion stems from the Torah, that is, to gather
together in order to pray is the fulfillment of the mitzvah " you shall
proclaim as sacred occasions". It would seem that this is a commandment given
to the general public, and might not be obligatory on each individual ….
Therefore, gathering together to pray and
sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is how we proclaim
a sacred occasion on the day of zikhron
teruah, "commemoration with blasts." Once we
begin praying, we have embarked upon this mitzvah to proclaim the day, and if
the Rabbis said not to blow the shofar on the
Sabbath, this is an abrogation of part of the commandment, but not a
cancellation of the entire mitzvah [as claimed by Rabbi Aryeh
Thus, argues R. Kook, not blowing the shofar when the New Year falls on the Sabbath would constitute a violation of the prohibition to detract from a mitzvah (ve-lo tigre'u), were it not for Rashba’s explanation that a regulation of the Sages is not considered an act of detraction.
Despite Rabbi Kook's stress on the public nature of the prayers and shofar on Rosh Hashanah, individuals who are not in a community are also obliged to hear the shofar, although the full performance of the commandment is done in a community, with the people of one’s city (Rosh ha-Shanah 34b). “The public must hear the shofar blasts along with the benedictions … but as for individuals, if they hear with or without the accompanying blessings, either standing or seated, they have fulfilled the commandment (Maimonides, Hilkhot Shofar 3.7-12).
In his Bible commentary (Harhev
Davar, Lev. 23:24), Rabbi Naphtali
The Holy One, blessed be He, said: On the New Year recite before me Malkhuyot (passages about kingship), Zikhronot (passages about the Lord remembering) and Shofarot (passages about the shofar). Malkhuyot, so that you proclaim Me as your King; Zikhronot, so that I remember you for good; and how is this to be done? With the Shofar.
The shofar that was used for the New Year was made of the horn of a wild goat, straight, with its mouth overlaid in gold, and two trumpets were on either side. The shofar sounded the long notes and the trumpets the short, for the commandment of the day devolved on the shofar.
Only in the
It was said by Rabba,
and some say by Rabbi Joshua ben Levi:
From what verse do we learn this?
Since it is written:
“With trumpets and the blast of a
shofar raise a shout before the Lord, the king” (Ps.
98:6). Before the Lord [meaning within
Blowing on trumpets in the
On all the festivals and on the new moon days the priests would sound trumpets while the sacrifice was being made, and the Levites would sing, for it is said: “And on your joyous occasions – your fixed festivals and new moon days – you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being. They shall be a reminder of you before your G-d, I, the Lord, am your G-d” (Num. 10:10).
However, on the other festivals trumpets were
sounded only when the daily sacrifices were being made, whereas on the New Year
trumpets were sounded also to accompany the shofar
blowing. Rabbi Kook's student, Rabbi
David ha-Cohen, known as the “Nazirite Rabbi,”
blowing is primarily to be done in the
The shofar blowing has one other aspect, in addition to the two mentioned above: “Blasts of tekiah and teruah are blown when the people are seated, and blasts of tekiah and teruah are blown when the people are standing, and this is in order to confuse Satan” (Rosh ha- Shanah 16b). The many different sorts of blasts would sound to him like the announcement of the arrival of the Messiah, in whose time the kingdom of the Lord will be fully revealed.
 According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh ha-Shanah 4.1), blowing the shofar on the New Year when it falls on the Sabbah is not a commandment explicit from the Torah. See in my book, “ Teki’at shofar ba-Mikdash u-va- Medinah u-le-Ahar ha- Hurban,” Mo’adei Yehudah ve-Yisrael, Merkaz Shapira 2004, pp. 47-65.
 See further: Maimonides, Hilkhot Mamrim 2.9 and Rabad, loc. sit.; Rabbi Judah Ha-Levi, Kuzari 3.40. Many of the aharonim (later rabbinic authorities) have commented on these remarks of Tosafot and Rashba, including Rabbi Joseph áŕá"ă , Minhat Hinnukh, commandment 354, sect. 3-5; Rabbi Joseph Dov Ha-Levi Soloweitchik, Beit Ha-Levi, Part I, sect. 42; Rabbi Naphtali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin, Resp. Meshiv Davar, Part I, sect. 36, and in Ha’amek She’elah, q. 53.4; Rabbi Tzvi Pesah Frank, Mikrai Kodesh – Yamim Nora’im, pp. 66-67; Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Kanyevsky, Kehilot Ya’akov, Tractate Rosh ha-Shanah, sect. 9-10.