Sunday 22 August 2021



Here's another example of the innovation-heavy Tzfas mindset at work in modern Jewish life.
The way most communities perform the mitzva of shofar on Rosh Hashana is an excellent example of the spread of the Tzfas ideology and mindset. Here, based on Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 590:1, is what the Torah requires:

כמה תקיעות חייב אדם לשמוע בר"ה, תשע; לפי שנאמר: תרועה ביובל ובר"ה ג' פעמים, וכל תרועה פשוטה לפניה ופשוטה לאחריה, ומפי השמועה למדו שכל תרועות של חדש השביעי אחד הן, בין בר"ה בין ביוה"כ של יובל, תשע תקיעות תוקעין בכל אחד משניהם: תר"ת, תר"ת, תר"ת

How many tekiyos must a man hear on Rosh Hashana? Nine, for it mentions the word “terua" three times (in the passages concerning) Yovel and Rosh Hashana, and each terua must have a simple sound (i.e., tekiya) both before and after it. And from tradition we learn that all teruos during the seventh month (i.e., Tishrei) are the same…tekiya-terua-tekiya; tekiya-terua-tekiya; tekiya-terua-tekiya.

As is well known, the precise sound of a terua was unknown even in the time of the Gemara.To ensure we're covered, we're accustomed to hear all three possible variations of the terua, known respectively as “shevarim-terua," “terua," and “shevarim." Once each of these combinations is heard three times (and counting each tekiya as a sound and each “shevarim-terua" as two distinct sounds), we will have heard a total of 30 sounds (קולות) to be sure we've done the mitzva.

When should these 30 sounds be heard? With a minyan, the key sets occur during the repetition of the Mussaf. However, there's an ancient custom to also hear a full set of 30 sounds before the individual Mussaf begins. Here's the Rambam, Shofar 3:7.

המנהג הפשוט בסדר התקיעות של ראש השנה בצבור כך הוא. אחר שקוראין בתורה ומחזירין הספר למקומו יושבין כל העם ואחד עומד ומברך … ותוקע שלשים תקיעות שאמרנו מפני הספק על הסדר. ואומרים קדיש ועומדין ומתפללין תפלת מוסף. ואחר שגומר שליח צבור ברכה רביעית שהיא מלכיות תוקע תקיעה שלשה שברים תרועה תקיעה פעם אחת ומברך ברכה חמישית שהוא זכרונות. ואחר שגומרה תוקע תקיעה שלשה שברים ותקיעה. ומברך ברכה ששית שהיא שופרות. ואחר שגומרה תוקע תקיעה תרועה ותקיעה פעם אחת וגומר התפלה

The simple custom for tekiyos with a tzibur is thus: After reading the Torah and returning it to its place, the people sit down and one rises and makes (two blessings)…(Then he) blows the 30 tekiyos we described because of our uncertainty (over the proper sounds). Then (the people) say kaddish, stand, and pray Mussaf. After the chazan completes the fourth bracha, which is “malchiyus," you blow tekiya-shevarim-terua-tekiya one time and recite the fifth bracha, which is “zichronos." After completing that, blow tekiya-shevarim-tekiya and recite the sixth bracha which is “shofros." After that's complete, blow tekiya-terua-tekiya one time, and complete the tefila.

The Shulchan Aruch in Orech Chaim 592:1 adds some more sounds during the later sets:

ועכשיו נוהגים לתקוע למלכיות תשר"ת שלשה פעמים, ולזכרונות תש"ת שלשה פעמים, ולשופרות תר"ת שלשה פעמים

And now the custom is to blow tekiya-shevarim-terua-tekiya three times for malchiyus, tekiya-shevarim-tekiya three times for zichronos, and tekiya-terua-tekiya three times for shofros.

This would raise the total through the day to 60 קולות. However, the Rema, quoting the Tur in the name of the Rabbainu Tam, disagrees. The Rema writes that the “custom in these countries" is to blow only one set for each of the three relevant brachos. His total through the day would thus be only 40 קולות.

The Rambam himself (Shofar 3:12) acknowledges a rationale for hearing more קולות, but rejects it. And the reason why is interesting.

בדין היה שיתקעו על כל ברכה כל בבא מהן שלש פעמים כדרך שתקעו כשהן יושבין אלא כיון שיצאו מידי ספק בתקיעות שמיושב אין מטריחין על הצבור לחזור בהן כולן על סדר ברכות. אלא די להן בבא אחת על כל ברכה כדי שישמעו תקיעות על סדר ברכות.

Logically, it would make sense to blow three times for each section the way we do when seated (i.e., before Mussaf). But since we already completed the mitzva beyond doubt when seated, we should not bother the tzibur to repeat them at each bracha. Rather, it's sufficient for a single (set) for each bracha so we can hear tekiyos during the brachos.

(Bear in mind that there's considerable dispute about what exactly the Rambam means here, and how we should translate that passage. But I don't think the controversy directly impacts our discussion.)

In any case, Rambam clearly feels that concerns for טרחא דצבורא outweigh the value we might theoretically gain from hearing those extra 20 קולות. We can safely assume that the Rema was similarly motivated when he, too, limited us to 40 קולות. In addition, Rambam is very clear that an individual (without access to a minyan) needs no more than 30 קולות in total:

וכל הדברים האלו בצבור אבל היחיד בין ששמע על סדר ברכות בין שלא שמע על הסדר בין מעומד בין מיושב יצא ואין בזה מנהג

And all this concerns only a tzibur (congregation or minyan). But an individual, whether or not he hears along with the brachos and whether he hears sitting or standing, he has completed the mitzva, and there isn't in this a custom.

I'm not entirely sure what ואין בזה מנהג refers to (i.e., the 30 קולות of an individual or the 40 קולות of a minyan). In general, though, such a formulation suggests that even if members of a community should at some point decide to add such a practice, it would not be binding on individuals. All would be free to act according to their own preference.

I think we're now clear that the positions of at least many of our core halachic sources require us to hear between 30 and 60 קולות. In addition, there is neither the need nor, according to Rambam, even an option to add more. Since we Jews at least claim to believe that the Torah's commandments are perfect and need no expansion, that should really be the end of the story.

But it's not. The Mishna Berura (592:3) closely follows the Rambam's lead and limits the tekiyos we should hear because “שאין מטריחין על הצבור". But in the very next paragraph (592:4), he writes:

ובשל"ה כתב הדרך המובחר לתקוע תשר"ת תש"ת תר"ת למלכיות וכן לזכרונות וכן לשופרות [ואחר אנעים זמירות עוד תשר"ת תש"ת תר"ת כדי להשלים עד מאה קולות]

And in the Sh'la (ספר שני לוחות הברית לר‘ ישעיה הורוויץ) it is written that the ideal approach is to blow tekiya-shevarim-terua-tekiya, tekiya-shevarim-tekiya, and tekiya-terua-tekiya for (the bracha of) malchiyos, zichronos, and shofros and then add (another full set) after Anim Zemiros in order to reach 100 קולות.

With one possible partial exception we'll discuss later, the Sh'la is the earliest written source I'm aware of who advocates for this new custom. The Sh'la himself attributes the practice to two unnamed students of the Ari. Later poskim (including the מטה אפרים תקצ:לג) also discuss the custom in passing, often in tangential reference to other halachos.

I should add that the Mishna Berura himself, quoting the Pri Megadim, places restrictions on adopting the custom:
ומ"מ במקום שנוהגין כמנהגנו אין לשנות [פמ"ג]

Nevertheless, in a place that follows our custom (i.e., hearing only 40 or 60 קולות), one shouldn't change.

This is in line with a general prohibition against changing existing customs. But, of course, all places once blew only 40 or 60 קולות and would, therefore, have all been prohibited from adding more. And besides that, we must try to understand how we got to a place where insisting on hearing 100 קולות is considered a standard requirement.

I understand that the Sh'la himself claimed to have seen the practice mentioned in two publications, the full text of which he printed as part of his own sefer. The publications seem to have first been included in ספר מעין גנים by Rabbi Menachem Azariya from Fano (Italy), a student of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Rabbi Menachem Azariya, in turn, seems to have received one of the publications from kabbalist students of the Ari in Israel, and might have himself authored the second as a commentary to the first.

But even Rabbi Horowitz (the Sh'la) never suggested that the custom should be universal. And I doubt he would have approved of individuals and communities engaging in the practice without any understanding of the context or purpose. And yet here we are, all of us caught up in a practice that, according to key poskim has no purpose and, according to Rambam (and perhaps Mishna Berura) is actually prohibited.

There is, as I hinted earlier, one earlier source: The Aruch (ערך ערב). The Aruch suggests that some individuals could be extra stringent on themselves to hear 100 קולות due to an association with the mother of Sisra, who cried 100 sobs on receiving news of her son's death:

ומכאן אנו למדים דבעינן שלושים בעמידה כמו שלושים בישיבה. והני דמחמרי ועבדי שלושים כדיתבי ושלושים בלחש ושלושים על הסדר כנגד מאה פעיות דפעתא אימיה דסיסרא, ואלו ועשרה אינון כשגומרים כל התפילה קל תקועייא דיחודאה מתבעי למהוי עשרה תשר"ת תש"ת תר"ת והן מאה

One problem with this is that it's not clear whether there's any statement in חז"ל supporting this. The ערוך mentions the Yerushalmi in the larger context of this ערך, but we don't have any actual matching source. And it's difficult to explain how the number 100 is associated with Sisra's mother. Some point to the fact that there are 101 letters in the two adjacent verses in ספר שופטים. But that's 101, not 100. And what, exactly, is the significance of the number of letters any verses might contain?





  1. does this consideration affects the permissibility of talking during the latter tekios?

  2. Well, I would never advocate talking in shul. :)
    But, indeed, I've never understood why they make that " shouldn't talk between the brachos and the final tekios after kaddish..." speech. Even if the later tekios *were* somehow relevant to the real mitzva, how is this different from, say, birchos haTorah: I've never heard of anyone who doesn't talk all day because he wants all his Torah learning to be "covered" by the beracha.

  3. Well noted. I'm looking for sources about this, it's a good discussion