Elul & Rosh Ha’Shana




Elul & Rosh Ha’Shana

Shofar During Elul            In Pirkei d’Rabi Eliezer (perek 46), Chazal say that a shofar was blown on Rosh Chodesh Elul when Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Har Sinai (for the final 40 days). This is the source for blowing shofar during the month of Elul. The text of this Chazal as brought by a number of the Rishonim (see Radal there) is with the following expression, “it was established that shofar should be blown in Elul in order so that Klal Yisrael should do teshuvah and to befuddle the Satan.” The concept of confusing the Satan appears in Maseches Rosh Ha’Shana (16b) as the reason for why we blow the shofar twice on Rosh HaShana. Tosafos explains there that the Satan gets all worried that it is the day of “and on that day a great shofar will be blown”, which is a reference to l’asid lavo when Hashem will completely eradicate the Satan. Because of this confusion, the Satan is withheld from expressing any words of prosecution against Klal Yisrael. How are we to understand this, though? That just because l’asid lavo when a great shofar will be blown and the Satan will be eradicated so every time he hears the shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana he mistakenly thinks that the time of l’asid lavo has arrived? Does it make sense that the Satan would fall for such a trick for so many thousands of years?! Rav Yisrael Elya Weintraub zt”l explained that the irbuv ha’satan (confounding of the Satan) is not simply that he gets tricked into thinking that the sound of the shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana is the shofar of l’asid lavo. Rather, the proper understanding of it is as follows. The very first Yom Kippur – which was the culmination of Moshe Rabbeinu’s final 40 days on the mountain and when we received the second luchos – was a chazarah l’techiyah (lit. “a return to life”, resurrection). Yom Kippur is the one day of the year when there is a revelation of the 13 middos ha’rachamim, which is essentially a function of the way that Ha’Kadosh baruch Hu will conduct the world in acharis ha’yamim (lit. “the end of days”).

However, this once a year revelation is not absolutely confined only to Yom Kippur. The Ramban makes it clear that “sprouting” of this special Divine light begins already from Rosh Ha’Shana, as Chazal tell us that the blowing of the shofar moves Ha’Kadosh baruch Hu, as it were, to rise from his thrown of judgement and sit on his thrown of mercy. A facet of the quality of techiya characteristic of Yom Kippur is also carried in the power of the shofar (according to one opinion, akeidas Yitzchak was on Yom Kippur). So, what confuses the Satan is not simply the sound of a shofar blowing that he mistakenly thinks is the shofar of l’asid lavo. Rather, it is the fact that when we blow the shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana there is an actual revelation taking place that is akin to the Divine Direction of l’asid lavo, and that is why the Satan thinks that it might actually be that acharis ha’yamim has arrived! The very force that the Satan senses on Rosh Ha’Shana when we blow the shofar is indeed that force that is eventually going to eradicate him, so he really has no way of knowing whether that time has actually come or not. That is what the “confounding of the Satan” is all about. What emerges, then – based on the words of the Pirkei d’Rabi Eliezer – is that this special revelation of the Divine Direction of l’asid lavo actually begins its first sprouting and shining through in Elul, as Chazal say that even in Elul the blowing of the shofar contains this quality of confounding the Satan. And there is a direct connection between the two purposes of blowing the shofar during Elul that the Rishonim’s text of the Pirkei d’Rabi Eliezer delineated: a) so that Klal Yisrael should be moved to do teshuva, and b) the Satan should be confused. For it is only through the deliberate effort to go through the teshuva process that we merit that the shofar-blowing should generate this special revelation of Divine Direction of l’asid lavo. (From Reb Avraham Twersky)

Why We Don’t Blow Shofar on Shabbos        Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The power of it is simply unfathomable. Chazal tell us that it splits the Heavens and goes through all of the upper spheres until it reaches the Kisei HaKavod, and HaKadosh Baruch Hu gets up, as it were, from His Throne of Justice and instead sits on His Throne of Mercy. On the Day of Judgment! The mefarshim are practically open-mouthed in trying to understand why Chazal decreed that we do not blow shofar on Shabbos. How could it be that someone who wants to blow shofar — with all the awe of judgment — might desecrate Shabbos in the process by carrying it in a public domain? There’s practically no chance it could happen. The Aruch L’Ner made a calculation that the most catastrophic years for Klal Yisrael throughout history were those years when the first day of Rosh Hashanah fell out on Shabbos, as Chazal say that a year that does not start off with tekias shofar is a terrible portent for that year. Furthermore, just imagine that the only shofar available in the whole world is in a tree. It’s only a Rabbinic prohibition to climb the tree on Shabbos. Would it not be worth it to have one Jew be the sa’ir la’azazel and climb the tree so that Klal Yisrael will have tekias shofar? And yet the halachah is clear that it is forbidden! So, how are we to understand this? Since the giving of the Torah at Har Sinai — when we said naaseh v’nishma — we assess anything and everything from a Torah perspective. Namely, how does this relate to the fulfillment of mitzvos? We have physical eyes so we cannot see it — perhaps we can understand it, maybe, but we don’t see it — but the fact is, the most destructive force in the entire universe is an aveirah. Not only a violation of a Torah prohibition but even a Rabbinic prohibition. An aveirah is far more destructive than the most powerful nuclear bomb. That is why, despite the indescribable positive power and benefit we get from tekias shofar, in the final analysis it is not worth forgoing the violation of even a d’Rabbanan for it.

Were Malchiyos Zichronos and Shofaros Originally in All of the Teffilos of Rosh Ha’Shana?           The Baal Ha’Maor writes that, really, all the teffilos of Rosh Ha’Shana should include malchiyos zichronos and shofaros and thus have nine brachos; not just musaf.  He brings as his proof the Gemara in Brachos that delineates the source for a regular shmoneh esrei having eighteen brachos, the shmoneh esrei of Shabbos having seven brachos, and the shmoneh esrei of Rosh Ha’Shana having nine.  Just like all the teffilos of a regular day have the full eighteen brachos and all the teffilos of Shabbos have seven brachos; so too asserts the Baal Ha’Maor, do all the teffilos of Rosh Ha’Shana have nine brachos.  He avers that accepted practice is not like that, and must not be changed, but this is what he holds was really the takanah of Chazal. The Milchamos rejects this statement of the Baal Ha’Maor with the following kashya: if the takanah of Chazal was to have every shmoneh esrei of Rosh Ha’Shana include malchiyos zichronos and shofaros and thus be comprised of nine brachos, then there should have also been tekias shofar by every teffilah, yet the Mishna on 32a says explicitly that only by musaf do we blow the shofar! In fact, the Baal Ha’Maor himself addresses this point, albeit tersely, by saying, “even though we only blow shofar by musaf”.  What the Baal Ha’Maor meant by that is this: on Rosh Ha’Shana we have two separate, independent chiyuvim.  We have one chiyuv of teffilah, and a second, separate chiyuv of tekias shofar.  Just what?  Chazal had to pick a time for the shofar to be blown, so they picked musaf as the best time (for reasons that are discussed in the Gemara).  But, inherently, they are two completely separate chiyuvim.  According to the Baal Ha’Maor, most probably the obligation to blow the shofar al seider ha’brachos – together with malchiyos zichronos and shofaros – is d’Rabbanan.  But it could be that it is d’Oraysah.  Either way, though, according to the Baal Ha’Maor it is not that the tekias shofar is coming to enhance the brachos of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros; it is not a combined fulfillment of the mitzvah.  Rather, musaf is simply the appointed zman for the mitzvah of tekias shofar. Rashi, who holds that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros are inextricably bound up with tekias shofar as one enhanced, combined kiyum mitzvah d’Oraysah clearly cannot hold like the Baal Ha’Maor.

As mentioned, the Ramban in Milchamos does hold that the fact that there is tekias shofar only by musaf is a kashya on the Baal Ha’Maor; so why is that?  Why did he reject the Baal Ha’Maor’s teirutz to the kashya? It is as follows: Our current-day minhag is that we blow a tashrat (= tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah), a tashat (= tekiah, shevarim, tekiah), and a tarat (= tekiah, teruah, tekiah) by all three brachos, malchiyos zichronos and shofaros.  But this minhag of ours is relatively recent, from only a few hundred years ago.  Most Rishonim, though, did not do this.  Their minhag was to blow one tashrat for malchiyos, one tashat for zichronos, and one tarat for shofaros.  A major question on this older minhag that the Rishonim deal with is this: if tashrat is the right way, then zichronos and shofaros don’t have a proper tekias shofar, if tashat is the right way, then malchiyos and shofaros don’t have a proper tekias shofar, and if tarat is the right way, then malchiyos and zichronos do not have a tekias shofar?!  In other words, it is mutually exclusive.  So what is the pshat in such a minhag (which, as mentioned, was the minhag of most Rishonim)? There are different approaches.  The Ramban’s approach to resolve this quandary is this: Really, the tekios with which we are fulfilling the mitzvah of “yom teruah yihiyeh lachem” – the mitzvah of tekias shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana – are those that we blow before musaf (otherwise known as tekios d’meyushav).  The tekios that we blow during musaf al seider ha’brachos are actually not an extension of “yom teruah yihiyeh lachem”.  Rather, those tekios are of a completely different type.  Mi’dinah d’Gemara, when there are certain tzaros, there is supposed to be a whole seider of taaniyos, and on the full-fledged taaniyos, six brachos are added to the shmoneh esrei.  Those brachos are accompanied by tekias shofar.  Those tekios are not a mitzvah in of themselves; they are an appendage to the seider ha’teffilah.  There is a chiyuv – m’d’Rabbanan, perhaps even m’d’Oraysah – to blow the shofar b’eis tzarah.  The tekios blown together with the six extra brachos on taaniyos are part of the teffilah.  So too, holds the Ramban, are the tekios that we blow together with malchiyos zichronos and shofaros on Rosh Ha’Shana.  They are not part of the mitzvah of tekiash shofar of “yom teruah yihiyeh lachem”, but a part of teffilah just like by taaniyos.  They are chovas ha’brachos, in the words of the Ramban.  That being the case, concludes the Ramban, it doesn’t matter whether you do tashrat, tashat, or tarat.  For teffilah’dikeh tekios, all forms are sufficient. Now that we understand the Ramban’s premise in understanding the nature of the tekios during musaf, it becomes clear why he held that the fact that the Mishna says that tekias shofar on Rosh Ha’Shana is only during musaf is an unanswerable kashya on the Baal Ha’Maor.  Unlike the Baal Ha’Maor who holds that the tekios and the teffilah are two, completely separate chiyuvim, the Ramban holds that they necessarily go together.  So, if the takanah of Chazal would have been to have malchiyos zichronos and shofaros in every shmoneh esrei of Rosh Ha’Shana, there would have also been tekias shofar as well, since those tekios are “chovas ha’bracha”.  Therefore, the Ramban l’shitaso categorically rejects the statement of the Baal Ha’Maor and says that from the fact that the tekios are only in musaf, we see that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros are also only in musaf. (Audio recording).

Why Does There Have to Be a Combination of Brachos?               There is a machlokes Tannaim (on 32a) if malchiyos is joined with the bracha of kedushas ha’Sheim or with the bracha of kedushas ha’yom.  There is a third shitah that holds it is zichronos that is joined with kedushas ha’yom.  But there is a basic question here?  Why the need for this “juggling act”?  Why not just make malchiyos its own separate bracha and have ten brachos in the musaf of Rosh Ha’Shana? The answer is very straightforward.  Our beginning point is seven brachos, like by every Yomtov.  The first three, last three, and the middle of kedushas ha’yom.  But, we have a derasha from “shabbason zichron teruah” that we need to add three brachos: malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros.  However, that would tally up to ten, which we cannot do since the Gemara in Brachos says that we learn out from the eleven times Hashem’s name is mentioned in shiras Chana that there are nine brachos.  Therefore, we have no choice but to combine one of the the three with one of the pre-existing seven. (Audio recording).

Connection between Shiras Chana and Rosh Ha’Shana The fact that the Gemara learns out the nine brachos of musaf on Rosh Ha’Shana from shiras Chana indicates that there is an inherent relationship between the two.  The simple way of understanding this is that shiras Chana expresses the different facest of how malchus Shamayim is revealed in the world (e.g. “meimis u’mechayeh, “morish u’maashir”, etc.) and culminates with melech ha’Mashiach – “v’yareim keren meshicho”.  This is the central theme of Rosh Ha’Shana: “meloch al kol ha’olam kulo bi’chvodecha”. (Audio recording).


Malchiyos Zichronos and Shofaros: Integral Part of Musaf or an Addendum?                  The last sugyah in maseches Rosh Ha’Shana is about if the shatz (= shaliach tzibur) can be motzi everyone in shmoneh esrei.  Rabban Gamliel holds yes, even when it comes to the regular shmoneh esrei of the whole year, and the Chachamim hold no, even on Rosh Ha’Shana.  The Gemara paskens that the rest of the year we hold like the chachamim, and on Rosh Ha’Shana like Rabban Gamliel. The Baal Ha’Maor writes that he remembers from his youth that the tzibur used to daven a regular yomtov musaf of seven brachos for the silent shmoneh esrei, and then they would listen to the shatz’s musaf which would have the full nine brachos with malchiyos zichronos and shofaros.  Later, the minhag changed, and now everyone davens the full nine-bracha musaf themselves. Let’s ask a question.  Someone knows the first three and last three brachos of shmoneh esrei, but he doesn’t know the middle bracha of Shabbos, for example.  But he doesn’t want to just be yotzei from the shatz.  He wants to daven as much as he can by himself.  So he wants to daven a shmoneh esrei of six brachos – the first and last three – and then he’ll listen to chazaras ha’shatz in order to get the middle bracha of Shabbos.  Can he do that?  The answer is that b’pashtus no, he cannot do that.  There is a minimum structure that you need for the teffilah to be considered a teffilah, less than which it cannot be halachikally defined as a unit of teffilah.  That unit is comprised of a beginning, middle, and end.  The beginning and middle are always consistent: the first three brachos and the last three brachos.  The middle is subject to change.  During the week it is comprised of the 12/13 brachos of bakashos.  And on Shabbos, etc. it is comprised of the one bracha of kedushas ha’yom.  But without a middle, it is not a cheftza of teffilah and the six brachos that he said by themselves are, b’pashtus, brachos l’vatalah.  The basic, minimum unit of teffilah is an indivisible whole that cannot be divided. That being the case, what is pshat in the early minhag that the Baal Ha’Maor describes?  How could they split up the musaf of Rosh Ha’Shana like that by davening only seven brachos themselves during the silent teffilah?

The answer is that they must have held that the addition of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros is just that, an addition.  A hosafa.  Not part of the basic unit of musaf.  In other words, they held that on Rosh Ha’Shana there is a double, compounded chiyuv: 1) to daven musaf just like on any other Yomtov, and 2) to insert a hosafa into that musaf of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros.  Since the two are inherently separate chiyuvim, they can be split up. This is similar to the shitah of the Bahag by yaaleh v’yavoh.  The Bahag holds that even a baki can daven a regular shmoneh esrei on Rosh Chodesh and then afterwards fulfill his obligation to say yaaleh v’yavo by listening to chazaras ha’shatz.  The reason for this is that yaaleh v’yavo was not enacted as an integral part of what comprises the teffilah on Rosh Chodesh; rather, Chazal enacted a chiyuv to add a hazkarah of the day into that teffilah.  Therefore, they can be split up. From the previous Baal Ha’Maor that we mentioned – that he holds that the ikar takanah was to have malchiyos zichronos and shofaros in every teffilah of Rosh Ha’Shana – we may have been inclined to understand that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros are an integral part of the basic, minimum teffilah-unit.  But from this Baal Ha’Maor we see that according to the early minhag it is not like that; they held that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros is a hosafah.  Since the basic chiyuv of musaf on Rosh Ha’Shana is essentially no different than any other Yomtov, they could not be yotzei with the shatz.  The Gemara said that we hold like Rabban Gamliel (that the shatz can be motzi everyone) only on Rosh Ha’Shana.  It is only the chiyuv which is particular to Rosh Ha’Shana – namely the extra addition of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros – that one can be yotzei by listening to the shatz.  Therefore, they had no choice but to daven the basic musaf of seven brachos by themselves; and the addition of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros that they were able to be yotzei from the shatz, they did.  Perhaps because of “b’rov am hadras melech”. But the Baal Ha’Maor writes that there was a change in the minhag, and that nowadays everyone davens the full nine brachos themselves.  He doesn’t mean that education improved and the subsequent generation was more well-versed in the machzor.  First of all, he makes it clear that the early minhag to which he was referring was something that took place in the Batei Medrash of the Geonim.  Obviously, there they were all bekiim and knew the machzor perfectly.  Furthermore, if it was simply a matter of better education, that would not be called a change in the minhag. So what changed?  What changed is that the subsequent chachmei ha’dor held differently from their predecessors regarding the hagdarah of malchiyos zichronos and shofaros.  The earlier Rishonim held that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros was a hosafah and therefore it was possible to split them up from the main body of the teffilah, but the later generation held that malchiyos zichronos and shofaros were enacted as an integral part of the essential makeup of the teffilas musaf on Rosh Ha’Shana and therefore cannot be separated from it.  That is why they all davened the full nine brachos.


Every minute of Rosh Ha’Shana carries the value of many hours during the rest of the year.



My father conveyed to me that it is not enough to review and make sure you recall what you have learned; it is also very important to remember the precise daf (page number) of what you have learned. From when I first began learning Gemara as a young boy, he inculcated this message. In fact, sometimes in the middle of learning with me he would take his hands and cover the letters of what daf it was and ask me what daf we are on. He would do this in order to sharpen my attention to remembering not just what is on the daf, but also what daf it is. (Reb Avrohom Twersky)



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