Rosh HaShana



The function of the tenth pasuk         The Mishna in Rosh Ha’Shana 32a says that according to Rabi Yochanan ben Nuri the pesukim of malchiyos are included with the bracha of kedushas ha’Sheim, and no tekios are blown following that bracha.  Rather, tekios follow the brachos of a) kedushas ha’yom, b) zichronos, and c) shofaros.  Rabi Akiva argues and says, “if he is not blowing shofar for malchiyos, why is he mentioning?”  The Gemara explains that what Rabi Akiva means is, “why does he need to say ten pesukim; nine should be enough?!” At first glance, this question seems to have no pshat.  Why shouldn’t there be ten pesukim for malchiyos?  Why should the lack of tekias shofar together with malchiyos take away a pasuk? My grandfather (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l) said an amazing pshat.  It’s as follows.  If you take a look in the machzor – which, parenthetically, one should do as a preparation for Rosh Ha’Shana – you’ll see that for both zichronos and shofaros, the tenth and final pasuk is enveloped and incorporated into the bakasha of the bracha (in zichronos: “v’kayeim lanu…ka’amur v’zacharti…”, and in shofaros: “va’havieinu l’Tziyon…v’shahm naaseh…ka’amur u’v’yom…”).  The first nine pesukim serve as the declaration, the proof of the fundamentals put forth in the bracha, but the tenth pasuk serves a different function.  It is part of the bakasha of the bracha. In malchiyos, though, it is different.  The tenth bracha follows the previous nine, and is not incorporated into the nusach of the bakasha that follows.  However, this is not resultant of the tenth pasuk serving a declaratory/proof function like the previous nine.  If we see that in zichronos and shofaros the tenth pasuk serves as part of the bakasha, then it only stands to reason that that is the case with the tenth pasuk of malchiyos as well.  The reason, though, that it appears as a continuum of the list of ten instead of being incorporated into the body of the bakasha is that the Anshei K’nesses Ha’Gedolah did not want to alter the consistency of the bakasha of the bracha of kedushas ha’yom.  L’maaseh, we pasken like Rabi Akiva who puts malchiyos together with kedushas ha’yom.  So the nusach bakasha that comes at the end of this bracha in musaf is the same as that of maariv, shachris, and mincha.  As such, they did not want to change that nusach.  So instead of the pasuk of Shema Yisrael appearing in the middle of the bakasha, it immediately precedes it.  But it is still part of the bakasha. This fits perfectly with how Rashi in Chumash explains the pasuk.  He explains that Hashem echad means that just as we know now that Hashem is Elokeinu, l’asid lavoh He will be one to the whole world.  As soon as we say that, we immediately follow it with, “Elokeinu veilokei avoseinu meloch al kol ha’olam kulo bi’chvodecha…”  We are asking for the message of Hashem echad to come to fruition. The Ritva explains that when the Gemara (Rosh Ha’Shana 16a) says, “u’ba’meh ba’shofar”, it means that the tekias shofar of each bracha expresses and carries the theme of that bracha.  It is a tekiah of bakasha that the bracha should be fulfilled. Now we can understand what Rabi Akiva meant: if you are omitting from malchiyos the component of bakasha manifest in tekias shofar, then you can also omit the tenth pasuk which essentially serves the same purpose. (Audio recording)

Teruah: defining the term         The Torah calls the sound that we have to blow on Rosh Ha’Shana a teruah.  Chazal darshen that a teruah always is preceded and followed by a tekiah, so it inherently becomes a set: tekiah-teruah-tekiah. The Mishna (Rosh Ha’Shana 33b) says that a teruah is three yevavos, the stocatto sound that we colloquially call teruah.  Rashi holds that it is only three, very-short blasts (=kol sh’hu), and other Rishonim hold each yevava is three very-short blasts for a total of nine.  The Braisah, though, says that the teruah is three shevarim.  The Gemara says it is a machlokes if the teruah of “yom teruah” is genuchei ganach (shevarim) or yelulei yalil (yevavos, which we colloquially call teruah). The Gemara (34a) says that Rabi Avahu maintained a safeik about these two opinions.  He had a further safeik as well that perhaps the teruah of the Torah is really a combination of the two, a shevarim-teruah.  Therefore, he made a takanah to blow all three types: a) tekiah-shevarim/teruah-tekiah, which we call tashrat, b) tekiah-shevarim-tekiah, which we call tashat, and c) tekiah-teruah-tekiah, which we call tarat. Tosafos points out that according to Rashi’s shitah that a teruah (using the vernacular way of referring to it) is merely three tiny sounds (kol sh’hu), when blowing a tekiah-shevarim-tekiah one must be careful that each one of the three shevarim are not as long as the length of three tiny sounds.  Why?  Because the Mishna says that the length of a tekiah is equivalent to a teruah.  So, the moment a shever has extended to the equivalent length of three tiny sounds, it is no longer a shever but a tekiah! The Rishonim ask a very difficult kashya on this statement of Tosafos.  When you are blowing tekiah-shevarim-tekiah, that means that you are fulfilling the opinion of the Braisah that says the teruah of the Torah is three shevarim, not three tiny yevava sounds.  That being the case, while blowing the set of tekiah-shevarim-tekiah, the defining length of a tekiah is the equivalent length of three shevarim, not three tiny sounds!  So why should there be any reason to be careful that each shever not reach the equivalent length of three kol sh’hu’s?!  As long as each shever does not reach the length of three shevarim, that should be fine?!

The answer to this question apparently lies in the shitah of Rav Hai Gaon.  Rav Hai Gaon holds that there is no machlokes l’halacha.  Both the Mishna and the Braisah agree that both yevavos and shevarim are valid as a “teruah”.  You can blow either one.  They’re both good.  Just that differing minhagim evolved as to which type to utilize.  So that it should not look like there are two Torah’s, Rabi Avahu enacted a uniform practice of doing both types, in addition to his innovation of the third type called shevarim-teruah.  That is the shitah of Rav Hai Gaon. Accordingly, if Tosafos holds like this, there is no kashya, because even when you’re blowing a tekiah-shevarim-tekiah, you still hold that yevavos is also a valid teruah; and since the length of a tekiah is equivalent to the length of a teruah, once you have reached the length of the smaller teruah, it becomes a tekiah! This is not quite sufficient, though, to answer the question.  The Rambam explicitly says that the machlokes between the Mishna and the Braisah evolved as a result of the passage of many years and the intensity of the galus.  He says that the precise definition of teruah was forgotten and that is how this machlokes became possible.  So, he clearly holds that it is either or, not both.  They are mutually exclusive. Tosafos makes a statement that clearly indicates that he holds like the Rambam on this matter.  Our minhag nowadays is that we blow all three sets – tashrat, tashat, and tarat – for malchiyos, zichronos, and shofaros.  However, in the time of the Rishonim, such a minhag was practically unheard of.  They had it that for malchiyos a tashrat was blown, for zichronos a tashat was blown, and for shofaros a tarat was blown.  Tosafos says that Rabbeinu Tam found this minhag baffling because it is inherently contradictory.  If tashrat is correct, then you aren’t being yotzei for zichronos and shofaros; if tashat is correct, then you aren’t being yotzei for malchiyos and shofaros; and if tarat is correct, then you aren’t being yotzei for malchiyos and zichronos?!  Clearly, then, Tosafos holds like the Rambam that each shitah is mutually exclusive.  If he held like Rav Hai Gaon that really everybody agrees that either way is halachikally valid, there would be no reason to find the minhag baffling. That being the case, we are back to the kashya of the Rishonim on Tosafos.  Why, when blowing a tekiah-shevarim-tekiah do you need to be careful that each shever not be as long as three kol sh’hu’s, as long as each shever is not the length of three shevarim together, that should be fine?! The answer to this question is that Tosafos holds similar to Rav Hai Gaon, but not completely like him.  We find that the concept of blowing a teruah is not unique to Rosh Ha’Shana.  In the midbar, they had to blow a teruah (albeit with chatzotzros) when it was time for the Yidden to travel, and in the Mikdash a teruah was blown when the korbanos were brought on Yamim Tovim, etc. (B’haaloscha 10:5-10).  Tosafos holds like Rav Hai Gaon in the sense that, in general, either a yevava or a shevarim are both inherently included in the definition of “teruah”.  Just what?  On Rosh Ha’Shana the mitzvah is to blow only one type of “teruah”, and that is the machlokes between the Mishna and the Braisah – which type to blow. But even according to the shitah of the Braisah that the “teruah” of Rosh Ha’Shana is specifically shevarim, it is not that a yevava (what we colloquially call teruah) is not a “teruah”.  It is a “teruah”.  Just that the Braisah holds that that type of “teruah” is not the one the Torah mandates on Rosh Ha’Shana.  But it is still a cheftzah of “teruah”.  And the shiur of a tekiah is the equivalent length of a “teruah”.  So, once a shever has reached the equivalent length of the shortest “teruah” on record, it is no longer a shever, but a tekiah.  That is why Tosafos holds that even when blowing tekiah-shevarim-tekiah, each shever must not be as long as the equivalent length of three kol sh’hu’s (in accordance with shitas Rashi). By the way, three kol sh’hu’s takes about one second.  Perhaps some baalei tekiah can do it in a bit less than a second, and for some it takes a bit more than a second; but it is right around the area of a second.

With this in mind, we can also understand why Tosafos said “v’nireh” when he put forth the halacha that in the set of tekiah-shevarim-tekiah the tekios have to be longer than those of tekiah-teruah-tekiah, and in the set of tekiah-shevarim/teruah-tekiah the tekios have to be even longer.  Since, explains Tosafos, the Mishna says that the shiur of the tekiah is the equivalent length of the teruah, it is therefore necessary to elongate the tekiah according to the length of the teruah of that set.  Now, that would seem to be self-evident.  So, why would Tosafos preface it with “v’nireh”?  “V’nireh” is an expression of “v’nireh li”; in other words, “this is my chiddush”.  So why is Tosafos saying that this is his chiddush when it seems to be self-evident from the Mishna? The pshat is that since even when you’re blowing a tekiah-shevarim-tekiah or a tekiah-shevarim/teruah-tekiah, a tekiah which is as long as three kol sh’hu’s is inherently defined as a cheftza of tekiah, there could be room to think that such a tekiah suffices even in the sets where the teruah thereof is longer. The chiddush of Tosafos is that there are two measurements relevant to tekiah.  One measurement is for defining the basic cheftza of the tekiah, and the second measurement is for determining how much of that cheftza you need for the fulfillment of the mitzvah.  A blast which is less than the length of the smallest “teruah” on record – namely, three kol sh’hu’s (according to Rashi) – is not at all called a tekiah.  Imagine someone trying to use an olive branch which is three tefachim long instead of hadassim for his dalet minim.  The requisite three-tefach shiur he may have, but the basic cheftza of the mitzvah he is missing!  Similarly, a shofar blast which is not at least as long as three kol sh’hu’s is simply not a tekiah. But now think about someone who is trying to use a 2.9 tefach hadas.  The basic cheftza of the mitzvah – a hadas – he has.  But he is still not yotzei. Why? Because the Torah demands that he have a certain amount (shiur) of that cheftza-shel-mitzvah. And that is the chiddush of Tosafos regarding tekios; that in addition to the shiur that defines the actual cheftza of a tekiah, there is also a shiur, a requisite amount, for the kiyum ha’mitzvah – and that goes according to whichever set he is blowing.  If he is blowing the tekiah-shevarim/teruah-tekiah set, for example, and the length of his tekios are only equal to three kol sh’hu’s, a tekiah he has, but the requisite shiur of that tekiah he is missing. Based on this pshat in Tosafos, my son Avrohom explained pshat in a difficult Rashi.  On 34a – when the Gemara speaks out the safeik of Rabi Avahu and says “maybe ‘teruah’ is genuchei (i.e. shevarim)” – Rashi elaborates “and you should not do the teruos [as] yevavos…”.  Why does Rashi need to say this?  Would it be necessary to say “don’t use an apple instead of an esrog”?! The pshat is, perhaps, that a yevava is also a cheftza of a “teruah”, no matter what.  Just that on Rosh Ha’Shana the requirement is to blow one type of “teruah”, and not just any type of “teruah”.  So now it is perfectly understandable why Rashi says – on the tzad that “teruah” on Rosh Ha’Shana is shevarim – “and you should not do the teruos as yevavos”. (Audio recording)

Teshuva: A fundamental change       In Hilchos Teshuva (7:1), the Rambam says, “Since man has free will, one should put forth effort (yishtadel) to do teshuva…in order that he may merit the life of the world to come.” At first glance, this statement seems astounding. First of all, why does the Rambam preface his exhortation to do teshuva with the fact that man has free will? Why should this mitzvah be different from any other mitzvah? When it comes to teffilin, for example, the Rambam does not say, “Since man has free will, one must put on teffilin”. Furthermore, what does the Rambam mean by “put forth effort”? Lastly, why does he say that one should do teshuva in order to merit Olam Ha’Ba; isn’t that in direct contradiction to that which the Rambam himself writes (Hilchos Teshuva 10:1), “One must not say ‘I will do mitzvos…in order to merit the life of the world to come”?! The Rambam holds that serving Hashem in order to get Olam Ha’Ba is not called serving Hashem out of love. So why when it comes to teshuva does the Rambam say to do it in order to get Olam Ha’Ba? What seems to be the correct understanding is that the Rambam here is not discussing the obligation to do teshuva for any specific aveirah. Rather, he is talking about the need to do teshuva vis a vis one’s overall character. The Rambam (in halacha 2 and 3) continues by saying, “One should always view oneself as though he is about to die…therefore one should do teshuva immediately…Don’t think that teshuva is only for aveiros of action such as licentiousness and theft. Rather, just as one must do teshuva for such aveiros, so too must one examine himself for negative character traits…” What emerges, then, is that the Rambam here is talking about a teshuva process that is not limited to correcting a particular sin, but one that generates a fundamental improvement in the person’s essence and character. This is the exhortation of the Mishna in Avos (4:16) that says, “this world is like a vestibule in relation to Olam Ha’Ba. Fix yourself up while in the vestibule in order that you will enter the palace.” What we see from this Mishna is that there is a preparation of the person that needs to take place before he enters Olam Ha’Ba. That is, it would seem, to remove or at least minimize the lowliness of gross physicality. And that is what the Rambam is discussing here: the need to become, overall, a more elevated person. So, the Rambam is not pinpointing what one’s motivation should be when he says “in order that you merit the life of the world to come”, but he is making it clear – as we see from the Mishna – that this is simply a prerequisite to gaining entry into Olam Ha’Ba. What the Rambam means, then, in this context, by prefacing the fact of free will is that every individual has been granted the power and authority of self-determination to alter his very tendencies and character traits. And that is why the Rambam uses employs the word yishtadel, because this exhortation is not limited to the need to do teshuva for any particular sin, but a matter of putting forth the effort to change one’s essential nature for the better. (From Reb Avrohom Twersky).

“No matter what you were up until now, with Rosh HaShana the entirety of creation gets a fresh new start, so don’t let your past shortcomings burden your yearnings for the future.”


One Rosh HaShana, the baal tokeia turned around to face my father, who always stood right behind him for the shofar blowing. With a hand motion, the bbal tokeia asked my father if he should blow a tekiah again which didn’t sound quite right. My father just smiled and made a hand motion that indicated, “It was a-okay!” Now, I knew my father’s criterion, and that particular tekiah was anything but a-okay. Other members of the shul insisted that the tekiah be blown again, and so it was. But I was left with an unanswered question. After davening, I questioned my father. “Tatty, that tekiah was obviously not okay, so why didn’t you tell the baal tokeia to redo it?” “As the shofar blower turned to look in my direction,” my father answered, “the elderly Rav of the shul — who was standing on the side of the bimah — also turned in my direction. The elderly Rav had not indicated for the tekiah to be re-blown, so how could I effectively say that what the Rav of the shul deemed as okay, is not okay?!” (Reb Avrohom Twersky)



 If you would like to receive these divrei Torah directly to your inbox, or to make a dedication, please email