Shabbat: Silent Shofar

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17 Sep 2020
Rosh Hashanah

Naaleh_logo Shiur provided courtesy of

Adapted by Channie Koplowitz Stein

When the first day of Rosh Hashanah coincides with Shabbat, we do not sound the shofar on that day. The Gemorrah explains that our Sages were concerned that perhaps a Jew would take the shofar to learn how to blow it, and momentarily forget that he is carrying the shofar in a public domain and thereby transgress the sanctity of Shabbat. To preclude that possibility, however remote, our Sages ordained that we do not blow the shofar on Shabbat Rosh Hashanah.  Why are we so concerned with such a remote possibility?  Does not the effect of blowing the Shofar outweigh such a far fetched fear?

 The Gemorrah also teaches us that a year wherein we don’t blow the shofar at the start of the year, and the Satan is not confused, is a year we need to be wary of a negative outcome.  Although, the Rishonim note, this is not applicable to when Shabbat falls out on Rosh Hashana, rather, when a person just neglects to blow, we still need to examine, what is the replacement for the Shofar, so we can confuse the Satan, and be blessed with a good year.

While one of the reasons for blowing the shofar is to evoke the memory of the binding of Yitzchak, and Avraham and Yitzchak’s willingness to sacrifice himself to do Hashem’s will, to coronate Hashem as King over ourselves, perhaps that coronation can be achieved by other means as well. While the blast of the shofar always heralded the coronation of the King/king, and Rosh Hashanah is the day on which we declare Hashem’s sovereignty, Rabbi Moshe Schwab z”l suggests that the same goal can be achieved through zehirut, the careful, meticulous attention to the wishes/mitzvoth of our Master. If we invest our speech and our actions with deliberate thought on how to accomplish the wish of our Creator, we have indeed crowned Him as King over ourselves. Chazal understood that if Bnei Yisroel recognized the consequences in olam habo of transgressing the sanctity of Shabbat, even accidentally they would automatically forgo blowing the shofar on Shabbat. How much more so if one would deliberately transgress. But Hashem, in His mercy, sends us messages through small frustrations in this world to alert us that we need to reflect and improve.

If a person would realize how many spiritual worlds he is creating or destroying with each symbolic flick of his hand, he would be so consumed by fear that he would not be able to act at all, writes Rabbi Scheinerman citing the Arizal. The shofar, then is meant to arouse us from lethargy and rote actions. Being in a state of mindfulness and care before we speak or act accomplishes the same goal. This awareness is our first step in coronating Hashem as our King. So, Shabbat, which requires such thoughtfulness and study to observe it properly, contains within it the element of carefulness the sound of the shofar is meant to achieve.

 Rav Schlesinger offers another reason we do not need to blow the shofar on Shabbat.  Rav Schlesinger notes that blowing the shofar also arouses Hashem’s quality of compassion and mercy. Shabbat itself has that same ability, for there is no judgment on Shabbat. That Shabbat substitutes for shofar is alluded to by the initials of Shabbat, Shabbat Bimkom Tekiyot/Shabbat [takes the] place of the shofar blasts.

The sounds of the shofar, coming from the inner depths of a baal tekiyah, contain a sanctity that words alone cannot contain, writes Rabbi Hofstedter in Dorash Moshe. Since Shabbat itself contains that sanctity, it elevates the prayers of Bnei Yisroel just as the sound of the shofar would do. Therefore, on Shabbat we include the phrase zichron teruah/remembrance of the shofar blast, a phrase not included on other days of the week.

In his sefer Chikrei Lev, Rav Heiman cites a medrash that proves the sanctity and power of Shabbat. Adam was created on the sixth day of creation. He sinned at twilight, and was exiled from Eden. Hashem had warned that on the day Adam would eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would die and go to Geihinom. Shabbat came and pleaded on Adam’s and on his own behalf. Shabbat asked Hashem why He should introduce death into the world on no other day but a Shabbat, a day Hashem Himself had declared to be holy. With this argument, Adam was saved. When Adam witnessed the power of Shabbat, he composed the Psalm Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat.

But Adam’s sin was deeper than a personal one. Had Adam not sinned, he would have unequivocally established Hashem’s sovereignty over all creation. For not affirming this truth, Adam was worthy of even more severe punishment than exile. Instead of Hashem’s sovereignty being revealed in all its glory, it would now be concealed. Nevertheless, the intervention of Shabbat kept the primal light glowing until the Shabbat was over. Therefore, those who observe the Shabbat will rejoice in Hashem’s sovereignty/Yismichu bemalchutcha shomrei Shabbat and will delight in it.

Thus, Shabbat remains the advocate for Bnei Yisroel and brings peace to the world. In this capacity, it takes the place of the shofar. Its power is so intense that it is not worth jeopardizing its sanctity even for a remote possibility of infraction. Shabbat plus the first day of Rosh Hashanah combines the coronation of Hashem with the protection of Shabbat.

One of the ways the shofar protects us is through the creation of angels that emanate from the shofar as the breath of the baal tekiyah goes through it and rises heavenward. However, notes Rav Schlesinger in Eileh Hem Moadei, Shabbat also has special angels whom we greet every Friday night before reciting Kiddush. These angels rise up to in our defense just as the angels of the shofar do. But what of the Jew who does not observe Shabbat appropriately; should he not invoke the sound of the shofar in his defense? Unfortunately, many people transgress Shabbat simply out of ignorance of its many nuances. It is a good idea to commit to learning the laws of Shabbos for just a few minutes every day to keep us knowledgeable. Proper Shabbat observance demands constant study.

If we are coronating Hashem as our King on Rosh Hashanah, writes Rabbi Hofstedter, we are sublimating any personal benefit to the greater purpose of Hashem’s glory. The fact that we forgo blowing the shofar on Shabbat lest one man desecrate the Shabbat by carrying the shofar is proof of our dedication to Hashem’s glory, to His word and the word of the Torah scholars He commanded us to obey. We are truly accepting Hashem as our King. In a sense, notes the Mesech Chochmah, this is our personal sacrifice to obey Hashem’s will, reminiscent of the sacrifice of Isaac.

Each of us was created as an individual with a unique soul and personal mission. When we pass under Hashem’s staff on Rosh Hashanah, although we are members of the flock, each of us is being judged individually, writes Rabbi Rotberg in Moadei Labinah. Have we maintained our special identity, or, through sin, marred our image? Have I allowed my special qualities to impact the group? As the Rambam notes, sin is not isolated, but impacts my soul as well as the perfection of the entire flock. The sound of the shofar pierces to my core, asking the question Hashem asked of Adam, “Ayekah/Where are you [in relation to your essence]?”

We could raise the question why we are allowed to carry on yom tov but not on Shabbat. If we would be permitted to carry on Shabbat, we could also blow the shofar, since blowing the shofar itself is not forbidden. We do not blow the shofar only for fear that one will carry the shofar out of one’s private domain.  Notes. Modah Lbinah, the melacha of hotzah is specific to Shabbat, wherein we are commanded to not leave our domain on this day.  On Shabbat we are meant to quietly contemplate who we are and return to our core essence, while “yetziah/going out” always implies meeting a challenge, whether it is going out to war, or Dinah going out in the streets of Shechem, suggests the Sifsei Chaim. Go inward instead, and reconnect with the purity of Adam before the sin and before his expulsion from Eden.

Rabbi Pincus takes us back to the beginning, to the time when all creation was still a thought in Hashem’s mind. Hashem created man in this pristine, pure thought of din/judgment/according to Hashem’s original plan. Rosh Hashanah is referred to as zichron l’yom rishon/a remembrance of the first day. This day is about all of creation, not about ourselves. Our service on this day is to bring us back to the concept, the thought and idea that Hashem had in creating the world and Man. How do we reflect God’s plan for creation? Our mindset on Rosh Hashanah is to strive to bring ourselves back to that pure state within Hashem’s mind before creation. Are we worthy of being created?

Like the shofar, Shabbat prods us to look within ourselves rather than outward, to find the deepest part of ourselves concealed in creation. And on that day of Shabbat Rosh Hashanah, Hashem Himself blows the shofar, says the medrash, for, since all the world belong to Him, there is no fear that He will go out from His private domain to the public domain. Certainly, Hashem’s shofar blowing will confuse the Satan even more then the shofar blowing of a human being

We know that we are not permitted to speak from the time of the blessing on the shofar until the completion of the mitzvah when all the blasts have been sounded at the end of Mussaf. Because of the aforementioned medrash, many include the custom of not speaking on Shabbat Rosh Hashanah during the entire time that we would hear the shofar in shul, even though no baal tekiyah is blowing the shofar. After all, Hashem Himself is blowing the shofar. Are we bending our inner ear to hear the sound, to judge ourselves? Are we living up to the perfect image Hashem has of us? Are we at least working toward perfecting that image?

May the coming year mark the creation of our new and improved selves as we hear our inner shofar on the first day of Shabbat Rosh Hashanah and the blasts of the physical shofar on the second day.

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