VaYigdal Mosheh on Elul

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03 Jan 2018

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.



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

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