Rejoicing on Shabbat

And Hashem spoke unto Moshe, saying: Make for you two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shall you make them. And they shall be unto you for the calling of the congregation, and for causing the camps to set forward. (Sefer BeMidbar 10:1-2)

1. The silver trumpets of the Mishcan
In Parshat Beha’alotecha Moshe is commanded to fabricate two trumpets of silver. The Torah outlines three basic functions served by these trumpets. First, they were to be used during the sojourn in the wilderness to manage the movements of the nations. For example, various series of sounds produced by these trumpets summoned the people to assemble. Other sounds directed the people to break camp and to travel forth to their next encampment. Second, these trumpets were sounded at times of danger and affliction. Maimonides associates the blasts of the trumpets with calling out to Hashem in anguish.[1] This suggests that the sounds of the trumpets were an expression of prayerful petition. Third, the trumpets were sounded in the Mishcan – the Tabernacle – on festive occasions in accompaniment to the offering of the sacrifices.

The sounding of these trumpets on these occasions is one of the commandments of the Torah. After Bnai Yisrael settled the Land of Israel and constructed the Bait HaMikdash – the Sacred Temple, these trumpets continued to be employed. They were no longer used to signal the movements of the nation. However, they continued to be sounded at times of affliction and danger and also on festive occasions. On these festive occasions the sounding of the trumpets accompanied the offering of sacrifices.

Also on the day of your rejoicing, and to your appointed times, and on your new moons, you shall blow with trumpets over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings. And they shall be to you for a memorial before your G-d. I am Hashem your G-d. (Sefer BeMidbar 10:10)

2. The festive occasions on which the trumpets are sounded
The Torah describes a number of festive occasions upon which the trumpets are sounded in the Mishcan. The identities of some of the occasions noted in the passage are self-evident. The appearance of the new moon determines the initiation of the new month and Rosh Chodesh – the first day of each new month is celebrated with special sacrifices. The passage instructs us to sound the trumpets at the time of the offering of these sacrifices. The term “appointed times” generally refers to the festivals and holidays. On all of these occasions special sacrifices are offered and the passage instructs that the trumpets be sounded in accompaniment to these offerings. However, to what does the passage refer with the term “the day of your rejoicing”?

3. Shabbat as a “day of rejoicing”
The Sifrai offers two possibilities. The first possibility is that the reference is to Shabbat. In other words, according to this opinion Shabbat is a “day of rejoicing”. Although this characterization of Shabbat may seem reasonable and even appropriate, it is actually not consistent with normative halachah. In order to understand this inconsistency, some background information is needed.

Maimonides explains that on Shabbat there is a mitzvah of Oneg – enjoyment or delight.[2] In other words, in observance of Shabbat a person is commanded to engage in activities that bring enjoyment or delight. Maimonides explains that this requirement is fulfilled primarily through indulging in fine foods and including within the observance of the day three meals.[3]

Maimonides explains that the mitzvah of Oneg also applies to festivals – Yamim Tovim.[4] However, in addition to the mitzvah of Oneg, Yamim Tovim also features a mitzvah of Simchah – happiness.[5]

4. Simchah and Oneg
The mitzvah of Simchah does have some similarities to the mitzvah of Oneg; they do overlap. However, the mitzvah of Simchah on Yom Tov is a far more extensive obligation than the requirement of Oneg. Maimonides asserts that the mitzvah of Simchah is not composed solely of the performance of actions – as is the case of Oneg. Simchah requires the achievement of an actual state of mind. Furthermore, the mitzvah of Oneg is entirely personal. It is expressed as a requirement for a person to engage in activities that are associated with enjoyment and delight. The mitzvah of Simchah requires a person to not only, himself, be happy. He must also endeavor to bring happiness to the other members of the household. For example, buying clothing and jewelry for one’s wife in honor of Yom Tov is an expression of the mitzvah of Simchah.[6]

In summary, the mitzvot of Oneg and Simchah have some similarity. However, they are two distinct mitzvot. The mitzvah of Oneg applies to Shabbat and to Yom Tov. The mitzvah of Simchah is exclusive to Yamim Tovim; it does not apply to Shabbat.

5. The mitzvah of Simchah does not apply to Shabbat
Now, the difficulty with the Sifrai can be identified. According to the first opinion in the Sifrai, the term “day of rejoicing” refers to Shabbat. The actual term used in the passage for rejoicing is Simchah. Therefore, according to this opinion in the Sifrai, Shabbat is a day of Simchah. As explained above, this is not actually correct. It is a day on which there is a mitzvah of Oneg. It is not a day that is subject to the mitzvah of Simchah.

6. Every day is a “day of rejoicing”
Before attempting to reconcile this opinion with normative halachah, it will be helpful to consider the other opinion in the Sifrai. According to the second opinion, the term “day of rejoicing” refers to every day. According to this opinion, the Tamid sacrifices – the daily offerings – in the Mishcan are to be accompanied by the trumpet blasts. In other words, the Tamid introduces an element of happiness into every day. What is the nature of this association between the Tamid offerings and Simchah?

It seems that the Tamid offerings are associated with Simchah because the Kohanim – the priests – who perform the offerings are required to be in a state of happiness. The service is only executed in the optimal manner when it is performed with happiness and joy.[7] The Simchah in the performance of the service is an expression of ahavat Hashem – love of Hashem. In other words, the service should be an expression of the Kohens’s deep love of Hashem and this love should find expression in his state of happiness.

7. The ideal Shabbat and ideal Yom Tov
Maimonides’ description of the ideal Shabbat differs significantly from the description of the ideal Yom Tov. The ideal Yom Tov day is divided into two parts. The first half of the day is dominated by prayer and Torah study. The second half of the day is devoted to the Yom Tov meal. Shabbat is described as a day that is entirely devoted to spiritual pursuits with pauses within the day for the Shabbat meals. In other words, Shabbat is a day primarily devoted to the spiritual and to the service of Hashem.

Apparently, both opinions quoted in the Sifrai take a shared approach to interpreting the passage. Both understand the term “day of rejoicing” as referring to a rejoicing that is an expression of service to Hashem and love of Hashem. The second opinion interprets the passage to refer to every day as a “day of rejoicing”. Every day features the Tamid offerings and by virtue of the Tamid service an element of joy is introduced into the day. However, the first opinion understands the term “day of rejoicing” to refer specifically to Shabbat. This is because although every day is endowed with an element of joy, Shabbat’s very character is that of joy in service to and love of Hashem.

In fact, Simchah does apply to Shabbat. However, it applies in a different manner than it does to Yom Tov. On Yom Tov, the mitzvah of Simchah directs us to perform specific actions in order to foster rejoicing. Shabbat observance does not include a structured mitzvah of Simchah akin to Yom Tov. However, the very objective of Shabbat observance – dedication to the spiritual and service to Hashem – endows the day with a character of joy.[8]

1. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Ta’aniyot 1:1.
2. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 30:1.
3. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 30:7.
4. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:16.
5. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:17.
6. Rabbaynu Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam / Maimonides) Mishne Torah, Hilchot Yom Tov 6:18.
7. Rabbaynu Bahya, Commentary on Sefer BeMidbar, Introduction to Parshat Naso.
8. See comments of Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv), Commentary Emek HaNetziv on Sifrai, Parsaht BeHa’alotecha 19.