Why is blowing the shofar permitted on Rosh Hashonah?

In certain circumstances, Chazal applied decrees pertaining to Shabbos and Yom Tov even at the expense of fulfilling mitzvos min haTorah. Some of these decrees involve the mitzvah of tekiyas shofar. If a person only has access to a shofar that is either in a tree or across a river, for example, he may not climb the tree or cross the river (both Rabbinic prohibitions) on Shabbos or Yom Tov to reach the shofar. In other scenarios, Chazal permitted their mandates to be transgressed for the sake of a mitzvah. The Rishonim explain that since there are contradictory guidelines in these cases, a person may not apply them on his own and one is only permitted to follow what is written.

Chazal never completely abolished a mitzvah based on one of their decrees. Therefore, although there is a Rabbinic prohibition against blowing the shofar on Shabbos and Yom Tov, it can still be done on Rosh Hashonah. Otherwise, shofar blowing would be completely eliminated.

[שו"ע תקפו, כא, ומשנ"ב פג-פד; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 79-77]

Can a non-Jew be instructed to do melacha for the sake of a mitzvah?

Amira l’akum--instructing a non-Jew to do forbidden labor (both mid’oraisa and mid’rabonon) --is forbidden on Shabbos and Yom Tov. For the sake of a mitzvah, however, one may instruct a non-Jew to do melacha mid’rabonon. Therefore, a non-Jew may be asked to climb a tree or cross a river to procure a shofar. Some poskim even allow instructing a non-Jew to do melacha mid’rabonon to obtain a better shofar than the one he has. The poskim disagree about whether it is permissible to instruct a non-Jew to obtain a mitzvah object in this manner if it is not clear that he will be successful.

[שו"ע תקפו, כא, משנ"ב פו, ושעה"צ קכ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 80 ,82 ו־83 ,וראה שם, 84]

Is it permissible to blow two shofros at the same time?

The Torah disqualifies a blast that a person blows from two shofros at the same time. If a person blows from a shofar that is placed inside another shofar, his tekiyos are valid as long as the mouthpiece of the inner shofar protrudes from the outer shofar. Otherwise, it is as if he is blowing two shofros. It is acceptable to listen to tekiyos that are blown simultaneously by two different people. Some say that if a person blows two shofros at the same time, he violates the Torah prohibition of ba’al tosif--adding to a mitzvah.

[שו"ע תקפו, כ, משנ"ב פא, ושעה"צ קטו; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 75]
  • The shofar may only be blown from the narrow opening, not the wide end.

  • Although a shofar may not be inverted, it may be shortened or thinned out. There is no restriction as to how much the inner or outer surfaces may be scraped down, as long as the shofar can still produce an audible sound.

  • The Gemara states that a shofar which is plated with gold at the spot where the mouth rests is invalid. Some Rishonim explain that this is because the sound of the blast is heard not just from the shofar, but from the gold plating as well.

  • Can a person discern the difference between a natural sound and an echo?

  • Can a shofar be blown in a forest?

  • Can one listen to a shofar that is blown from a distance?
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.
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