Click here for free download of Michael Chusid's book:
Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn.

2014-04-14

18th Century Shofar


In collection of North Carolina Museum of Art
http://www.ncartmuseum.org/art/detail/shofar
Title: Shofar
Date:
Artist:
Dimensions: L. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
Medium: Horn: carved, pierced, engraved
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Shertz
Object Number: G.75.16.3

Culture: German
Inscriptions: Translation: [side A] Happy is the people who know the joyful shout; [side B] O Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence [Ps 89:15] [Translation: March 2011 by Benjamin D. Gordon, Ph.D. Candidate, Duke University]
Department: Judaic

Pesach and Shofar

Pesach and Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle

The shofar sounds during all the holidays in the Jewish year. During Pesach, the shofar is sounded 9-times as a part of the Temple ceremony performed on Passover.

Jn Mishnah Pesachim 5:5 mentioned the sole of the shofar blasts

They blew the shofar a sustained, a quavering and a sustained not [three times]. Neusner, Mishnah


In Mishnah Pesachim 64, it states

The priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basins (to received blood) of silver and basins of gold; a row which was entirely of silver was of silver, and a row which was entirely of gold was of gold: they were not mixed; and the basins had no [flat] bottoms, lest they put them down and the blood become congealed. the Israelite killed [the lamb], and the priest caught [the blood]; he handed it to his colleague and his colleague [passed it on] to his colleague; and he received the full [basin] and gave back the empty one.( thus it was worked on the ‘endless-chain’ system.)
The priest nearest the altar sprinkled it once over against the base [or the altar].the first division [then] went out and the second entered; the second went out and the third entered. as the manner of the first [group], so was the manner of the second and the third. they recited the hallel
The Talmud in Pesachim 64b gives an example of the great number of people who entered Jerusalem and partook in this mitzvah by retelling that one year King Agrippa wanted to count the number of people. He instructed the high priest to count the number of sacrifices that were brought as the sacrifice (Korbán Pesach). When they reached 1,200,000 the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) stopped the count. This was double the number of people who had left Egypt.

There was usually a lamb for each family. Interestingly the Ethiopian Jews, who were cut off from Rabbinic Judaism, still perform the lamb ceremony. .

The Torah requires that the sacrifice be offered publicly. On the 14 day of Nisan the Kohanim (Priests) would open the doors of the temple and allow the people in with their offerings in three large groups of no less than thirty people but each group had many, many more than that. When the courtyard was filled with people, they would close and bolt the doors. The Kohanim would stand in long lines shoulder to shoulder from the courtyard of the people into the courtyard where only Kohanim could enter all the way to the foot of the altar.

The first man would come with his lamb and slaughter it in front of the first Kohen who would catch the blood in golden holy vessels and pass it to the next  Kohen and so forth until it arrived at the base of the altar where the blood was deposited. The vessels had a round bottom to them so that the Kohanim could not put them down even for a moment in order to prevent the blood from coagulating rending the offering unfit. The vessels would be passed from Cohen to Cohen back and forth. The person would then move to the next station where the carcass was hung from a hook and skinned and the prohibited fats and other parts were removed. They were placed into a vessel, and salted then moved to the altar in the same fashion as the blood but these were burned on the altar.

Behind the Kohanim on a platform stood the Choir of Levites. When the process began, the Shofar was sounded tekia; teruah;  tekia and the Hallel prayer was chanted by the choir. This continued until the entire group that had been let in had finished offering both the Pesach offering and also the other sacrifice for the holiday called the Hagiga offering. (The first meat eaten was the meat of the Hagiga sacrifice and then later the Passover Sacrifice which was eaten with bitter herbs and matzah.)





Generally, there were two other groups that repeated this process.

Origin of Hallel
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism. It is recited by observant Jews as praise and thanksgiving on Jewish holidays, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on other occasions such as Hanukkah and Rosh Chodesh. The following steps will show how to recite the hallel for Passover.

Rabbinic tradition credits King David with having written almost all of the Psalms, including those which now make up Hallel. R. Eleazar ben Yosé, however, ascribed Hallel to Moses and the Israelites; while R. Judah taught that the prophets had decreed that these psalms be recited to mark national events and deliverance from peril. Other sages maintained that Hallel was recited by various leaders of Israel throughout the biblical period----by Joshua, Deborah, and Hezekiah, by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, by Mordecai and Esther (Pes. l l7a-118a).

They would chant the Hallel for each group at least three times. Accordingly, there were nine shofar blasts. When all of this was finished they would allow the next group in after the first group left. This occurred three times. If the 14th day of Nisan were Shabbat, everything was done the same way except that the people could not take the meat home with them until after Shabbat.

         


2014-04-10

Reptile Shofar?

Rhino iguana.
(Photographer: Frank C. Müller , 07.07.2007, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nashornleguan7_fcm.jpg,
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)
I was under the impression that only mammals have horns, defined as a boney protuberance from the skull covered with a keratin sheath. I now know that several types of reptiles also have horns.  The photo shows, for example, a rhino iguana (rhinoceros iguana), Cyclura cornuta, with horns on its snout.  Horned lizards also have true horns, see Horned Lizard Conservation Society.

It is very unlikely that the small horns on these animals could ever be fabricated into a sound-able instrument, but contemplating the possibility of a reptile shofar raises the question of whether a shofar can be made from a non-kosher species. I will not attempt to answer that question, except to point out that Rabbi Natan Slifkin says that the horn of a triceratops dinosaur could be a shofar:
A species that "would indeed potentially be a viable shofar, and would be the sole case of a shofar from a non-kosher animal, is a triceratops. However, the keratin sheath from which the shofar is made would only be found on a living specimen. Thus, short of radical advances in cloning technology, à la Jurassic Park, this would not appear to present a practical situation for the halachic discussion." http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/09/olifants-and-triceratops.html 2012-Sep-04

2014-04-07

Responsa: Can shofar have two bores?

QUESTION: If a horn has two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity, is it acceptable for the mitzvah of hearing shofar?

Inline image 1 BACKGROUND: Jewish law contains many requirements about what qualifies a ram's horn from use as a shofar.  For example, a shofar can not be turned inside out, patched together from two horns, or have sidewall perforations.

I fabricated a horn with two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity. This was not my intention. But when the first bore failed to find the horn cavity, I made a second bore that was more successful. Later, while cleaning the instrument, the first bore penetrated into the cavity. So now it has two blow holes.

I wrote to several shofar scholars to ask if they saw any reason to disqualify the shofar.

DISCUSSION: My correspondents agreed that they had not heard or read anything about this question. Natan Slifkin, author of Exotic Shofars, wrote, "I don't see why it would be a problem."  Maurice Kamins, a master shofar maker, offered, more conservatively, that perhaps it should be used only if a more "proper" shofar is not available.

The question may be pedantic as a double-bore shofar be made into a single-bore horn in at least two ways:
1) It may be possible to plug one of the bores. Would it be necessary to do so with horn material, as is required to patch a perforation in the sidewall of a shofar?
2) Another fix would be to enlarge the two bores until they were joined into a single, large bore.

ACOUSTIC IMPLICATIONS: Kamins modified an existing shofar by drilling a second bore. He writes, "as best I can tell the only thing having two bores in the shofar does is kill the sound. Drilling two bores into the shofar turned a bad sounding shofar into a terrible sounding shofar." My double-barrel shofar also had a mediocre sound, and was very difficult to sound.

MY OPINION: An anatomic analogy illustrates the problem. A breath, either an inhalation or exhalation, has a single flow of air. Yet when the air passes through the nose it flows through two nostrils. Similarly, the flow of air is separated into two lungs. These doubled passages are like a shofar with two bores.*

What is critical is that the shofar and shofar blast have integrity - a single breath of air passing through a single horn to create a single sound to communicate with Adonai Echad - the single God.


I invite other opinions.


* Few individuals can breath through mouth and nose simultaneously, so the analogy does not apply to horns with three or more bores.
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ALTERNATIVE OPINION: The double-barrel horn is not a shofar because it is a "tuber". 

("two bore", get it?)

2014-04-06

The Deacon Blew a Ram's Horn

This bit of verse suggests that horns were sounded in early New England churches. This does not surprise me as few early churches could have afforded the bells that called later generations of worshipers. 

If you know anything about this tradition, please let me know.

WHEN THE PURITANS CAME OVER
By Oliver Wendall Holmes
For the Centennial Celebration of Harvard College, 1836.

When the Puritans came over.
Our hills and swamps to clear,
The woods were full of catamounts,
And Indians red as deer,
With tomahawks and scalping-knives,
That make folks' heads look queer; --
O the ship from England used to bring
A hundred wigs a year!

The crows came cawing through the air
To pluck the pilgrims' corn,
The bears came snuffing round the door
Whene'er a babe was born,
The rattlesnakes were bigger round
Than the butt of the old ram's horn
The deacon blew at meeting time
On every Sabbath morn.


But soon they knocked the wigwams down,
And pine-tree trunk and limb
Began to sprout among the leaves
In shape of steeples slim;
And out the little wharves were stretched
Along the ocean's rim,
And up the little schoolhouse shot
To keep the boys in trim.

And, when at length the College rose.
The sachem cocked his eye
At every tutor's meagre ribs
Whose coat-tails whistled by;
But, when the Greek and Hebrew words
Came tumbling from their jaws,
The copper-colored children all
Ran screaming to the squaws.

And who was on the Catalogue
When college was begun?
Two nephews of the President,
And the Professor's son,
(They turned a little Indian by,
As brown as any bun;)
Lord! how the seniors knocked about
The freshman class of one!

They had not then the dainty things
That commons now afford,
But succotash and homony
Were smoking on the board;
They did not rattle round in gigs,
Or dash in long-tail blues,
But always on Commencement days
The tutors blacked their shoes.

God bless the ancient Puritans!
Their lot was hard enough;
But honest hearts make iron arms,
And tender maids are tough;
So love and faith have formed and fed
Our true-born Yankee stuff,
And keep the kernel in the shell
The British found so rough!

From:  The American College Songster a Collection of Songs, Glees, and Melodies, Sung By American Students; Containing Also Popular American, English, Irish and German, Songs, Negro Melodies, Etc. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1876)

http://www.forgottenbooks.org/readbook_text/The_American_College_Songster_a_Collection_of_Songs_Glees_and_Melodies_1000630722/65

2014-04-02

Shofar as Factory Whistle

Shofar as Factory Whistle
Arthur L. Finkle

Was the factory whistle an invention of ancient Jewish practices. The Babylonian Talmud at 35b (3) states
The academy of Rabbi Yishmael taught: On Friday afternoon we sound six shofar blasts announcing the arrival of the Sabbath.

Rabbi Yishmael  (90-135 CE,) was a Tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries (third tannaitic generation). His studied with Rabbi Akiva. After their deaths, the students of these two giants continued their learning in the name of their famous teachers.
The Tanna ("repeaters"; "teachers") were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 10-220 CE., also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 210 years. The first blast call those who are working in the outer fields to return to their homes to welcome the Sabbath. These outer workers would then meet the workers in the closer fields to enter the town together.


The second blast commands commerce  to cease to welcome the Sabbath. At home, hot water would be heating pots.

The third blast commanded to remove the heating pots (because one cannot utilize fire for cook on the Sabbath) and to insulate food one would need for tomorrow’s meal.

After the third blast, the Ball Tekiah (Shofar Blower) would wait the duration of to roast a small fish over a fire or enough time to attach bread to the walls of the oven.

As a final alarm, the Shofar Sounder (who is attached to the synagogue) ends his blasts with ta Tekiah, Teruah and another Tekiah commencing the Sabbath.



Thus we have six blasts as there are working days in the week. For the seventh you shall rest.

Can One Carry A Shofar On The Sabbath?

Can One Carry A Shofar On The Sabbath?
Arthur L. Finkle
Although Mesechta Rosh Hashanah seems dispositively to forbid one to carry a Shofar on the Sabbath, lest one be tempted to sound it, Shabbat 35 seems to disagree.

In the discussion  of the six blasts to alert those that the Sabbath is beginning, the  question is asked can one carry the Shofar home (on the Sabbath)?
One opinion was that you could leave it on the roof where you sounded the Shofar. Another was that you can take it home, presumably before the Sabbath.
Then a distinction is made that a private Shofar, not a communal
Shofar is carried. The rejoinder is that the communal Shofar should be used to care for the poor.

Shabbat 35b:

When the third blast was begun, what was to be removed was removed, and what was to be stored away was stored away, and the lamp was lit. Then there was an interval for as long as it takes to bake a small fish or to place a loaf in the oven; then a teki'ah, teru'ah and a teki'ah were sounded, and one commenced the Sabbath. R. Jose b. R. Hanina said: I have heard that if one  comes to light after the six blasts he may do so, since the Sages gave the hazzan of the community time to carry his shofar home. Said they to him, If so, your rule depends on [variable] standards. Rather the hazzan of the community had a hidden place on the top of his roof, where he placed his shofar, because neither a shofar nor a trumpet may be handled [on the Sabbath]. But it was taught: A shofar may be handled, but not a trumpet? -Said R. Joseph: There is no difficulty: The one refers to an individual[‘s]; the other to a community[‘s]. Said Abaye to him, And in the case of an individual's, what is it fit for?-It is possible to give a child a drink therewith?

Shofar as Baby Feeder?

Shofar as Baby Feeder


Arthur L. Finkle

In Sabbath 35b, there is discussion of whether one can carry the shofar on the Sabbath. At issue was whether a Shofar is muktseh (forbidden to touch on the Sabbath). Rav Yofef said:

There is no difficulty. Here, in a later Baraisa  [legal ruling that not was not in the Mishneh]), we are dealing with the Shofar of a private individual; such a shofar can be carried on the Sabbath and is not muktzeh. Moktxeh] (Hebrew: מוקצה) is a Hebrew meaning "set aside". For the Sabbath and for Jewish holidays, certain items are mukzteh (it  builds a legal fence so that that there no temptation to use the object). The idea of muktzeh, however, is a rabbinic prohibition rather than the higher Torah prohibition.

Abaye  was a Babylonia rabbi whose nephew of the brother was a teacher at the Academy of prestigious Pumbedita academy. He died in 339. Known as an expert in Jewish Law, he debates with RavYosef.  Rav Yosef was a disciple of Judah bar Ezekiel and was Abaye's teacher. He challenged many of rulings that emanated from the of the academy of Pumbedita.



A marginal note in the Schottenstein edition of this Gomorra (note 25) held that a private shofar is the property of its owner. Therefore, he could feed water to child. But a communal shofar cannot be used as such.
 When the third blast was begun, what was to be removed14 was removed, and what was to be stored away15 was stored away, and the lamp was lit.16 Then there was an interval for as long as it takes to bake a small fish or to place a loaf in the oven; then a teki'ah, teru'ah and a teki'ah were sounded, and one commenced the Sabbath. R. Jose b. R. Hanina said: I have heard that if one  comes to light after the six blasts he may do so, since the Sages gave the hazzan of the community17 time to carry his shofar18 home.19 Said they to him, If so, your rule depends on [variable] standards.20 Rather the hazzan of the community had a hidden place on the top of his roof, where he placed his shofar, because neither a shofar nor a trumpet may be handled [on the Sabbath].21 But it was taught: A shofar may be handled, but not a trumpet?22 -Said R. Joseph: There is no difficulty: The one refers to an individual[‘s]; the other to a community[‘s]. Said Abaye to him, And in the case of an individual's, what is it fit for?-It is possible to give a child a drink therewith?

Thereupon,  Abaye said to Rav Yosef that in fact a Shofar can be used for the same purpose for an impoverished child (presumably the community has a responsibility for taking care of the basic needs of the poor.)

2014-03-25

Superstition

Jewish Encyclopedia's entry for "superstition" says:
The personality of Satan seems to be kept alive in the folk-lore of Russia and Galicia, for it is thought to be lucky if the shofar fails to emit a sound on New-Year's Day, the implication being that Satan is imprisoned therein (this is especially current among the asidim).

One of the most startling of the superstitions observed among modern Jews at Lemberg is the following: If a woman dies pregnant, it is supposed tobe undesirable for her sake and for that of the congregation that the fetus should remain within the body. The corpse is therefore bathed at midnight, and after half an hour the name of the dead is called seven times, and a shofar is blown seven times in her ear. The corpse, with many groans, will then give birth to a dead, undeveloped child ("Urquell," ii. 192; comp. new series, ii. 270).
Of course, some might say that all religious, spiritual, and mystic use of shofar is based on superstition.

2014-03-23

Why have long shofarot become popular.

Growing up I only saw short shofars that actually looked like horns from a ram. At some point these very long shofars showed up. Are they naturally from a ram? 
That question was posted at www.quora.com a social media site where individuals can ask questions and the online community "votes" on the best answers.

Jay Gurewitsch posted an excellent answer:
The really long, curlicued shofarot (plural for shofar in Hebrew) are from the Kudu and is standard for the Yemenite Jewish community.

The fact that they "showed up" as you put it is actually quite a tale of religious intolerance being overcome. They became the "in" shofar in Israel in the 60s and 70s and their popularity has spread worldwide since then, I assume through Jewish tourists buying them and bringing them home. The Yemenite community was airlifted en masse to Israel in 1949 in a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet. After years of severe discrimination by the European born Jews in charge of religious and secular Israeli institutions, they eventually gained enough political power in Israel so that their traditions and community standards were accepted, and as with their shofar, even became popular with Jews worldwide who saw it as the cool, new thing. Personally, I love the fact that Ashkenazi Jews worldwide now use a Yemenite traditional shofar. Perhaps if more people knew the background of that shofar they might be more tolerant of differences within the Jewish community
I offered additional reasons:
1. Material Culture: In earlier eras, there was greater scarcity. One could hardly have imported an exotic horn from Africa. Today, there are shofarot in abundance in many communities. This leads to a type of competition to stand out by having a bigger and more impressive horn.

2. Relative Security: In many times and locations, shofarot had to be small and easily hidden because it was not safe to blow a horn. Long horns a only used in countries where there is relative security for Jews.

3. Lose of Ties to "Old World": When someone asks me what type of shofar they should use, I tell them to use one similar to the one their grandparents used.  Alas, there has been a great rift in the fabric Jewry, and many people no longer know the ways of their grandparents.

4. Disconnect from the Farm: People used to get the horn for a shofar from the butcher that got it from your neighbor the farmer or shepherd. We no longer are connected with the food chain. A shofar comes from "Israel" and most people no longer know that a kudu is not a ram.

5. Lose of Craftsmanship: Many horns that survive from centuries past are beautifully carved and engraved, even reshaped. Today, there are few skilled horners (crafters), and commerically available shofarot are made with power tools in factories. Length has substituted for artistry when judging a shofar.
 So go online and vote my answer up.

Shofar is precedent for saxophone

Mike Gerber, author of Jazz Jews and host of "Kosher Jam" on EuropeJazzRadio.eu, wrote me about an interviewing soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom:
Jane Ira Bloom (Photo: Erika Kapin)
I wondered aloud if, for Jewish jazz musicians, soprano saxophone might be modern substitute for the clarinet – that mainstay of klezmer outfits and the instrument famously associated with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw?  Jane’s riposte fair took my breath away:
“I’ll go even further back – for the shofar, that’s what I think. I have two thoughts about it; one is that it is connected to the shofar in some way.* And the other is that I think something else that informs Jewish thought is gravitating towards innovation. I remember in high school learning who the great innovative Jewish painters were and, wow, there is a tradition among Jewish artists to be on the edge. So I thought, wow, yeah, I could be part of this, that’s the way I think. And the soprano saxophone being an instrument that hasn’t enjoyed quantity of performance in the jazz tradition – it hasn’t been played as much as the alto, tenor and even the baritone, so it’s an instrument that, if you want to say something new, it’s not a bad place to go.”
*Torah says the same thing when it identifies Jubal, whose name is another term for shofar, as the forefather of musicians.

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2014-03-22

Children CAN Sound Shofar!

The gravity of Rabbinic tradition is with my colleague, Art Finkle, in his post, "Can Children Sound Shofar?" when he states that an adult does not fulfill the mitzvah of shofar if the blast is sounded by a child. I argue that the child's blast can fulfill the mitzvah of hearing shofar. I offer three reasons:

1. Rabbinic: Art cites examples of how a child becomes obligated in certain mitzvah by reason of education. Shofar is also in this category. The restriction against children means, "a child that does not yet understand the mitzvah." Shofar does not require mastery of complex theological doctrine or perfection of a timbre. It is enough to know that one is blowing the shofar to fulfill the obligation to hear shofar.

2. Acoustic: The mitzvah is to hear a sound. The face of the blower can be covered. Indeed, the sound could be heard through an open window without even seeing the source. The sound of a stolen shofar is acceptable. It is the hearing, not the identity of the sounder, that matters.

3. Experience: I have known many children that can sound shofar with kavanah. And I have seen many congregations moved towards teshuvah upon hearing the sound of the shofar blown by a child.

There is an overriding principle, however, and that is to respect the minhag, the tradition, of a particular community.

2014-03-17

Can Children Sound the Shofar?

Can Children Sound the Shofar?

Arthur L. Finkle

The Talmud in Rosh Hashanah encourages  children to blow the shofar as an educational vehicle. See Rosh Hashanah 61ff. To sound the shofar for a bona fide service would not be appropriate. See Qualification of Shofar Sounder.

The Shulchan Aruch begins its exploration of fitness by citing excluding classes of people:
1.  A Baal Tekiah can perform this mitzvah again, if no one else is available who is qualified.  If one does have such an obligation (such as women who are not required to abide by time-bound mitzvot, can’t perform the mitzvah. [ MB 589:1 (1)] The Rabbi’s reasoned that If perform a mitzvah, have an obligation to help another perfect his own obligation because all Israel responsible for one another.
2.  The mitzvah is not valid for a deaf mute (cannot hear), moron (lacks the capacity) and a child (lacks the adult status).  Women are exempt because the mitzvah is time-bound.  If a person has a certain level of obligation, such as a woman, then she performs that obligation.  The problem between men and women comes when there are different levels of obligations.  Men cannot no waive time-bound mitzvahs.


Further, Sukka 42a-b indicates "a minor who knows how to wave [a lulav] is obligated in the mitzvah of lulav." This is one of the statements in the Mishnah that teach the concept of hinukh - of educating children before they are obligated in mitzvot on a biblical level.


baraita expands the idea, enumerating commandments that a child becomes obligated in - for reasons of education:

·         A child who knows how to wrap himself in clothing is obligated in tzitzit.
·         When a child knows how to take care of tefillin, his father should purchase a pair for him.
·         When he knows how to speak, his father should teach him Torah and keri'at shema.
·         The child of a kohen who knows how to bless the congregation can already receive tithes.
·         Once a child can eat and recognize food, he should be included in the korban Pesah and a ka-zayit (an olive-size piece) of the sacrifice should be set aside for him.
Tractate Succah does not include sounding the shofar. But Rosh Hashanah as previously stated at RH. 61ff. Accordingly, we can interpret that a child CAN sound the shofar in Rosh HaShanah as an educational vehicle.

To add, Rav Hamnuna explains that teaching Torah does not mean learning complicated ideas, rather the passage in Devarim (33:4) that emphasizes the connection between the Torah and the Jewish people.

The Yerushalmi interprets the baraita to mean that a child who is old enough to learn to speak should be taught lashon Torah - the language of the Torah - that is to say, he should be taught how to speak Hebrew. Once he knows Hebrew he should be taught keri'at shema.

In addition, read a Responsum asked of me some years ago.

Responsum to Succession of Ball Tekiah and Whether a Child of 12 is Eligible to Sound Shofar

By 101shofar
Responsum to Succession of Baal Tekiah and Whether a Child of 12 is Eligible to Sound Shofar
Arthur L. Finkle
September 25, 2006
In response your inquiry from http://shofar221/,  you present two issues:
What is the protocol of succession who one baal tkiah replaces another.
Is a child who is not 13 years old qualified to sound the shofar for the congregation
According to Jewish Law (Halacha), I will draw upon two main texts, the Shulchan Aruch, written in 1665, which presents a codification of Jewish law up to that point. It had the current Halacha. However, the creator of the Shulchan Aruch, Joseph Caro was Sephardic (descended from the Spanish tradition), In approximately 1693, Moses Isserles glossed this codex in to the Ashkenazi (European) tradition. I will also use the Mishnah Berurah, by the Chafetz Chaim, who updated the Rabbinical rulings up to the beginning of the 20th century and thereafter.
What is HALACHA?
The word “Halacha” (from the root halakh, “to go”), the legal side of Judaism (as distinct from aggadah, the name given to the non-legal material, particularly of the rabbinic literature) embraces personal, social, national, and international relationships, and all the other practices and observances of Judaism. In the Bible the good life is frequently spoken of as a way in which men are “to go,” e.g., “and shalt show them the way wherein they are to go and the work that they must do” (Ex. 18:20). Originally the term Halacha (pl. halakhot) had the meaning of the particular law or decision in a given instance, as in the frequent expression “this is a law given to Moses on Sinai” (Halacha le-Moshe mi-Sinai). This usage persisted, but side by side with it there developed the use of Halacha as a generic term for the whole legal system of Judaism, embracing all the detailed laws and observances. For instance, the Talmud (Shab. 138b) comments on “the word of the Lord” (Amos 8:12) that this means the Halacha.
The study of the Halacha in the rabbinic period and beyond it became the supreme religious duty. Because of its difficult subject matter and its importance for practical Judaism this study took precedence over that of any other aspect of Jewish teaching. Typical is the rabbinic saying that after the destruction of the Temple, God has nothing else in His world than the four cubits of the Halacha (Ber. 8a). The superiority of halakhic study over aggadic was expressed in the parable of the two merchants, one selling precious stones, the other small ware. Only the connoisseur comes to buy from the former (Sot. 40a).
The general assumption in the classical Jewish sources is that the Halacha in its entirety goes back to Moses, except for various later elaborations, extensions, applications, and innovations in accordance with new circumstances. Thus Maimonides (Yad, intro.) counts 40 generations backward from R. Ashi, the traditional editor of the Babylonian Talmud, to Moses and he concludes: “In the two Talmuds and the Tosefta, the Sifra and the Sifrei, in all these are explained the permitted and the forbidden, the clean and the unclean, the liabilities and lack of liability, the unfit and the fit, as handed down from person to person from the mouth of Moses our teacher at Sinai.” But the verdict of modern scholarship is that the Halacha has had a history and that it is possible to trace the stages in its development with a considerable degree of success (see below).
[Louis Jacobs]; Also Arthur L. Finkle, http://www.geocities.com/shofar19067/

BEING A BA‘AL T‘KIYAH (SHOFAR SOUNDER) IS AN HONOR

“The one who blows the shofar on Rosh ha-Shanah…should likewise be learned in the Torah and shall be God-fearing, the best man available. However, every Jew is eligible for any sacred office, pro­viding he is acceptable to the congregation. If, however, he sees that his choice will cause dissension, he should withdraw his candidacy, even if the improper person will be chosen” (Shulhan Arukh 3:72).
Interestingly, R. Caro wrote about the succession of Baalei T’kiah more 350 years ago. The cardinal virtue here is the shalom of the community. The worst thing is to have a communal cleavage due to such a relatively unimportant thing as who will become the new Baal Tekiah.
From Arthur L. Finkle, The Shofar: A Legal Guide of Jewish Law & a Practical Guide Shofar Sounding,  Langhorne, PA: Athur L. Finkle, 2004
Who is Qualified to Sound the Shofar?
The Shulchan Aruch begins its exploration of fitness by citing excluding classes of people:
1.  A Baal Tekiah can perform this mitzvah again, if no one else is available who is qualified.  If one does have such an obligation (such as women who are not required to abide by time-bound mitzvot, can’t perform the mitzvah. [ MB 589:1 (1)] The Rabbi’s reasoned that If perform a mitzvah, have an obligation to help another perfect his own obligation because all Israel responsible for one another.
2.  The mitzvah is not valid for a deaf mute (cannot hear), moron (lacks the capacity) and a child (lacks the adult status).  Women are exempt because the mitzvah is time-bound.  If a person has a certain level of obligation, such as a woman, then she performs that obligation.  The problem between men and women comes when there are different levels of obligations.  Men cannot no waive time-bound mitzvahs.
3.  A hermaphrodite may make his Shofar sounding serve for other hermaphrodites
4.  Women should not be Baal Tekia’s because they would be substituting her efforts for another whose duty it is to perform a mitzvah.  However, if a female Baala Tekiya has already intoned the Shofar for other women, it is valid.  However, women should not make a blessing.
5.  Only a freeman (not even a slave who will become free in the next month) can be a Baal Tekiya. (SA 590:1-5)
Generally, a person fit to sound the Shofar is a male adult who is obligated to perform the mitzvah of sounding the Shofar. His repeat performance does not serve to relieve others of that obligation.  (SA 589:1)
Glossary
Abudarbum – R. David Abudarbum, 1350, pupil of the Tur commentator on prayer.
Baal Kriah – Shofar sound caller
Baal Tekiah (Tekoa) – Shofar sounder
Chafetz Chaim – b. 1880 – 1933 – compiler of the Mishnah Beruah, a commentary and updating of the Shulchan Aruch
Halacha – Jewish law, either ritual or civil
Kaddish – Prayer recited five times in the morning service
Karo, Rabbi Joseph (aka Rema)– Sephardic compiler of the Shulchan Aruch, 1565
Malchuyot (Kingdom) part of the Musof service consisting of ten Biblical verses
Minhag – a custom; not a law
Mishnah Berurah (20th century) – Chafetz Chaim editing of the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Laws, 16th century)
Musof Service – the additional service after Sharachis service
Neileh Service – Closing Service on Rosh Hashanah, usually ended by the Shofar calls.
Poskim – commentators and legal scholars who decide Jewish Law
Rama – R. Moses Isserles (1530-1572), writer who adapted the Shulchan Aruch for for Ashkenazi (European Jewry),
Rambam (aka Maimonides) – 13th century philosopher and commentator.  (1090-1150)
Rashba – 1235-1310 – Sephardic – descended from the Jews of Spain,
Shacharis Service – the morning service
Sephardim –Spanish Jewry
Shofarot (Shofar Service)  part of the Musof service consisting of ten Biblical verses
R. Jochan ben Zakkai – Rabbi of the Mishnah
Zichronot (Remembrance) part of the Musof service consisting of ten Biblical verses
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http://101shofar.wordpress.com/2009/12/19/responsum-to-succession-of-ball-tekiah-and-whether-a-child-of-12-is-eligible-to-sound-shofar/


2014-03-15

How Haman was Hung

I have always heard that Haman and his sons were "hung" and envisioned a noose and gallows. While I researched my recent post about Assyrian bas relief, I came across these images that depict how the condemned of Persia were hung - impaled on a stake.
------------ADDITIONAL ----------------
Several readers have asked me to expound on this. The following is from an essay, "Was Haman Hanged or Impaled?" by Benjamin Shaw:
...the Hebrew text says, “Make a high tree (or piece of wood) fifty cubits and in the morning say to the king that they should hang Mordecai upon it.” What we glean from this is that the “tree” is to provide for the “hanging” of Mordecai. Thus, the “tree” is not simply a tree, but at least a pole, and perhaps more. But what about “hanging”? We ordinarily use the word “hang” as a synonym for suspend. Thus, when 2 Sam 18:10, refers to Absalom “hanging in an oak,” we imagine Absalom’s hair caught in the tree, and he is suspended from the tree. That is obviously not a case of Absalom being impaled. However, that is not the only way the word is used. It is also used in the sense of “hanging something upon.” So, for example, in Song of Songs 4:4, her neck is likened to the tower of David, on which are hung a thousand shields. Here, the image is not so much of shields suspended, but rather fastened to the tower in some way. So the use of the word “hang” does not necessarily indicate the manner of hanging, whether by being suspended or by being fastened to something else. The most common use of the word in the Old Testament is to refer to a method of execution. So, Pharaoh’s chief baker is hanged (Gen 40:22). The king of Ai is hanged (Josh 8:29). Princes are hang up by their hands (Lam 5:12). Again, however, what is not clear from these passages is the exact method of execution.
The possibilities seem to be:
  1. to be suspended from a frame by a rope (modern Western hanging);
  2. to be impaled upon a pole;
  3. to be fastened to a pole in some fashion.
Conclusion
In the work of the Greek historian Herodotus, impalement is regularly presented as a Persian punishment (see The Histories, 1.128, 3,132, 3.159, 6.30 as examples). Given the setting of Esther, it thus seems likely that the manner of punishment for Haman was in fact impalement. In other words, the fifty-cubit “tree” built by Haman was intended to display Mordecai’s body impaled in such a way that no one could avoid seeing it.
Herodotus corroborates the archeological record. We can still inquire, however, whether Haman's impalement was a means of execution or of displaying and humiliating the corpse. Note that Esther 9:10-14 makes it clear that Haman's sons were dead when they were impaled.

My modern sensibility objects to displaying a corpse in such a way as to further humiliate the dead. Yet I recognize I also have a need for proof of an execution. I will never believe that Osama bin Laden is dead because the public was not allowed to see the corpse.


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High Holidays Rosh HaShanah Shofar Blowing
LaMinatzeiach Livnei Korach Mizmor
Blessings prior to Shofar Blowing
Ashrei HaAm
TeHelat

2014-03-14

All chaotic, just like Purim


Picture in Scottish Dundee University Medical Archives shows "Rabbi Aboulafia" blowing a shofar and holding what appears to be a Megillat Esther read on Purim. The Aboulafia family has been associated with Tiberias for centuries.


Purposeful Fun: Orah Rein blows a shofar as Shalom Bochner looks on; spirited noise-making is an integral part of the Purim festival. 
Photo by Robert Scheer
"Observe them as days of feasting and gladness" (9:22)
Question:  Is a festive meal on Purim and drinking till intoxicated a Torah rule or only a Rabbinic ordinance?
Answer: From the pasuk in Bereishit 21:8, "And Avraham made a great feast on the day Yitzchok was weaned" -- we can derive that eating and drinking on Purim is a statute of the Torah.
The Torah is telling us that Avraham made a great feast and drinking party on the day of "gomal" (weaned) -- which can be arranged to spell the word "Megila" on Purim when the Megillah is read.

If that is the case, why does the pasuk conclude Yitchak? What does Yitzchak have to do with the reading of Megillah?

The reason is because from Yitzchok we learn an important halacha regarding Purim. The shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah to recall of the Akeidah of Yitzchak. When Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, our Rabbis tell us to refrain from blowing shofar because one may forget and carry the shofar four cubits in a public domain. For the same reason when Purim falls out on Shabbat, the Megillah is not read (Rosh Hashanah 29b).

Since Avraham's festivities were in honor of Purim, this proves that during the Purim meal it is incumbent to become intoxicated to the extent that one does not know the difference between "gomal and megila".

 The Rebbe's T'kah B'shofar as sung in Yeshivas Chaim Berlin on Purim 5772:
Right-wing Jewish settler Yitzhak Cohen blows on a Shofar, a ceremonial ram's horn, during Purim festivities March 25, 2005 in Neve Dekalim settlement in the Gaza Strip, just four months short of the community's evacuation under Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan. The festival celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction planned against them in ancient Persia some 2,500 years ago.

Purim "Horn" From Shalom Sesame Street
 
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