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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashios Behar/Bechukosi (70)

This week's sedras are the last ones in the book of Leviticus. They contain a variety of subjects; the laws of the Sabbatical Year and laws about limiting land purchases - that the land returns to its original owner in the Jubilee year. Bechukosi discusses the blessing and the curse that comes to Israel when they fulfill, or fail to fulfill, G-d's law.

Leviticus 25:9

And you shall sound a blast of the shofar in the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement you shall sound the shofar throughout your land.


On the Day of Atonement: Rashi: Since it says 'The Day of Atonement' wouldn't I know it's on the tenth of the month!? If so why does it say on tenth of the month? To tell you that blowing the shofar on the tenth of the month pushes off the Sabbath throughout the land, but blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah does not push off the Sabbath throughout the land - only in the Bet Din (court) alone.


There are two Holy Days when the shofar is blown; on every Rosh Hashanah and on the Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year. Rashi tells us the law regarding blowing the shofar when the Holy Day falls out the Sabbath. Our verse says that we blow the shofar on Yom Kippur - on the tenth of the month - even if that is Shabbat. In other words we are permitted to "desecrate" the Sabbath in order to fulfill the mitzvah of blowing the shofar on Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year, but we may not desecrate the Sabbath, i.e. we do not blow the shofar, when Rosh Hashanah falls out on the Sabbath.


A Question: Ramban asks a difficult question on Rashi. He points out that the Talmud says explicitly that blowing the shofar is an art and not a "malachah" (work). So in fact it is permissible on the Sabbath, because only work was forbidden and not art. So why does Rashi tell us that our verse makes it permissible on Yom Kippur but forbidden on Rosh Hashanah? When in fact, it is always permissible!


In fact, what Rashi says is correct in practice. We do not blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah if it falls on the Sabbath (as we are aware); but the reason is not as Rashi says. The reason is a Rabbinical decree, lest a person goes to study how to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and carries it in the public place (without an Eruv). This carrying is a violation of the Sabbath and to prevent that possibility; the Rabbis placed a ban on shofar blowing on Sabbath Rosh Hashanah. But it is permitted in the Bet Din, because the Rabbis there would be cautious not to have it carried in the public domain.


The Ramban couches his criticism of Rashi in special words. He says: "And the Rav (Rashi) because of his extensive knowledge of the Talmud and everything lay before him as an arranged table" so he was not so concerned to make statements that could be misunderstood by other less learned people.

It is difficult to accept that Rashi wouldn't be concerned that he could be misunderstood. But in fact we have no other way to understand how Rashi could write something which is clearly against the Talmud. The saving grace is that Rashi is right in practical terms, because in fact we do not blow the shofar on the Sabbath. But the reason is not as Rashi said.

The question needs to be looked into!

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.

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