Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 13   No. 49

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
Yerachmiel ben Yitzchak David ha'Levi z.l.
Ve'Yitzchak David ben Yerachmiel ha'Levi z.l.
Le'Mishpachas Valles

Rosh Hashanah

Blowing the Shofar and
Not Blowing the Shofar

(Adapted from the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro)

'Teki'ah' ... Without a Shofar?

In answer to the question 'From where do we know that it is a Shofar'?, the B'raisa in Rosh Hashanah (33b) quotes the Pasuk in Behar (25:9), where the Torah writes (in connection with Yom Kipur of the Yovel) "And you shall blow a Shofar of blowing".

But why does the Gemara only discuss this question here, when it has been discussing various aspects of Shofar blowing for a number of chapters? Why did it not deal with it at the beginning of the Sugya?

And besides, what the Gemara ought to have asked is 'From where do we know that one blows the Shofar', rather than ' ... that it is a Shofar'?


To answer these questions, the G'ro interprets the Gemara's question differently. The Gemara, he explains, is not looking for a source for the Mitzvah of Teki'as Shofar, but from where we know that, when the Torah writes in Emor "Yom Teru'ah yih'yeh lachem", which Unklus translates as 'Yebava' (crying or sobbing), it means with a Shofar, and not literally by sobbing, pouring out one's heart to G-d?

And the Gemara replies befittingly with the Pasuk "ve'Ha'avarto Shofar Teru'ah" (i.e. the "Teru'ah" that is written with regard to Rosh Hashanah, like the "Teru'ah" that is written with regard to Yom Kipur of Yovel, is performed with a Shofar).


With this explanation, the G'ro sheds light on an otherwise obscure incident that occurred in Seifer Nechemyah. The Pasuk there (Chapter 8) relates that after the people who gathered on Rosh Hashanah to hear Nechemyah read the Torah had burst into tears, Nechemyah and the Levi'im instructed them to stop crying and mourning, "for today is a holy day, and one should not be sad". Following that, the Pasuk concludes that the people obeyed the instructions and went home, where they ate and drank and were exceedingly happy, because they understood what they had ben instructed.

Now this is strange, comments the G'ro. Why did they initially burst out into an uncontrollable fit of sobbing, and what did they then understand that caused them to switch to a mood of Simchah from one moment to the next?

And he cites the Pasuk there (8:8) "And they read in the Seifer Torah ... 'Mefurash' (which Chazal interpret as Targum Unklus).

In that case, presuming that they read the Parshah of the day, they would certainly have read the Pasuk in Pinchas (29:1) "Yom Teru'ah yih'yeh lachem", which Unklus translates as 'Yom yebovo ... " (as we explained). No sooner did the people hear that, than presuming that it was a Mitzvah to weep, they promptly burst into tears and began to pour their hearts out to Hashem - until Nechemyah and the Levi'im pointed out to them that what the Torah really meant was that one should blow the Shofar, adding that the order of the day was Simchah and not crying.

The people realized their mistake, immediately stopped crying, and began to rejoice instead.


Two Kinds of Mitzvah

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (29b) cites the Takanah of Rabah, who forbids blowing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah that falls on Shabbos, because 'everybody is obliged to blow Shofar, but not everybody is an expert in blowing Shofar. Therefore the Chachamim enacted a decree forbidding it, in case someone takes his Shofar and carries it four Amos through the street on his way to ask an expert for advice on how to blow it'. And the same reason, the Gemara concludes, applies to Megilas Esther and to Lulav.


The Seifer Ma'aseh Rav writes (in the name of the G'ro) that before Leining on Shabbos Chol ha'Mo'ed Pesach and Succos, and on the second day of Shavu'os (in Chutz la'Aretz) that falls on Shabbos, one reads the relevant Megilah in a scroll, with notes, according to the customary tune. The Megilah, he adds, must be written on parchment and in columns, like a Seifer-Torah. One person reads and everybody else listens. Before proceeding to Lein, the Ba'al Korei recites two B'rachos, 'al mikra Megilah' and 'Shehechiyanu'.

The Ma'aseh Rav relates how, on one of the above occasions, it once happened that the G'ro, feeling extremely weak, instructed the community to skip the reading of the Megilah and to proceed immediately with K'riy'as ha'Torah. Then at Minchah he told them to read the Megilah with the B'rachos, as they would have done in the morning.

A certain Chacham once asked the G'ro that if the reading of these Megillos is such a stringent obligation, then how can one Lein them on Shabbos? Why did the Chachamim not issue the same decree as they did regarding Megilas Esther, just in case the Ba'al Korei is not an expert ... as we explained above?

In reply, the G'ro explained that Rabah's decree is restricted to cases where each and every individual is obligated to perform the Mitzvah, as is the case by Shofar, Lulav and Megilah (notwithstanding the fact that one person renders the community Yotzei, as is the case by Shofar and Megilas Esther). Indeed, Rabah specifically began his statement with the words 'everybody is obliged to blow Shofar ... '. It does not extend to communal Mitzvos, such as K'riy'as ha'Torah, where the obligation rests entirely on the community (for where there is no Minyan, the individual is not obligated to Lein). The reason for this is the principle that 'Members of a community remind each other not to sin', as we find in Shabbos 147b and in other places.

And Leining the Megilos (with the exception of Megilas Esther) is purely a communal Mitzvah.

* * *

When Rosh Hashanah Falls on Shabbos
(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

Reciting Shalom Aleichem

On Friday night, one recites 'Shalom Aleichem' sweetly and with ardent Simchah, says the Mateh Efrayim. One should refrain from singing it in tune however, in the way that one does during the year, since it is a day on which the books of both those who are destined to live and those who are destined to die are open before G-d, and the prevalent mood should therefore be one of fear and trembling before the Midas ha'Din.


When to Make a B'ris

Unlike a B'ris during the year, which is generally performed after the termination of Davenning, a B'ris on Rosh Hashanah is performed after Ashrei, before Teki'as Shofar. This is because, due to the long Davenning, one often leaves Shul only after Chatzos (mid-day), and to perform a B'ris then would clash with the principle of performing a Mitzvah early ('Zerizim Makdimim le'Mitzvos'). And they fixed it specifically before 'Ashrei' in order to give 'B'ris Avraham' precedence over 'Akeidas Yitzchak', due to the obvious chronological considerations.

Should Rosh Hashanah fall on Shabbos (when the Shofar is not blown) one nevertheless performs the B'ris then (Divrei Chamudos).


B'ris Milah, Yes, Teki'as Shofar, No?

Seeing as Chazal decreed not to blow Shofar, take the Lulav or read the Megilah on Shabbos (in case one comes to carry the relevant object for instructions on how to use it), the commentaries ask, why did they not also incorporate B'ris Milah that falls on Shabbos in the decree?

The Kol Bo attributes this to the fact that unlike Shofar, Lulav and Megilah, which every Jew is Chayav to fulfill, Milah is only a Chiyuv on the father or on Beis-Din, in which case we are not afraid that a person will come to carry, since the other people present will remind him not to do so.

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah, discussing the three Books that are open before Hashem on Rosh Hashanah, speaks of the Book of Tzadikim (who are written and sealed immediately for life), the Book of Resha'im (who are written and sealed immediately for death), and the Book of Beinonim (who hang in the balance until Yom-Kipur, when their fate is sealed, depending on whether they earned the necessary merits by then or not.

This Gemara, explains the Tanya, citing R. Oshaya, cannot be referring to regular Tzadikim and Resha'im, as we will find in the forthcoming year many Tzadikim who will die and many Resha'im, who will live. The Tzadik that the Gemara is talking about must therefore be someone who has won his lawsuit in the Heavenly Court (for a variety of reasons that do not necessarily reflect his true title). And by the same token, the Rasha (who may in real terms be a total Tzadik) is so called because, for one of numerous reasons, he came out of the Heavenly Court guilty. Indeed, we find this concept in the Torah, which writes in Ki Seitzei (25:2) "And they shall declare the righteous man righteous and the wicked man wicked", even though in real terms, either litigant may belong to any of the three above categories.

(Seen from another angle, a Tzadik in this context may well be a not-so-big-Tzadik whose allotted number of years in this world have not yet come to an end (and who will therefore need to have perpetuated many sins to forfeit his remaining time on earth); and by the same token, a Rasha may be a veritable Tzadik, whose allotted time is up [and who will require great merits to extend his stay here]).

On the other hand, says the Tanya, when the same Gemara goes on to speak about the three groups (Tzadikim, Resha'im and Beinonim) that are judged on the Day of Judgement (after a person dies), it refers literally to genuine Tzadikim, genuine Resha'im and genuine Beinonim.

* * *

(Adapted from the Ta'amei ha'Minhagim)

The Head of a Lamb

It is customary to eat a sheep's head on the night of Rosh Hashanah as a sign that we will hopefully become 'heads and not tails' (a wish that is appropriate today as it ever was), and also to remind us of Akeidas Yitzchak, which figures so prominently during these days (Orach Chayim).

The Minhag to eat a fish head instead, goes admirably with the first reason. As for the second, there may be a problem in finding anything in common between the Akeidah and a fish head!


When to Dip the Chalah in Honey

To avoid interrupting between the B'rachah over the bread and the eating, it is advisable to first dip the Chalah in salt (like one always does) and only then, after having eaten the first bite, to dip the remainder of the piece into honey and to recite the 'Yehi Ratzon', as was the custom of the Rebbe from Olesk.


The Simanim on the Second Night

The B'nei Yisaschar disagrees with the Taharas ha'Kodesh, in whose opinion one eats the various species and recites the corresponding 'Yehi Ratzons' on the second night too.

And he bases his objection on Abaye (the author of the concept of 'good signs') who opens his statement with the words 'be'Reish Shata' (rather than the more common 'be'Rosh Hashanah'). This is to teach us, he maintains, that it is only at the beginning of the year (on the first night exclusively) that the Minhag applies; whereas 'be'Rosh Hashanah' would have implied throughout the Yom-Tov (including the second night).


The Simanim on the First Day

The Mateh Efrayim (in Si'man 583) initially seems to confine dipping one's Motzi in honey and reciting the 'Yehi Rotzon' to the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Later however (in Si'man 597), he says that one repeats it during the day, to which he adds that it is appropriate to do the same regarding all the other Simanim that one ate and recited on the first night, if they are available and one feels so inclined.


Sleeping on Rosh Hashanah

Citing the Yerushalmi, the Taz writes that one should avoid sleeping on Rosh Hashanah during the day, because then his Mazel sleeps too (and does not work on his behalf, to earn him a good year).

The Arizal however, adds that it is in order to do so after mid-day, since by then, the relevant Angel has been aroused through one's Tefilos and Teki'os. It is even said that the Arizal himself used to take a nap on Rosh Hashanah afternoon (though it is worth remembering that the Arizal is purported to have attained great levels of understanding whilst he slept - and one should not be too quick therefore, to cite him as an example).

* * *

(Part 2)

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah and the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos)

ve'Rav Chesed

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (17a) explains that, if someone's scales are tipped towards guilt, then Hashem tilts them towards Chesed. However, the Gemara cites two ways of explaining this. Some say that He literally tilts the scales of merit; whilst according to others, He raises the scale of guilt, allowing the scale of merit to prevail. The Torah Temimah explains the difference between the two interpretations like this. According to the first explanation, Hashem adds merits to the scale of merit, whereas according to the second, he removes guilt from the scale of guilt.

The commentaries restrict this Midah to the final reckoning of a person after his death, when there is nothing the deceased can do in his own favour. As far as the annual Din ve'Cheshbon is concerned, there us no reason, they say, for Hashem to intervene on behalf of the guilty person. After all, Hashem argues, he is alive and well, and no-one is stopping him from performing a Mitzvah, to tilt the scales in his own favour!



"Rav Chesed" denotes kindness (i.e. going beyond the letter of the law), whilst "Emes" denotes exactly the opposite, asks Ilfa.

And he answers that first Hashem employs the Midah of Emes, and then, when that does not work, he switches to that of Chesed (in keeping with the Medrash in Bereishis which explains that first Hashem created the Midas ha'Din, and then, when he saw that the world would not survive, He added the Midas Rachamim [Ibid.])

There are however, two problems with this interpretation: 1. Why does the Torah invert the order, giving precedence to 'Rav Chesed' rather than to 'Emes'? 2. Seeing as 'Emes' denotes Midas ha'Din, what is it doing here in the middle of the Midos of 'Rachamim'.

Presumably, that is why the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos (and others) explains 'Emes' (in this context at least) to mean that, short of someone behaving wickedly, in a way that negates Hashem's promises, G-d will always keep His word to do good (even if the recipient of His goodness is perhaps not as worthy as he ought to be).


"Notzer Chesed la'Alofim"

Hashem will record a kindness that a person performs today, and will reward his descendants up to two thousand generations (one thousand, according to the Da'as Zekeinim mi'Ba'alei Tosfos, quoting the Rashbam), though in view of the tradition that this world will last until the year six thousand, it is not clear what this means.


"Nosei Ovon"

The Torah has deliberately omitted the 'Vav' from the word "Nosei", so that it can be read 'Noshoh', meaning "he forgets". Hashem does not forget; yet here, in His mercy, He makes out that He has forgotten Yisrael's sins (R. Avahu in the Yerushalmi).

R. Yossi b'R. Chanina (Ibid.) observes that the Pasuk writes "Avon", and not 'Avonos' (in the plural); to teach us that Hashem grabs one 'document' from the scale of sin (see "ve'Rav Chesed"), thereby causing the scale of merit to weigh down.


"Ovon, Fesha, ve'Chato'oh"

We learned in a Beraisa that Chato'os are sins that one performs be'Shogeg, Avonos, sins performed be'Meizid le'Te'ovon (for personal gain) and Pesho'im, sins performed be'Meizid le'Hach'is (with the intention of angering G-d).

And the reason that the Torah inverts the order, placing Chatas last, is to teach us the principle that when a person performs Teshuvah out of fear, his rebellious sins turn into Shogeg (Yuma 36b).

Were one to do Teshuvah out of love on the other hand, then all one's sins would become merits, since ultimately, it is they that brought him to Teshuvah.


"Ve'Nakei (Lo Yenakeh)"

He forgives those who do Teshuvah, but not those who do not, Chazal explain in Yuma (Ibid.). Even Yom Kipur, says the Gemara, only atones for plain La'avin if one did Teshuvah (even though Rebbi maintains otherwise), and the same applies to suffering (vis-a`-vis La'avin which contain Kareis or Miysah), and death (vis-?-vis sins which cause Chillul Hashem). All this refers to nowadays, when Beis-Din do not have the authority to carry out corporal and capital punishment (because when they do, justice must take its course).

Unless one does Teshuvah, the sin remains intact and still requires atonement in the World to Come.

* * *

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