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Rosh Hashanah

In the machzor for Rosh Hashanah, before the blowing of the shofar, there are two beautiful pieces of the holy Zohar describing the terrifying proceedings on the Days of Awe when the Satan presents before the Almighty Judge all of our sins, which are enormous in quantity and quality. After all, someone who cheats on his income tax report hopes that among the millions of records on file they won’t happen to open his. He also knows that if they do, he will be in a lot of trouble. But on Rosh Hashanah, Hashem goes through the file of every single individual; and we all know what those files contain. And we also know that we cannot deny the truth to the G-d of Truth. So what can we possibly do to save ourselves from a terrible verdict of “Guilty as charged?”

The Zohar goes on to explain the supernatural power of the shofar which is able to arouse the Attribute of Mercy, even on the Day of Judgment, and save us and our loved ones from tragic consequences. Of course, we do not understand the Kabbalistic secrets behind the ritual of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, but it works even if we don’t really know what we are doing and how; just as one can use his computer and get tremendous benefit from it without understanding the technical knowledge of the hardware and software which make things happen the way he wants them to.

The Zohar concludes, “Lucky is the lot of Israel who know how to appease their Master and bring Him from Judgment to Mercy, and corrrect all of the worlds through them.”

If this is the case, and the only way to be acquitted on the Judgment Day is by blowing the shofar, then one might be quite upset with the Sages who abolished the blowing of the shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos. But more importantly, the question may truly be asked, how are we going to get off the hook this year without our sole means of salvation?

But have no fear. The great Rabbis always have our best interests in mind. All we have to do is understand the depths of their teachings and we will be happy in this world and the world to come.

First of all, let us understand why the Chazal Hakedoshim abolished the shofar blowing on Shabbos. The Talmud says that the reason is out of fear that one may carry the shofar to an expert to ask him to teach him how to blow properly; and carrying is forbidden on Shabbos. Actually, this is very difficult to understand. It is easier to comprehend the decree not to take the Lulav and Esrog on Shabbos because people may mistakenly carry them to shul on Shabbos. Since millions of Jews around the world buy the Four Species to use on Sukkos, and many of these are simple, uneducated people, it is very possible that some or many may inadvertently carry the items to shul if it were required of them to recite the blessings over them on Shabbos.

But who blows the shofar? Usually, it is a talmid chacham (a Torah Scholar) who knows all of the complicated laws thoroughly. Why should we suspect that he might forget and carry the shofar on Shabbos? And even more so; the Gemara doesn’t say that he might carry the shofar to shul. Perhaps because the shofar is usually found in the shul in the first place. What it says is that the one who blows the shofar may take it to an expert to ask him to teach him how to blow it. Doesn’t it seem quite strange that someone who has to perform such a difficult and important task, for his entire congregation, would wait until the last minute, the morning of Rosh Hashanah, to learn how to do something which takes quite a while to master?

Perhaps we are talking about a case where the one who was scheduled to blow the shofar got sick or died Rosh Hashanah night, and therefore, this fellow was chosen Rosh Hashanah morning to go and learn how to blow. Therefore, in his haste and confusion, he might forget that it is Shabbos and carry the shofar to an expert to learn how to perform the difficult task which was suddenly placed upon him. But how often does such a thing happen? And what are the odds of such a foul-up taking place? Perhaps one Jew in a thousand years might carry the shofar on Shabbos! Is that a reason to prevent millions of Jews around the world, for thousands of years, from fulfilling their Torah obligation to hear the shofar even when it falls on Shabbos?

Apparently, the answer is yes. The Sages care so much for that one, unfortunate Jew, that they decreed that all of the Jews should forgo their great mitzvah, to prevent him from accidentally violating the holy Shabbos.

But how, we asked, will all of the Jews make it through their judgment without the help of the shofar on Shabbos?

Before every Rosh Hashanah, in the Mussar School of Kelem, they would hang up a sign in the hall reminding people not only to pray for themselves but also to pray for others. Imagine one who has two sons; Yussie and Moishie. One day he comes home and finds his older boy, Yussie, waiting up for him. It is obvious that he wants to ask his dad for something for himself, and the father prepares himself to say no, since his financial situation is not the greatest at the moment. To his astonishment, his son did ask for something; but not for himself, rather for his younger brother Moishie. He explained to his father that Moishie was a very good boy and that he really deserves something which he needs very much. The father’s heart melts with joy and pride at his son who shows so much compassion and care for his sibling. And, of course, he happily grants the request and even buys something for Yussie, for being such a good brother.

That is how Hashem feels when we come before Him on Rosh Hashanah and ask that He be merciful to others, and grant them what they need so badly. He is so happy with us for caring for others that, even if they really do not deserve it, he bestows it upon them. And, He then gives us what we need too, as a reward for caring for our brothers and sisters.

Similarly, by not blowing the shofar on Shabbos, we show how concerned we all are for that one Jew in a thousand years who, in a very unusual situation, just might carry the shofar on Shabbos; and, selflessly, we relinquish our great mitzvah for his benefit. Hashem is so impressed with our concern for a fellow Jew that He immediately abolishes the judgments against us, even without the secret power of the blowing of the shofar, and He grants us a kesivah vechasimah tovah.

May we all be blessed with a wonderful New Year. May it be a year of Peace, Health, Happiness and Success in all of our endeavors. And may it be the year of the Ultimate Salvation, at the hands of Moshiach, Amen.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel