לראש השנה

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במשנה (ראש השנה כ”ו ע״א): כל השופרות כשרים חוץ משל פרה מפני שהוא קרן, אמר רבי יוסי והלא כל השופרות נקראו קרן שנאמר (יהושע ו, ה) במשך בקרן היוֹבל

We learn in the Mishnah that all horns (השופרות) except that of a cow (פרה) may be used to fulfill the commandment to sound the שופר on Rosh Hashanah, because the horn of a cow is called “קרן”. R. Jose disagrees because every שופר is called “קרן” as it is written “במשך בקרן היובל” (when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn).

The objection is raised in the Gemara: R. Jose was surely correct in his response to the opinion of the Rabbis. But the position of the Rabbis is that every שופר is called both “קרן” and “שופר”, while the horn of a cow is called only “קרן”, but not “שופר”.

This Mishnah can be understood aggadically by way of the Midrash Tanhuma on פרשת וירא.

[Abraham said to God after the עקידה] “I had an answer in my heart with which I could have answered You: ‘Yesterday, You told me (Genesis 21:12) “כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע” (for through Isaac shall your descendants be named) and now You say to me (Genesis 22:2) “והעלהו שם לעלה”  (bring him up there for a burnt offering).’ But I overcame my evil inclination, and I did not answer You. So, when the children of Isaac will transgress and find themselves in difficulty, may the עקידה be remembered for their sake, and may it be considered by You as if his ashes were piled on top of the altar, so that You may forgive them and save them from their trouble.”

The Holy One Blessed Be He answered him: “You said your piece. Now I will say mine. The children of Isaac will sin before me in the future, and I will judge them on Rosh Hashanah. But if they ask me to find some merit for their sake whereby to remember the עקידה of Isaac, let them sound the שופר of this ram before me.”

Abraham asked: “And what is a שופר?”

He said to him: “Look behind you.”

Immediately (Genesis 22:13) “Abraham raised his eyes and saw, and behold a ram was caught in a thistle by his horns.”

And our master explained this discussion by first considering the verse “And he saw, and behold a ram,” which is a great wonder. For the whole purpose of an animal sacrifice is that the one bringing the sacrifice, by offering the life of the animal in place of his own, should be inspired to repent. What purpose could have been served by offering the ram in place of Isaac? Abraham our father and Isaac his son had just been ready and willing with all their souls to perform the aqeidah, displaying in the fullest measure that holy feeling that can be achieved by a person only by offering a sacrifice. And, if we reflect, it would seem that through the aqeidah Abraham our father, purified and perfected the essence of his character and ingrained in his descendants till the end of time, to the degree that it became their inborn nature, to stand like a pillar of iron against those who would push them away from the belief in God. Thus, even the weak-minded among our people have not ceased to sacrifice their lives or to be burnt in the fire. Even women and children stretched out their necks for the sanctification of God’s name rather than renounce their faith. The aptitude for this holy feeling has been passed down from generation to generation, and its source is the עקידה.

However, the essential test of the עקידה was not the act of the עקידה itself, because Abraham our father had already been thrown into a fiery furnace, and the Torah did not even bother to tell of the greatness of his holiness in this incident. Rather, the wonder of his holiness and righteousness is shown by his not questioning the traits of the Blessed One even though he had grounds for questioning them and, indeed, for posing a mighty, truly unanswerable, contradiction. And this is an astonishing level of trust that cannot be implanted in the soul of a person except by the effort of performing very many good deeds and by staying free of any stain and blemish, as indeed, Abraham our father surely did. Although each and every child of Israel is obligated not to have any doubt that he would withstand the test of sacrificing his life in a time of need, one’s principal effort must be to sanctify himself each day of his life through his reverent service to God.

Now the discussion between Abraham and the Almighty can be properly understood. For Abraham wanted the Holy One Blessed Be He to forgive the coming generations because of their trait that stems from the act of the עקידה, their willingness to sacrifice their lives. The Eternal therefore answered him: “if they want me to find a merit for their sake, let them sound the שופר of this ram before me.” Abraham our father was astonished. “What is the שופר?” What is more elevated, and what merit is there that could be greater than the trait of willingness to sacrifice one’s own life? [Translator’s note: In other words, what is the significance of a mere ram’s horn compared to Abraham’s willingness, which he had just demonstrated, to sacrifice Isaac on God’s command?] The Holy One Blessed Be He answered him, “Look behind you.” By which He meant, “look at your constant good deeds from your infancy until today, by which you perfected yourself to become exactly like a sacrifice.” And then he saw, and behold a ram, just like a sacrifice, free from any blemish, in the category of “הקריבהו נא לפחתך.” It is only such a creature that is fit to be brought to the altar.

According to this interpretation, one can say that the word “qeren” refers to the being in itself and its power to perform action. This power appears to be the power ingrained in the heart of every child of Israel to sacrifice his life to sanctify the name of God. However, the word “שופר” refers to the constant good deeds, as if to say “שפרו מעשיכם” (beautify your deeds). A child of Israel must therefore seek to achieve both. That is why the Rabbis say in the Mishnah with which we started (in accord with whom the halakha is decided) that we need both, qeren and shofar. And in this merit, may the transgressions of Israel be forgiven. (שביב אש)

 

The B’nai Yisaskhar, in commenting on “יום תרועה,” quotes the following passage from the Jerusalem Talmud:

R. Siman said it is written (Deuteronomy 4:8): “ומי גוי גדול אשר לו חקים ומשפטים צדיקים ככל התורה הזאת אשר אני נותן לפניכם היום” (And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?) R. Hiya and R. Oshaia explained that this means what nation is like this nation? In the normal course of events, a man who has a court case, wears black and covers himself in a black cloak and grows a beard, because he does not know how the case will be decided. But Israel is not like this, they wear white, and they eat and they drink and they rejoice, for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them.

The B’nai Yisaskhar writes that the commentators on the Jerusalem Talmud could not explain how the inference follows from the verse. They therefore suggest altering the text and deriving the inference form the preceding verse (Deuteronomy 4:7): “כי מי גוי גדול אשר לו א-להים קרובים אליו כה’ א-להנו כבל קראנו אליו” )For what great nation is there that has a god so close as the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him). But the B’nai Yisaskhar upholds the text of the Jerusalem Talmud as is. Our master also explained, in a precious and exalted manner, the Jerusalem Talmud according to the extant text.

In the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26a), the Sages say: “all kinds of שופר may be used except that of a cow, because it is called קרן.” R. Yosei says: “are not all “shofarot” called “qeren” as it is written (Joshua 6:5): “והיה במשך בקרן היובל” )when a long blast is sounded on the horn)? And the Gemara explains that the Rabbis hold that all shofarot are called both “shofar” and “qeren“, but the horn of a cow is called only “qeren,” but not “shofar.”

This can be explained metaphorically inasmuch as the shofar represents the idea of repentance and calls on and arouses us to repent. As the holy Shalah expounds at length, the sound of the teqiah is a plain sound signifying a person before he transgresses and before there is any crookedness or perversion (Deuteronomy 32:4) within him. The short sounds of teru’ah recall crying, and the broken sounds of shevarim recall sighing, signifying the transgression that breaks a person and compels him to hang his head. The final teqiah signifies repentance which returns the individual to the Eternal and guides the direction of his feet and straightens that which was crooked.

However, people do not all return along the same path. There are those who repent from their wickedness because they fear that the Eternal will inflict retribution, repaying their wickedness in kind. This is the lower repentance. Although one who repents in this way emerges free from the stain of his transgression, just as he had been before sinning, he has not profited from his repentance inasmuch as the Eternal does not consider his transgressions as if they were meritorious deeds. But it is not so for the precious individual who returns to the Eternal with all his heart, whose soul proclaims “the Eternal is my portion” to love Him and to cling to Him. Repentance from love is the higher repentance, and the transgressions of one who repents in this way become a hallowed fruit, his offenses being considered meritorious actions.

Based on the different types of repentence, we can understand why the shofar is called both “qeren” and “shofar.” For in the language of the Talmud, a thing in itself (i.e., principal) is referred to as “qeren” as in “qeren ve-homesh” (the principal plus a fifth). See the Tosaphot Yom Tov at the beginning of the tractate of Pei’ah and the Ramban on the verse (Leviticus 23:28) “בעצם היוֹם הזה” who both say that the core and the being of something is called “qeren“. This is what is signified by the sound of a “qeren” representing repentance motivated by fear. For if one repents from fear, then his being is restored to its prior completeness before the transgression.

However, in the Talmud, the Sages understood the word “shofar” to suggest that we beautify our actions (שפרו מעשיכם). In other words, if repentence is inspired by the love of God, prior guilt is beautified, becoming transformed into a meritorious act (just as the Sages understood the name of the midwife Shifra in Exodus to refer to one who beautified the newborn children).

This distinction explains why the Sages and R. Yosei disagreed. In the view of the Sages only that which is called both “shofar” and “qeren” — signifying both types of repentance, from fear and from love – is valid. However, in the opinion of R. Yosei even that which is called only “qeren” is valid, because it suffices if one repents from fear and trepidation. And would that we did repent.

In Rosh Hashanah 32b, R. Yosei and R. Judah disagreed about whether a verse in which only the word “teru’ah” is mentioned may be recited as part of the shofarot section of the amidah on Rosh Hashanah. R. Yosei says that it may be recited as part of the shofarot section and R. Judah says that one does not fulfill his obligation by reciting such a verse.

According to what we said above, each opinion follows from one of the two general approaches that were discussed. For a verse in which only the word “teru’ah”, but not “shofar,” appears suggests that a qeren is acceptable for sounding the teru’ah on Rosh Hashanah, repentence motivated by fear of God’s punishment, not the love of God, being sufficient. That is why, the Sages who disagree with R. Yosei hold that such a verse may not be recited in the “shofarot“ section of the amidah. But according to R. Yosei, such a verse may be recited, because he holds that even the horn of a cow, which is called “qeren” but not “shofar,” may be used to sound the “teru’ah” on Rosh Hashanah.

In this way, we can explain the verse (Psalms 81:3-4) “תקעו בחודש שופר בכסה ליום חגנו. כי חק לישראל הוא משפט לא-להי יעקב” (blow the shofar at the new moon, on the full moon, on our festival day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob). In other words, the Torah, in requiring the sound of the teru’ah on Rosh Hashanah hid the name and did not explicitly require either “שופר” or “קרן,” so that we would understand the two types of repentance represented by the shofar blown on this day.

The words “a statute for Israel” represent those who stand on a higher level (i.e., “Israel” the more distinguished name). They will repent out of love and will return to the Eternal with all their hearts. All their offenses will therefore be transformed into meritorious acts, which is a statute (חק) which is inexplicable, inasmuch as it does not conform to the ways of justice, as it is beyond the understanding of mortals how a sinner may not only be forgiven for his sins, but is even rewarded for them as if those sins had been meritorious acts.

However, the words “an ordinance for the God of Jacob” represent those who stand at a lower level, who therefore are designated by the less distinguished name, Jacob. These individuals repent only out of fear that the Eternal will repay their bad deeds in kind. To them God acts justly and forgives their transgressions, because He is a God of justice (משפט). On Rosh Hashanah, therefore, the Eternal performs a statute for Israel and an ordinance for Jacob (חֹק לישראל הוא משפט לאלהי יעקב).

Now we can understand the passage in the Jerusalem Talmud from which we started.

R. Siman said it is written (Deuteronomy 4:8): “And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?” R. Hiya and R. Oshaia explained: this means what nation is like this nation? In the normal course of events, a man who has a court case, wears black and covers himself in a black cloak and grows a beard, because he does not know how the case will be decided. But Israel is not like this. They wear white, and they eat and they drink and they rejoice, for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them.

It is written in the holy Zohar that “today” in this verse refers to Rosh Hashanah and that the discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud was also in relation to Rosh Hashanah. And in quoting the verse “what other great nation has ordinances and statutes as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today,” the Jerusalem Talmud is referring on the one hand to those who repent out of love, for it is a statute (i.e., rationally inexplicable) that the Eternal should transform transgressions into meritorious acts and on the other hand to those who repent out of fear whom the Eternal treats justly by forgiving them. “That I am setting before you this day” refers to Rosh Hashanah, and that is why they wear white, festive, clothes and they eat and drink delicacies and sweets and rejoice, for the love of the Eternal is their salvation. For not only does He forgive their sins, but he considers their offenses to be meritorious acts and good deeds. That is why the passage concludes, “for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them.” In other words, just as a miracle is beyond comprehension, so too is the statute (חק) by which our transgressions are transformed into good deeds hidden from us. (שביב אש)

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