In the wake of my earlier article "The Mitzva of Lulav on Shabbat", in which I presented the Halachic foundation for taking the Lulav on the first day of Sukkot which falls on Shabbat, I received several queries asking whether the shofar should also be blown on Shabbat (indeed there were reports three years ago of a minyan where the shofar was blown on Shabbat).
To understand why there is no connection between these issues—or the answer—let us begin with a look at the Mishna (Rosh Hashana 4:1; BT 29b) where it states:
When the Festival of Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, the shofar was blown in the Temple, but not in the rest of the country. After the Destruction of the Temple R. Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the shofar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din.
Regarding Lulav, however, the Mishna (Sukkah 3:11; BT 41b) tells us:
When the first day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat the people bring their Lulavim to the synagogue (on Erev Shabbat because of the prohibition of carrying from one domain to another); and (the next day) everybody identifies his Lulav and takes it. Because (the Sages) taught: 'One may not fulfil one's obligation on the first day of Sukkot with the Lulav of his fellow.' On the remaining days of Sukkot, however, one may fulfil one's obligation with the Lulav of his fellow.
In fact, the Mishna (Sukkah 4a; BT 42b) leaves no room for error:
The Lulav and the Arava (willow) (are taken) six or seven (days)….When is the Lulav (taken) seven (days)? When the first day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat one waves the Lulav seven days; on other days, (when the first day of Sukkot falls on the rest of the days of the week, one does not wave on Shabbat in the middle of the holiday because only on the first day of Sukkot does the mitzva of Lulav override Shabbat and thus one waves Lulav) six (days only).
Clearly the two are not one and the same: the Lulav overrides Shabbat in all places, while the shofar overrides Shabbat in only the Temple. The question is why?
According to the Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashana 29b; Sukkah 42b) the matter is murky: we are told that due to the possibility that some people may carry the shofar or lulav in the street – something prohibited on Shabbat – the Sages decreed that both these commandments, Lulav and shofar, must be left undone when the Festival coincides with Shabbat. Why murky? Because as we have seen, the Mishna plainly distinguishes between the two. The BT (Sukkah 43a), aware of this difficulty, posits: “As for the first day – when Lulav is a Tora-mandated mitzva throughout the land (as opposed to the Temple where Lulav is Tora-mandated for all seven days) – the Sages made no decree. On the remaining days, when Lulav is not Tora-mandated throughout the land (and is required in the Temple only), the Sages decreed (that the Lulav not be taken on Shabbat)”.
But what of the shofar – is this too not a Tora-mandated mitzva? Here the Babylonian Talmud is surprisingly reticent. The Tosaphoth (Rosh Hashana 29b; Sukkah 42b) are perturbed by this rather loud silence and attempt to explicate the matter, with dubious success.
Which brings us to the Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael. Here we discover that these two issues are not cut from the same cloth. The JT (like the BT) is bothered by the following question: “If blowing the shofar is Tora-mandated, why should it not override Shabbat everywhere? And if it is not Tora-mandated, why does it override Shabbat in the Temple?”
The Jerusalem Talmud’s explanation is simple:
R. Shimon b. Yohai taught: (The Tora (Leviticus 23:24) states: “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall keep a solemn rest, a day of Remembering proclaimed by the blowing of a horn, a holy convocation. You shall do no manner of work;) and you shall bring an offering (made by fire before HASHEM)” – in the place where the sacrifices are offered.
Different order of magnitude
Why is the shofar blown only in the Temple when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat? Because the mitzva of shofar is only Tora-mandated in the Temple, “in the place where the sacrifices are offered”! Put another way: blowing the shofar is essentially part of the Temple service. Even though we normally extend this mitzva beyond the walls of the Temple, when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat it is performed in its original format.
The Jerusalem Talmud goes on to explain that this is evident from the wording of the Written Law itself. For there is one other occasion when the Tora commands us to blow a horn:
And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; the total number, seven Sabbaths of years, being forty nine years. Then shall you cause the sound of the horn to be heard far and wide, on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall cause the horn to be heard throughout your Land (Leviticus 25:8-9).
On Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year the shofar is to be sounded “throughout your Land” and is “to be heard far and wide” (the Tora’s “ta’aviru Shofar” clearly suggests relaying the sound of the shofar throughout the country) – i.e. we are commanded to blow the shofar in all places, not just in the Temple (see Maimonides, Shemitta and Yovel 10:13-14; 10:10-11 in Vilna ed.). Regarding Rosh HaShana the Tora makes no such stipulation.
The once-murky picture now comes into focus: the Tora-mandated commandments of Lulav and shofar are not overridden by a Rabbinical edict, nor are they identical. Both mitzvoth are performed on Shabbat: Lulav in all places and shofar in one place, the Temple.
So what is to be done when no Temple exists? “R. Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the shofar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din”. As with similar edicts pronounced in the wake of the national disaster of the Temple’s destruction, R. Yohanan and his Court wished to ensure that this Temple-based tradition – that even when Rosh HaShana falls on Shabbat the shofar is sounded in one central location – not be forgotten. In the Temple’s absence, the seat of the Sanhedrin becomes the focal point of the nation – and there (or in a similarly constituted Beth Din), and only there, is the shofar blown (Maimonides, Shofar 2:9).
It is only with the bright and penetrating light shed by the JT on this matter that we can fully appreciate the tremendous precision and profundity of both the Written and Oral Laws.
Our Sages were acutely aware of the qualitative difference between the Torah of Eretz Yisrael and that of the Exile. In the words of R. Yirmiya, the great 4th century sage from Eretz Yisrael:
“He has caused me to dwell in dark places, as those long dead” (Lamentations 3:6) – this refers to the Tora learning of Babylon (BT Sanhedrin 24a).
Regarding the Tora of Eretz Yisrael, however, our Sages taught:
“Her king and ministers are exiled among the nations; the Tora is no more” (Lamentations 3:6) – from here we see that the Tora is to be found (only) in Eretz Yisrael (Siphre Devarim, 37).
The Tora of Eretz Yisrael is albeit a different order of magnitude; nevertheless a shofar does not equal a lulav.
Courtesy of Machon Shilo - Torah La'am VeLaaretz