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Teki’as Shofar to Elevate Tefillah to Ze’akah

When we blow the shofar during chazaras hashatz on Rosh Hashanah, the teki’os do not constitute a hefsek in the middle of the Amidah. Rather, these two entities blend together as one. We can better appreciate the intimate connection between teki’as shofar and chazaras hashatz based on an analysis of the efficacy and acceptance of tefillah.

The Gemara in Berachos (32b) teaches, “From the time that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the heavenly gates of prayer were locked.” The Gemara’s source is the passuk, in reference to the churban, “Though I would cry out and plead, He shut out my prayer” (Eichah 3:8). It is based on this Gemara that we have the minhag to omit the phrase, “May the prayers and supplications be accepted,” from the kaddish after Shacharis on Tish’a B’Av, since our tefillos are not answered to the same extent as they would be if there was a Beis HaMikdash.

The reason for the diminished efficacy of tefillah after the churban is that the Beis HaMikdash is not only the place for the offering of korbanos; it is also the central location for acceptance of tefillah. The Beis HaMikdash is termed “Beis Tefillah” in the passuk, “for My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the peoples” (Yeshayah 56:7). Indeed, when Shlomo HaMelech offered his beautiful tefillah upon the dedication of the First Beis HaMikdash, he made no mention of the offering of korbanos, but instead emphasized: And [Your people] shall pray and supplicate to You in this House. (Melachim I 8:33)

Even when one finds himself at a distant location, he should face the Beis HaMikdash when davening. In this way, the tefillah gains acceptance, as Shlomo HaMelech continued: And they shall pray to You by way of their Land that You gave to their forefathers, and [by way of] the city that You have chosen, and [by way of] the House that I built for Your Name. (8:48)

Nevertheless, the Gemara continues, “Even though the gates of tefillah have been locked, the gates of tears have not been locked.” If one davens with such sincerity that he is brought to tears during his davening, that higher form of tefillah is answered, even if the Beis HaMikdash is in a state of churban. The Targum translates the phrase, – “it shall be a day of crying for you.” The shofar blasts are described as sounds of crying because teki’as shofar can elevate the tefillah to one offered with tears, to a level of תועמד†המע†שיש†הליפת. This is what is gained by blowing the shofar in conjunction with Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros, and that is why, according to Rashi, joining these two mitzvos is a fulfillment of a mitzvah d’oraisa. Through this combination, the tefillah is elevated to a status of ze’akah.

Similarly, the Rambam (Hilchos Ta’anis 1:1) writes, in reference to ta’anis tzibbur during an eis tzarah (difficult time), that it is a mitzvah d’oraisa “to cry and to sound the chatzotzros.” The regular, daily obligation of tefillah is converted into an obligation of ze’akah during an eis tzarah. Indeed, the Ramban (Milchamos, Rosh Hashanah 11a in dapei haRif) likens the blowing of the shofar during Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah to the blowing of the chatzotzros following each of the additional six berachos added to the chazaras hashatz on a ta’anis tzibbur (Mishnah, Ta’anis 2:3-5). The shofar converts the tefillah of Rosh Hashanah into ze’akah. This is the intent of the Gemara in describing teki’as shofar with the phrase, ימד†םינפבכ†אוה†ןורכזלד†ןויכÆ

The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (26b), which discusses which shape of the shofar is optimal, a bent or a straight one, should be understood similarly. The Gemara relates this question to the optimal posture that one should maintain when he davens on Rosh Hashanah, because it is through the shofar that one beseeches Hashem. According to one Tannaitic opinion, the more a person “straightens his mind,” the better. Thus, a straight shofar and an erect posture are preferable. We follow the opinion that the more one “bows his mind” the better. Accordingly, a bent shofar and a bowed posture should be used to reflect an attitude of submission.

Thus, Teki’as shofar combines with the tefillah, and together we offer a ze’akah on the eis tzarah of the Yom HaDin. The concept of a synthesis of teki’os with tefillah forms the basis of an explanation that Rav Soloveitchik suggested to understand the conclusion of the Yerushalmi in reference to teki’as shofar on Shabbos.

The Bavli presents a contradiction between the two ways in which the Torah describes the day of Rosh Hashanah, as a העורת†ןורכז†and as a העורת†םוי. The hava amina of the Gemara was to explain the pessukim by applying the description of העורת†ןורכז†specifically to a year in which Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos, on which the shofar-blast is only spoken of and not actually sounded. The Gemara rejected this hava amina on the strength of two questions posed by Rava. First, if the absence of shofar-blowing on Shabbos is a din d’oraisa, why should there be a dispensation in the Beis HaMikdash, where the shofar was blown even on Shabbos? Second, the Gemara did not note any melachah d’oraisa involved in blowing the shofar, which would require abstaining from doing so on Shabbos, but rather only an issur derabbanan. The Bavli thus proceeds to offer an alternate reason to abstain from blowing the shofar on Shabbos, on the level of derabbanan.

Notably, the conclusion of the Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 4:1) is that abstaining from blowing the shofar remains a d’oraisa consideration, like the Bavli’s hava amina. The reason we do not blow shofar when Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbos is the passuk, העורת†ןורכז. Rav Soloveitchik added that our nusach hatefillah, based on Maseches Sofrim (19:8), in which we switch from העורת†םוי†to העורת†ןורכז†when Rosh Hashanah falls on the Shabbos, seems to follow this opinion of the Yerushalmi.

Rav Soloveitchik proceeded to explain how the Yerushalmi would respond to the two questions of Rava cited by the Bavli. It seems that the Yerushalmi holds that the d’oraisa prohibition involved in shofar-blowing on Shabbos is the prohibition of offering techinos (supplications) on Shabbos. [This issur is based on the passuk, – “and speaking words” (Yeshayah 58:13), from which the Gemara in Shabbos (113b) derives that one’s speech on the Shabbos should not be like his speech on weekdays. This prohibition is more stringent on Shabbos than on Yom Tov.] Since the blowing of the shofar is equivalent to offering a תועמד†המע†שיש†הליפת, it is forbidden to blow the shofar on Shabbos. Doing so would convert the tefillah into a ze’akah, and this must be avoided on Shabbos.

If this is the issur that the Yerushalmi viewed as the reason necessitating avoidance of teki’as shofar on Shabbos, an answer to Rava’s first question also becomes apparent. The Yerushalmi holds that the location of the Beis HaMikdash is exempt from the issur techinah on Shabbos. This is because the Beis HaMikdash is the central location of acceptance of tefillah. In the Beis Tefillah, one can always offer supplications, even on Shabbos. [See B’Ikvei HaTzon, pp. 226-227.]