Rosh HaShannah

Torah Fax

Friday, September 26, 2003 - 29 Elul, 5763

Rosh HaShannah Candle Lighting (9/26): 6:28 PM
Rosh HaShannah Candle Lighting* (9/27): after7:26 PM
Yom Tov ends (9/28): 7:24 PM
Fast begins (9/29): 5:38 AM
Fast Ends: 7:20 PM
*light candles from a pre-existing flame

The Unshofar

When Rosh Hashannah occurs on Shabbat we do not sound the Shofar. The rationale for this law is that there is a fear that in the course of trying to learn how to sound the Shofar one might inadvertently (or out of ignorance) violate the sanctity of the Sabbath.

Commentators are puzzled at the rabbis' banning the sounding of the Shofar. Why would they deny all of Jewry the opportunity to fulfill a Mitzvah as meaningful and holy as the sounding of the Shofar, just because there is a remote possibility that a small number of individuals might inadvertently break the Sabbath?

Chassidic literature is replete with profound mystical explanations as to why, in truth, there is no need for the sounding of the Shofar when Rosh Hashannah occurs on a Shabbat. According to one approach, the spiritual energy of Shabbat takes the place of the Mitzvah of sounding the Shofar. Sounding the Shofar in such a case would then be considered redundant.

There is another explanation for this anomaly that views Rosh Hashannah occurring on a Shabbat metaphorically.  Shabbat is not only a day of the week, it is also a mindset. There can be two distinct legitimate views of life: A weekday perspective and a Shabbat one. To be sure, both the weekday individual and the Shabbat oriented individual labor six days a week and rest on Shabbat. Yet there is a difference as to the way they look at the time and experience of labor and the time and experience of Shabbat. The  "weekday person" views himself or herself as a product of the world and the environment in which he or she lives. The Biblical statement, from the Book of Job, "A person was born to toil," describes their weltanschauung. The Shabbat experience, to this "weekday" oriented individual is an escape from their reality, enabling them to return once more to their world of labor and worldly involvement refreshed and rejuvenated.

A "weekday" individual defines himself, essentially, as a weekday person. Shabbat is what a weekday person does, not what he or she is. Conversely, a Shabbat person is one who defines himself by the Shabbat. During Shabbat they are in their natural element. During the weekdays, though they are involved in the very same activities as the "weekday" individual, they feel how each day and experience is foreign to their true identity and they endeavor to make every weekday experience serve as a preparation for the Shabbat.

If we have to classify people, one could say that most of us fit the former mold-weekday people. However, occasionally, there are times that some of us cross over into Shabbat territory. And there are appropriate occasions for all of us to try to experience a Shabbat existence even during weekdays and weekday experiences.

Since Rosh Hashannah is not just the beginning of a year, but the "head" of the year, it stands to reason that a year whose  "head" is Shabbat, will imbue the spirit of Shabbat in all of the days ("organs") of the year that follow. And this, perhaps, is why our Sages cancelled Shofar blowing on Rosh Hashannah when it coincides with a Sabbath: The need for a Shofar is primarily for one who is engaged in weekday experiences, for whom everything is defined by those experiences. The Shofar serves to awaken  us from our reverie-insofar as Shabbat aspects of life are concerned.

When Rosh Hashannah is defined by the Shabbat, however, the message to us differs from other years. It says to us: our orientation is a Sabbatical one, when the Shabbat defines us so we no longer need the Shofar to awaken us. Shabbat represents the height of awareness and sensitivity to all that is spiritual and G‑dly.

There is a caveat to this, however. The Talmud tells us that in the days when the Holy Temple stood, they did sound the Shofar in the Temple itself on Shabbat! One would have thought that in such a holy environment the status of Shabbat would have been magnified and there would certainly not be a need to sound the Shofar there. Why then would they sound the Shofar on Shabbat in the Holy Temple itself?  The answer is that when we reach that high of a spiritual level, the Shofar assumes a much higher objective. No longer is the Shofar needed to awaken us, but it becomes the instrument that can elevate us to even higher levels of holiness that even transcend the Shabbat.

One of the symbols associated with the future Redemption, is that it will be ushered in with the sounding of the Shofar. This Shofar has been said to possess the two distinct features referred to above: On the one hand, the Shofar will awaken all of us-weekday oriented souls-who are so ensconced in the exile constraining state of mind that inhibits our spiritual lives. On the other hand, this Shofar will also speak to the Shabbat personalities in our midst-and to the Shabbat personality that we all possess at least in a latent state. This Messianic Shofar will touch us in ways that are unprecedented, because they will reveal untapped energy and enable us to rise to much higher and more exciting levels, even higher and more delightful than the Shabbat experience.  May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good and sweet year, when we will all experience true peace and ultimate Redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

Moshiach Matters

From “52 Ways To Improve Your Life,” by Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Rav of Agudath Yisroel, Staten Island: #29 “I will make sure to hope for Mashiach and Techiyas HaMeisim (resurrection of the dead) daily - concentrating on the many prayers we say daily on these topics (es tzemach david, aleinu, kaddish, to name but a few.) from The Jewish Press, 9/12/2003

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