American Reform Responsa
46. Blowing of the Shofar
(Vol. XXXIII, 1923, pp. 60-61)QUESTION: In answer to a question by a younger colleague whether the Shofar should be blown on Rosh Hashana happening, as it did, on Saturday, Rabbi Martin A. Meyer of San Francisco gave his opinion “that in view of the attitude of Reform, there was no reason why we should omit this characteristic custom.” This opinion of Rabbi Meyer was sent to the chairman of this committee for endorsement and possible elaboration, both of which are given below.ANSWER: There is no reason why the Shofar should not be blown on a Rosh Hashana which falls on a Saturday in congregations where only one day of Rosh Hashana is observed. During Temple times the distinction was made between the Temple in Jerusalem and the synagogues in the provinces, in that only in the former was the Shofar blown on a Saturday. After the Temple was destroyed, R. Yochanan ben Zakkai instituted the practice that wherever there is a Beit Din, that is, a rabbinical tribunal, the Shofar should be blown on Saturday (Mishna, Rosh Hashana IV.l). Commenting upon this Mishna, the Babylonian Gemara (Rosh Hashana 29b) declares that blowing of the Shofar is an art but not work, and hence, by Biblical law, is permitted on Saturday, but that Rabbinical law prohibits it on Saturday lest it might happen that the one who is to perform the ceremony would wish to go to an expert in order to practice, and thus carry with him the Shofar on the Sabbath day, which act (that is, the carrying of it) is prohibited on the Sabbath (“Shema yitelenu beyado veyelech etsel baki veya-avirenu arba amot birshut harabim”). The same consideration also prompted the Rabbis to discard the ceremony of “taking the Lulav” on the first day of Sukkot when it happens on a Saturday. Thus, the only reason for not blowing the Shofar on a Sabbath is the fear that it might lead to a violation of the law prohibiting the carrying of burdens on Saturday. It is interesting to notice that this consideration was not shared by all the Rabbis, for we are told that R. Abahu once came to Alexandria, and he made the congregation there perform the ceremony of “taking the Lulav” on the first day of Sukkot, which happened to be on a Saturday (Yer. Eruvin III, 21c), not letting the consideration that it might lead to the sin of carrying a burden on Sabbath interfere with the duty of performing the ceremony. We may safely assume that had Abahu visited Alexandria on a Rosh Hashana which happened to fall on Saturday, he would have made them perform the ceremony of blowing the Shofar. Furthermore, this consideration that it might lead to a violation of a law, might be carried to the extreme. For, as some of the Rabbinical authorities rightly say, on the same ground one could argue that the ceremony should be altogether prohibited, even on Rosh Hashana falling on a week day, for fear that it might happen that the Shofar might need repairing, and this will lead to doing work which is prohibited on a holiday (comp. Turei Zahav and Magen Avraham to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 588.5). Of course, they answer that, in this case, the fear that it might lead to the sin of doing repair work on Yom Tov is not to be entertained, for it would have the result of entirely abolishing the ceremony. This latter argument is quite correct, and it applies with equal force to the question of blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana which falls on a Sabbath Day in those congregations where only one day of Rosh Hashana is observed. For if we allow the fear that the Shofar might be carried on the street to interfere with the performance of the ceremony, the result will be that– for that year at least–the ceremony will be entirely omitted; and we should not abolish this characteristic ceremony, even for one year.Jacob Z. Lauterbach and CommitteeSee also:S.B. Freehof, “Shofar on New Year Sabbath,” Recent Reform Responsa, pp. 36ff.
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.