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Shabbat Parashat Nitzavim Vayeilech 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Blowing Shofar After Shul

by Rav Daniel Mann

Question:  The 100 shofar blasts on Rosh Hashana are much more than the Torah requires. Yet, some people blow even more after shul. Isn't there a point where enough is enough?


Answer:  We will start with a look into what could be wrong with blowing after shul on Rosh Hashana. If not for the mitzva, we would not be allowed to blow shofar on Shabbat (Tosafot, Rosh Hashana 30a), and presumably on Yom Tov. Therefore, the Rama (Orach Chayim 596:1) rules that an adult is not allowed to blow shofar “for no reason” on Rosh Hashana. What does “no reason” include? The Tur (OC 589) cites an opinion that one may not blow a shofar for a woman alone to hear because she is not obligated in the mitzva. (The Tur argues because it is still an optional mitzva for her to hear). Another discussion (cited in Tur, OC 590) raises the issue that if one makes the tokeiah repeat a blast when halacha does not require it, he violates this point. The Taz (OC 596:2) does say that the only prohibition to blow shofar is when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, where there is a fear that one will carry. However, his opinion is not widely accepted. Thus, extra blowing could violate this halacha.

Another issue is the prohibition of bal tosif, not adding on to the mitzvot of the Torah (Devarim 4:2). Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 16b) wonders why the practice of blowing during the amida (or chazarat hashatz) does not violate bal tosif. They answer that doing more of a mitzva on its day than the Torah requires is not a violation, and this answer works also for our case. While Tosafot’s rule is quite accepted, the Rashba (ad loc.) disagrees and says that there is bal tosif unless there is a rabbinic institution to add on to the mitzva. Therefore, in our case, according to the Rashba, there must be justification on this account also. 

Why indeed do some people do extra blowing? They are concerned (on some level) that the blowing in shul did not fulfill the mitzva according to all opinions, arguably leaving an obligation out of doubt (safek). This idea has precedent. The Torah requires three sets of three blasts, and we arrive at our minimum of 30 because of safek how to blow the shevarim (Rosh Hashana 34a). While 30 was enough to get out of doubt, there are disputes among post-Talmudic authorities on several points that were once clear. So, perhaps, covering these opinions is a legitimate need, which justifies extra blowing. It is possible to vary the blasts during the 100 in shul to fulfill all major opinions (the Shulchan Aruch and Rama, OC 590:4 argue about “one or two breaths”). However, some shuls do no variations and few do many. Another reason to blow after shul is because the tokeia does not always do a good job of blowing accurately, and the rabbi is sometimes lenient about making him go back.

Our recommendations are as follows. If there is a real fear of a tokeiah doing a very poor job or he does not do even the variation of the breaths, there is significant reason to want to do more to cover one’s bases. (One should avoid insulting the tokeia or rabbi.) Otherwise, stringency is problematic, not only for the above reasons, but because of yohara (being “holier than thou”) and/or casting aspersions on what others are doing. Therefore, we recommend to the average person to suffice with the 100 done in shul, which almost certainly covers the needs for nine appropriate blasts.

This being said, one should also not cast aspersions on those who believe in being “extra stringent.” Blowing shofar is a particularly beloved mitzva (Rosh Hashana 27a), and it is not unreasonable to want to cover all of one’s bases on the Day of Judgment. There are poskim (see Moadim U’zmanim I, 8; Mishneh Halachot VIII, 206) who support this approach. Regarding yohara, it makes a difference if one tries to be discreet about it. Also, for one who consistently tries to be meticulous in his observance, it is less of an issue. (See the Shulchan Aruch’s (OC 34:3) standards regarding those for whom it is appropriate to don a second pair of (Rabbeinu Tam) tefillin.) We certainly don’t want to judge sincere people negatively on the Day of Judgment.

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