For donations Click Here

The Laws of Tekias Shofar – Part I


What are the different tekios on Rosh Hashana, and why? Why are some blasts longer than others? What do the cryptic acronyms printed in the machzor stand for? Why do some blasts sound joyful while others – sad? Is the Shehecheyanu blessing recited on the second day of Rosh Hashana? Should everyone be wearing new clothing on the second day for the Shehecheyanu? Is talking between the tekios permitted? How long is talking forbidden? Of this and more in the coming article.

Sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashana

The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 33a-34a) explains that the Torah obligation to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashana: is to hear nine blasts comprised of three sets of three: tekia – truah – tekia.

The source for this obligation is from the triple mention of the truah in the Torah: twice it is mentioned in the context of Rosh Hashana, and once – in context of the Yovel (the Jubilee year) which is equated to those of Rosh Hashana’s.

Defining Truah

What is a “truah”? The Targum, explains it refers to the Aramaic term that means “to weep”, as used in Shofitm (5:28): “Through the window the mother of Sisera looked forth, and wept through the window; why is his chariot late in coming?” This pasuk teaches us that the shofar’s sound should resemble the sound of weeping.

As for what format should the weeping sound be produced, there is another pasuk: “You shall proclaim [with] the shofar blasts, in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement, you shall sound the shofar throughout your land” (Vayikra 25:9). This pasuk mentions the shofar at the beginning and end, teaching us that the truah is sounded along with a tekia (a straight sound) before and after.

The Torah only requires three sets of tekia-truah-tekia, but Chazal were unsure of what exactly a truah is. The Gemara presents us with three possibilities: several extremely short blasts similar to a ululating sound one would emit in a tragic situation; three somewhat longer blasts, similar to how one would moan when he is very worried; both of these cries together: a moan, followed by an ululation. Today the moan-like sound is known as shevarim, the ululation — teruah. To make sure that we cover all bases, we blow all the different possible teruahs with a tekiah before and after each one, three times each. The first set is tekiah, moan-ululation, tekiah. The second set is tekiah, moan, tekiah; and the third set is tekiah, ululation, tekiah.

This set of tekios is referred in halachic literature as the 30 sounds of the shofar, which together meet the basic requirement of the mitzva of sounding and hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashana.

Cryptic Letters

Many older publications list the tekios in the machzor as a series of letters. The ת   or ק stand for tekia; the ש stands for shevarim; the ר stands for truah.

Tekios in Shul

The main tekios are those sounded during the three portions of Musaf – Malchuyos, Zichronos, and Shofaros. These are the main tekios and are called tekios d’mumad – the standing tekios, since both the blower and those listening are obligated to stand.

Where in Musaf

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 592:1) notes three possibilities of where exactly to insert them:

1) One set of each type at the end of each added brocho.

2) Three sets of tekia, shevarim-truah, tekia at the end of Malchuyos; three sets of tekia, shevarim, tekiah at the end of Zichronos; and three sets of tekia, truah, tekia at the end of Shofaros.

3) Blowing only one set of tekiah, shevarim-truah, tekia at the end of every chapter (Rama).

Today, the first option is the accepted one.

In addition to the different option of sounds, there are three separate customs for where in the prayers to sound the shofar:

1) The Chassidic custom is to blow during the silent Musaf Shemone Esrei.

2) Ashkenaz and some Sephardi communities sound it only during the chazan’s repetition of Musaf.

3) Some Sephardi communities sound the shofar in both places – also during the silent Shemone Esrei and also during the chazan’s repetition (OC 592:1).

Tekios D’Meyushav

In addition to these blasts, Chazal require sounding another thirty blasts before Musaf. These are called tekios d’meyushav, since the congregation is permitted to sit at this point in the prayers. Only the blower is obligated to stand for the mitzva. (Today however, the accepted custom is for everyone to stand during all tekios).

The Aruch Hashulchan explains the purpose of these earlier blasts, quoting the Yerushalmi: “When the Satan hears the shofar he gets frightened that today is the day described in Yeshayahu: “And it shall come to pass on that day, that a great shofar shall be sounded…” (27:13) on which the prophecy of “no more death” will be realized as it appears in the pasuk: “He has concealed death forever” (Yeshayahu 25:8). On this day the Satan is promised to be eradicated, and he begins fearing for his existance.

But once is not enough. Only after the shofar is sounded the second time does he really panic and lose his ability to prosecute. This, explains the Aruch Hashulchan, is why we sound the shofar at two separate points in the prayers. The scrupulous even go further and sound it four times – 30 blasts before Musaf; 30 blasts during the silent Musaf; 30 during the chazan’s repetition; and 10 final blasts after the prayers are completed. This adds up to 100 shofar blasts.

Many communities add more blasts to reach a hundred. Some Sephardi communities blow 101 blasts to make up the numerical value of the angelic name מיכאל””. Those communities that only sounded 30 blasts during Musaf make up the missing blasts after the prayers.

Long or Short

Ashkenazi custom calls for the final blast to be longer than the other tekios. This blast is called tekia gedola. Sephardi customs calls for blowing an especially long teruah at the end of the tekios, known as teruah gedola.

Breathing Techniques

There is a machlokes if the combined shevarim-truah should be produced by two separate breaths or one. Adherers of the one-breath opinion explain that since it is one mitzva, it should be produced with one breath. Their opponents explain that since it is meant to resemble two distinctly different sounds (a moan and a ululation), since people commonly take a breath between the two, the shofar blower can take another breath between the two sounds.

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 590:4) notes both opinions, adding that the G-d fearing should do both – for the first (d’meyushav) blasts he should sound the shevarim-truah in one breath, and for the second (d’meumad) — in two. The Rama writes that the Ashkenazi custom is to always sound it with two breaths, but the Mishna Brurah (Sha’ar Hatziyun 590:18) notes that the Chayei Adam omitted the Rama, effectively endorsing the Shulchan Aruch’s solution since it allows one to meet all the possible options: for those who require both to be produced in one breath, doing so with two would prevent them from fulfilling the mitzva; for those who allow for two, doing so with one is also acceptable.

The Blessings

Two blessings are recited on the first day of Rosh Hashanah before fulfilling the mitzva of shofar – “Al tekias shofar”, and “Shehecheyanu”. According to Ashkenazi custom both blessings are recited before blowing the shofar on both days. According to Sephardi custom “Shehecheyanu” is not recited on the second day.

Ashkenazi custom requires that preferably, the shofar blower should wear a new garment on the second day of Rosh Hashana right before the tekios. Alternatively, a new fruit can also be viewed for the blessing. One who has neither new clothing nor new fruit can still recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing. (This is in addition to the new clothing or fruit used on the second night for the “Shehecheyanu” at kiddush.)

The congregation does not need anything new, despite answering amen for the bracha.

This year, whereas the first day of Rosh Hashana is on Shabbos and no shofar is sounded, there is no need for new clothing or a new fruit for the morning Shehecheyanu blessing on the second day of Rosh Hashana.

Repeated Blessing

One who blew the shofar and recited the blessings recites them again when blowing for another minyan. When blowing for less than a minyan or ladies, the blessing requires further exploration. This topic will be discussed in our next installment.

Taking a Break

The Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 592:3) that since the blessing before performing the mitzva includes all the following blasts, talking unnecessarily interruptds the mitzva. Therefore, any talking outside prayers or shofar-related subjects is forbidden until the end of the final blasts at the end of Shofaros. Others are careful to refrain from speaking until after the final 100th shofar blast has been sounded but this is not required.

No Talking

There was a shul whose congregation was, unfortunately, not very learned, and talked during davening even on Rosh Hashana. Some local rabbis wanted to announce that speaking was prohibited until the end of Shofaros, while others maintained that since those people were such simpletons, they would definitely disregard the announcement, in which case telling them about it would result in a greater transgression on their part.

The two turned to Rav Moshe Feinstein for ruling. Rav Moshe answered (Igros Moshe OC volume II, chapter 36) that if there was a possibility for the announcement to help remind some people to refrain from talking, announcing and teaching this halacha is necessary, even if not everyone will follow it.

Only if the rabbi knows nobody will adhere this halacha should the announcement not be made in shul. Where some will certainly follow it, and others will certainly ignore it, the rabbi should teach about it privately.

Rav Moshe adds another interesting facet to the discussion. The Taz (OC 592:2) writes that the reason talking is forbidden during tekios is because confusing the Satan part of the mitzva. Therefore, the blessing refers to it. However the Ran (end of Rosh Hashana) writes that the only reason to uphold this halacha is because it is mentioned in the Rif as a halacha passed on from the elders of Babylonia which should be kept, despite being a scrupulousness.

Therefore, adds Rav Moshe, without making the announcement those shul-talkers lose the opportunity to keep that ancient mitzva and receive the eternal reward with which to merit a good new year. However, once the announcement is made in shul, talkers will be considered severe transgressors which are punished more severely.

Rav Moshe concludes that he has no way of settling the debate, and only if there are some people who will refrain from talking should the announcement be made.

Blowing Shofar Outside of Shul

The next installment will provide the halachic details of shofar blowing outside of shul such as at for the homebound or for ladies. In addition, we will provide general outlines for the non-professional shofar blower who finds himself without a professional blower or next to someone who will not hear shofar unless he blows.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *