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The Laws of Tekias Shofar – Part II


Which tekios are each individual’s obligation, and which are only an obligation of a congregation? What blessing should be recited by latecomers? Are women obligated to hear shofar? How much is one obligated to spend for this mitzva? Must one jeopardize his health for it? What should a couple do when both can’t go to shul at the same time? Can the shofar be blown privately before hearing it in shul? What should one who bedridden do if going to hear shofar is impossible? Is a heart patient’s shofar blowing kosher if he blew against doctor’s orders? What are the basic halachos for the amateur blower who finds himself having to blow shofar?

Tekias Shofar Outside Shul

Last week’s article discussed the halachos of tekias shofar in shul, and this week we will touch upon the laws of tekias shofar outside of shul, or for those who can only attend part of the tekios.

Which Tekios

In last week’s article we established that the main tekios are those sounded in the middle of Musaf, and we mentioned that the prevalent custom is to blow a hundred blasts in total. Nevertheless, the basic Torah requirement of thirty shofar blasts is satisfactory to fulfill the Torah obligation of tekias shofar.

The Shulchan Aruch rules (OC 592:2; Rama and Mishna Brura footnote 6) that one praying alone without a minyan is only obligated to hear the first thirty blasts. The Musaf blasts are a congregational requirement, fulfilled only when a minyan is praying Musaf.

The individual is not obligated, and furthermore – forbidden, to blow beyond the basic obligation due to the rabbinic prohibition to produce sound on Shabbos and holidays. While the prohibition is lifted for Rosh Hashana when it falls on weekdays to allow fulfilling the Torah obligation, blowing more than what is required remains forbidden.

Ladies and Shofar

Ladies are not obligated to hear the shofar since it is a time-bound mitzva. The Rishonim (Beis Yosef OC 589:6) dispute whether a woman is permitted to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah – since sounding it for any reason other than a mitzva is forbidden and woman don’t have this mitzva? Furthermore, would one who already heard shofar be permitted to blow for ladies?

The halachic conclusion (OC 589:3) is that ladies are, indeed, exempted from the mitzva of shofar, but nevertheless permitted to blow it, and will be rewarded for performing this mitzva. Customarily, ladies are stringent and come to hear shofar, either in shul or at special ladies’ gatherings. Rabbi Akiva Eiger writes (141:1) that nowadays most ladies are careful to fulfil every time-bound positive mitzva such as shofar, lulav, and kiddush on holidays. Rav Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe OC volume III, chapter 94) that a woman who is careful to come and hear shofar merits great reward, more than any possible reward and pleasure in This World. Since tekias shofar is a great need, it is permitted to blow for ladies.

Nevertheless, while hearing shofar for ladies is extremely praiseworthy, if it is a toss-up between a man and a woman going to hear the shofar, obviously the man takes precedence because his obligation is biblical, while hers is only a praiseworthy custom. (Obviously, where measures can be taken to ensure both perform the mitzva, doing so is necessary.)

Ladies do not need to hear more than the thirty basic tekios. Therefore, if she is in a hurry, she can stay for only the first thirty blasts (Rav Elyashiv: Ashrei Haish, volume III, chapter 16:28).


The blessing on the shofar for ladies is debated among the poskim.

According to Rabbi Yeshayahu (mentioned in the Agur, chapter 910), a woman does not recite the blessings because by reciting it, it appears as if the mitzva is a full obligation – which it is not. This adding of an obligation consists of the prohibition of Bal Tosif (which forbids adding mitzvos to those given at Sinai). The Pri Chadash (OC 589:6) follows this ruling, concluding that ladies should not recite any blessing before hearing shofar.

According to the Beis Yosef (OC 589), reciting the blessings is not a prohibition and it would have been appropriate to recite them. However, since the rule with brachos is that in a case of doubt we follow the lenient position, no brachos are recited before fulfilling a time-bound mitzva.

According to Rabbenu Tam (mentioned in the Rosh, Rosh Hashana chapter 4:7) and other Rishonim, ladies recite the blessings upon fulfilling time-bound positive mitzvos. The Rama follows this position (OC 589:6).

Sephardi poskim (Shulchan Aruch OC 589:6) maintain that a woman does not recite the blessing because she cannot say the words: “and we were obligated” in the blessing since she is not obligated to fulfill the mtizva. According to Ashkenazi poskim (Rama and Mishna Brura), since there is a mitzva is hearing the shofar, when a woman hears shofar she recites both blessings as they appear in the machzor.

A man who heard shofar maynot recite the blessings for a lady who hasn’t yet heard it, but for a man who hasn’t heard it — he can.

In organized ladies’ shofar-blowings, one lady who follows the Ashkenazi custom should recite the blessing for everyone present. A woman who follows the Sephardi customs should not recite any blessing at all.

The Magen Avraham (589:4) and Mishna Brura (ibid, footnote 11) mention the Levush’s solution for blowing with a blessing for ladies: the shofar blower should preferably blow for the ladies early in the morning before doing so in shul. This allows the shofar blower to recite the blessings before having fulfilled this mitzva himself. (Apparently, most ladies at the time were unable to read and speak in Lashon Hakodesh, and had difficulty reciting the blessing on their own.) The Maharil, however, discourages this practice because the early morning hours are a time of harsher judgment, and one should refrain from blowing shofar alone at that time.

Another solution mentioned in the Magen Avraham and Mishna Burra is for the shofar blower to intend specifically not to fulfil the mitzva with his blowing in shul so he can blow later for ladies and recite the blessing. (In this case, though, he loses out on the mitzva of hearing the shofar together with Musaf.)

One who prays with a minyan that gives a short break before tekios can go home and blow for his wife with a blessing, and then return to shul for the bracha and tekios and the rest of the davening.

Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach had a similar solution (Halichos Shlomo, Tefila, 17:12). He was scrupulous not to taste anything before hearing the shofar. However, since he needed to eat something in order to pray properly, he would pray with the hashkama minyan in the Gra shul in his Sha’arei Chesed neighborhood. There he would remain until after the tekios. Then he would go home, make kiddush, and have a bite. Afterwards, he went to his son’s yeshiva Ma’alos HaTorah where the minyan began later, and stay from the tekios until the end of Musaf.

One who comes for the tekios only after the shofar blower has already begun reciting the brachos should recite the blessing himself if he thinks he can fit them in before the blowing begins. Additionally, anyone who didn’t hear the first thirty blasts and only comes to hear the tekios during Musaf or those at the end of the davening should recite the blessing to himself and listen to at least 30 tekios.


How much must the ill, bedridden, hospitalized or otherwise homebound spend to fulfill this mitzva? Is there a price too high to pay?

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC volume I, 172) presents a question he was asked by a patient in a psychiatric unit. The man was mentally lucid, but remained hospitalized to ensure his cure was permanent. Since no shofar blowing was possible in the unit, was he obligated to secure an early discharge to fulfil the mitzva?

Rav Moshe answered that Chazal reasoned that since one must only spend up to 20% of his assets in order to fulfill a Biblically obligated mitzva and since complete mental recovery and ensuring no relapse occurs is worth more than 20% of one’s assets, Rav Moshe ruled that the patient should remain in the hospital even he would not fulfill the mitzva.

Where money can ensure the mitzva is fulfilled, paying up to 20% of one’s assets is required. For example, one who finds himself stuck far from a Jewish community for Rosh Hashana but could rent a private plane to travel to one, is obligated to do so, since the mitzva is more precious than any physical assets. The Gemara (Succah 41b) recounts how Rabban Gamliel once found himself stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean on Succos, and purchased a wildly overpriced lulav for the mitzva (it cost one thousand zuz, a sum one could live off for five years). The mitzva of shofar, the reason to bring our prayers up High and be granted a good year, is certainly worth spending money on.

One who is not obligated to discharge himself (as the psych patient in the above-mentioned question) must consider the possibility that his early release will lead to a relapse, in which case he would be unable to fulfil any mitzvos. This is why one is forbidden to be scrupulous. Instead, he must remember that caring for one’s health is a great mitzva for which he will be rewarded. Therefore, when unsure of one’s obligation, please consult with a rabbi.

Shofar Blowing for Heart Patients

Can a professional shofar blower blow the shofar where nobody else is available, if doing so will endanger him?

Rabbi Yitzchok Wiess (Minchas Yitzchok IV 102:2) was presented with a similar question: a heart patient was warned by his doctors not to blow the shofar, but he disregarded their advice and blew. Later, he required hospitalization, and wondered if his blowing was a mitzva or not, and the status of his bracha.

Rav Weiss answered, citing Rabbi Yehuda Assad (Yehuda Ya’ale, OC 160) and the Mahram Shick (OC 260) that one whose doctors forbid him to eat matza and went ahead and ate it has performed a transgression, and reciting a blessing is forbidden. Rav Wiess deduced from this example that the same is true also for shofar: if the doctors forbade blowing and one went ahead and blew, he has transgressed a prohibition, and no blessing should be recited. It remains to be decided if those who heard the shofar fulfilled the mitzva or not.

Where the doctors permit blowing a small number of blasts, but not the full hundred, many agree one can blow three sets of tekia-shevarim-truah-tekia to fulfil his obligation. If the doctor thinks even that is too great an exertion, the three sets can be blown over course of the entire day to fulfill the mitzva.

Amateur Blowing

Often, a bedridden individual cannot get a professional shofar blower to come, or a non-observant Jew will not make the effort to go to shul, but is willing to hear shofar right in his house. While professional blowers know how to produce blasts that meet all halachic requirements, often an amateur blower can also produce kosher blasts which satisfy most opinions. Especially this year, whereas the shofar is only sounded on the second day of Rosh Hashana and not on the first, we are lenient in most questionable cases.

Where no professional shofar blower is available, one who can produce sounds from a shofar can most probably fulfil the mitzva on his own and should certainly do so in extenuating circumstances.

As for the length of the blast, there are many opinions. In general, any blast that is at least 2.5 seconds long is considered a kosher tekiah; three short blasts, however short, are a shevarim; and 9 short staccato sounds are truah. Practice is required to produce a decent truah, but in extenuating circumstances, even the minimal of nine staccato blasts are sufficient.

As for purchasing a shofar, one should try out the shofar before purchasing it, because every person needs a different mouthpiece and finds a different shofar comfortable.

One who can blow the shofar for the ill, elderly, or non-affiliated Jew only before going out to pray is certainly commended for doing so, and there is no concern of blowing within the first three hours of the day. The merit of helping another Jew perform a mitzva greatly outweighs any such concern.

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