Foregoing Blowing

From: A.A.

Dear Rabbi,

Rosh Hashana will soon be with us, and this year we will not be blowing the shofar on the first day because it is Shabbat. I would like to understand more deeply why we have this custom. Is it because we don’t use ritual objects on Shabbat? But we read from the Torah on Shabbat. Or is it forbidden like other musical instruments, since if they break you might come to fix them?

Dear A.A.,

As you say, there’s no prohibition against using ritual objects on Shabbat. We read the Torah on Shabbat. Nor is the shofar forbidden on Shabbat Rosh Hashana because of the prohibition against musical instruments. On Shabbat and holidays, musical instruments are forbidden, nevertheless blowing the shofar on a non-Shabbat Rosh Hashana holiday is permitted.

Rather, the reason is as follows. Everyone wants to fulfill his obligation to hear the shofar, but not everyone knows how to blow the shofar. Someone might bring his shofar to an expert to learn how, and thereby accidentally desecrate Shabbat by carrying the shofar in a prohibited domain. Therefore the Sages used their authority to suspend the mitzva of shofar when it occurs on Shabbat.

I once heard a beautiful idea which can be learned from this Rabbinic decree which is an idea especially appropriate for Rosh Hashana.

The Sages forfeited fulfilling the mitzva of shofar, sacrificing their own spiritual elevation and that of the entire nation for the sake of some simple, perhaps unlearned Jew, living far from any major Jewish community who might come to desecrate the Shabbat. They cared about him and were concerned that he too keep Shabbat properly.

This highlights the inseparable connection shared by all Jews, teaching us to care about each other and unite as one people.


  • Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 588:5; Taz; Mishna Berurah 13.
  • Ran, Rosh Hashana, Ch. 4.
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