Rabbi Schertz received his semicha from Yeshiva University in 1969. He also received masters in Jewish Philosophy from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School. He has a second masters in the History of Ideas from New York University, and a PhD from New York University in the History of Western Thought. He taught Classics in Pennsylvania State University and Philosophy at Regis College in Denver, Colorado. Rabbi Schertz served as the Rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for over 25 years and is currently retired and living in Harrisburg.
1. The Shofar and the Individual
What is most striking when we encounter the mitzvah of the Shofar is the emphasis placed by the Rabbinic tradition that understood the mitzvah as being fulfilled through the hearing of the shofar sound and not through the act of blowing the shofar.
The Rambam states:
It is a positive commandment of the Torah to hear the sound [T’ruah] of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah because the text states: “it should be a day of T’ruah [the sound of the shofar] unto you.” Numbers 29:1 [Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Shofar, I: I]
The term T’ruah implies the sound itself, and not the act of blowing the sound. This is confirmed by the Tur who offers a similar analysis. The Tur states:
. . . before one blows [the shofar] he makes the benediction to hear the sound of the shofar and not to blow because the mitzvah is not based upon blowing, but on the one who hears it. [Tur, Orach Chaim 585]
Thus, the one who blows the shofar actually only fulfills the obligation of hearing the sound of the shofar, he gets no mitzvah for blowing the shofar for there is no specific commandment to blow the shofar. The Talmudic basis for this concept which emphasizes hearing over blowing is the following passage: “one who blows into a pit . . .if he hears the sound of the shofar, he fulfills his obligation, if he hears an echo, he does not fulfill it. . . ” [Mishna Rosh Hashanah 27:b]
The Gemara elaborates upon this ruling as follows: “Rav Huna says, this [distinction] was learned only for those standing on the edge of the pit. But those standing in the pit fulfill their obligation.” Ibid. Rashi explains that those standing in the pit always hear the sound of the shofar. See Ad Locum. We thus encounter an unusual situation, where the one who blows the shofar is unable to fulfill his obligation while those who hear his blowing are able to fulfill their obligation.