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Why don't we blow the shofar when Rosh Hashanah comes out on Shabbat?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus


Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Shofar | Subscribe | What is RSS?


In the Talmud 

The Babylonian Talmud1 considers the Shabbat suspension of the Shofar to be of Rabbinic origin. Biblically, the shofar is to be sounded even on Shabbat. But the Sages were concerned that a novice shofar blower, seeking the advice of an expert, might desecrate the Shabbat by forgetfully carrying the shofar through a public domain. (It is forbidden to carry an object more than four cubits in a public domain on Shabbat. It is also forbidden to transport an object from a private domain—i.e., a house—to a public domain, like a street.)2

In Chassidut

The Chassidic masters find this astonishing: The sounding of the shofar on the first day of the year serves to draw the particular influx of divine energy that will sustain the worlds, spiritual and physical, for the following year. Must all the worlds suffer because of a forgetful novice? More to the point, how can the conditions of the world create an obstacle to its raison d'etre, which is to serve as a platform for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvahs?

how can the conditions of the world create an obstacle to its raison d'etre, which is to serve as a platform for the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvahs?
Because of these difficulties, Chassidism concludes that the spiritual consequences of the shofar’s blast are not lost through the Shabbat suspension. When the energies of the Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah conspire, shofar blowing not only becomes superfluous, it is out of place. On a regular Rosh Hashanah, we coronate G-d and evoke the Divine influx by blowing the shofar; when Rosh Hashanah comes out on Shabbat, the coronation is achieved through the non-blowing of the shofar.

Sounding the shofar is a declaration of selflessness. But the need for a declaration implies the existence of an independent being, nullifying itself to the King and crowning Him as Ruler over itself and the world at large. That is the weekday Rosh Hashanah—the Rosh Hashanah service of the reality of separateness, which we inhabit most of the time. Then there is the Shabbat Rosh Hashanah, when I do not nullify myself, since—with the help of the Shabbat energy—I am inherently null. To announce my nothingness by sounding the shofar is oxymoronic.3 

In a Metaphor

Imagine a devoted servant to a wise and noble king. This servant has devoted himself to the king to such an extent that his entire identity is “servant of the king.” Whatever the servant does, whenever it is done, and wherever he does it, he always redirects the credit towards the king. In the words of the Talmud (Shavuot 47b): “The king’s servant is [treated] like the king himself.” Then there is another servant. This one does not experience an identity at all. Not even an identity of “servant of the king". He works behind the scenes. No one even knows he exists. In all of his projects the king takes center stage. When you look at his work, you do not see a servant devoted to his king. All you see is king.


  • 1. Talmud tractate Rosh Hashanah 29b
  • 2. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 4:1.) and one opinion in the Babylonian Talmud (ibid), the Shabbat suspension is biblical in origin. When the Torah says (Lev. 23:24) that there should be “a ‘remembrance’ of the sounding of the shofar” it refers to years when Rosh Hashanah occurs on a Shabbat. On those occasions, there is only to be a remembrance of the shofar, but not a sounding.
  • 3. Source: Likutei Sichot vol. 7, Pesach; Sefer HaSichot 5749, vol. 2, pp. 705-7.
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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
The teachings of the Chassidic masters. Chassidut takes mystical concepts such as G-d, the soul, and Torah, and makes them understandable, applicable and practical.
Early summer festival marking the day when the Jews received the Torah at Mount Sinai in the year 2448 (1312 BCE).
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.