שביבי אש
ראש השנה

במשנה: כל השופרות כשרים חוץ משל פרה מפני שהוא קרן, אמר רבי יוסי, והלא כל השופרות נקראו קרן שנאמר (יהושע ו, ה) בִּמְשֹׁךְ בְּקֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל (ראש השנה כו ע״א).

We learn in the Mishnah that all horns (השופרות) except that of a cow (פרה) may be used to fulfill the commandment to sound the שופר on Rosh Hashanah, because the horn of a cow is called "קרן". R. Jose disagrees because every שופר is called "קרן" as it is written "בִּמְשֹׁךְ בְּקֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל" (when they make a long blast with the ram's horn).

The objection is raised in the Gemara: R. Jose was surely correct in his response to the opinion of the Rabbis. But the position of the Rabbis is that every שופר is called both "קרן" and "שופר", while the horn of a cow is called only "קרן", but not "שופר".

It appears that the content of this Mishnah can be explained aggadically based on the Midrash Tanhuma on פרשת וירא.

[Abraham said to G-d after the עקידה] "I had an answer in my heart with which I could have answered You: 'Yesterday You told me (Genesis 21:12) for through Isaac shall your descendants be named' (כִּי בְיִצְחָק יִקָּרֵא לְךָ זָרַע) and now You say to me (Genesis 22:2) 'bring him up there for a burnt offering' (וְהַעֲלֵהוּ שָׁם, לְעֹלָה)? But I overcame my evil inclination and I did not answer You. Just so, when the children of Isaac will transgress and enter into difficulty, may the עקידה be remembered for their sake, and may it be considered before You as if his ashes were piled on top of the altar, and may You forgive them and save them from their trouble.

The Holy One Blessed Be He answered him: "You said your piece. Now I will say mine. The children of Isaac will sin before me in the future, and I will judge them on Rosh Hashanah. But if they ask me to seek some merit in their behalf and remember the of Isaac, let them sound the שופר of this before me."

Abrraham asked: "And what is a שופר?"

He said to him: "Look behind you."

Immediately (Genesis 22:13) "Abraham lifted up his eyes and he saw, and behold a ram was caught in a thistle by his horns."

And our master explained this discussion by first considering the verse "And he saw, and behold a ram," which is a great wonder. For the whole purpose of an animal sacrifice is that the one bringing the sacrifice, by offering the life of the animal in place of his own, should be inspired to repent. What purpose could have been served by offering the ram in place of Isaac? Abraham our father and his son had just been ready and willing with all their souls to perform the aqeidah, displaying in the fullest measure that holy feeling that can be achieved by a person only by offering a sacrifice. And, if we reflect, it would seem that through the aqeidah Abraham our father, purified and perfected the essence of his character and ingrained in his descendants till the end of time, to the degree that it became their inborn nature, to stand like a pillar of iron against those who would push them away from the belief in G-d. Thus, even the weak-minded among our people have not ceased to sacrifice their lives or to be burnt in the fire. Even women and children stretched out their necks for the sanctification of G-d's name rather than renounce their faith. The aptitude for this holy feeling has been passed down from generation to generation, and its source is the עקידה.

However, the essential test of the עקידה was not the act of the עקידה itself, because Abraham our father had already been thrown into a fiery furnace, and the Torah did not even bother to tell of the greatness of his holiness in this incident. Rather, the wonder of his holiness and righteousness is shown by his not questioning the traits of the Blessed One even though he had grounds for questioning them and, indeed, for raising a mighty, truly unanswerable, contradiction. And this is an amazing level of trust that cannot be implanted in the soul of a person except by the effort of performing very many good deeds and by staying free of any stain and blemish, as indeed, Abraham our father really was. Although each and every child of Israel is obligated not to have any doubt that he would withstand the test of sacrificing his life in a time of need, one's principal effort must be to sanctify himself each day of his life through his reverent service to G-d.

Now the discussion can be properly understood. For Abraham wanted the Holy One Blessed Be He to forgive the coming generations because of their trait that stems from the act of the עקידה, their willingness to sacrifice their lives. And so the Eternal answered him, "if they want me to find a merit in their behalf let them sound the שופר of this before me." Abraham our father was astonished. "What is the שופר?" What is more elevated, and what merit is there that could be greater than the trait of willingness to sacrifice one's own life? [Translator's note: In other words, what is the significance of a mere ram's horn compared to Abraham's willingness, which he had just demonstrated, to sacrifice Isaac on G-d's command?] The Holy One Blessed Be He answered him, "Look behind you." By which He meant, "look at your constant good deeds from your infancy until today, by which you perfected yourself to become exactly like a sacrifice." And then he saw, and behold a ram, just like a sacrifice, free from any blemish, in the category of "הַקְרִיבֵהוּ נָא לְפֶחָתֶךָ." It is only such a creature that is fit to be brought to the altar.

According to this, one can say that the word "קרן" refers to the being in itself and its power to perform action. This power appears to be the power ingrained in the heart of every child of Israel to sacrifice his life to sanctify the name of G-d. However, the word "שופר" refers to the constant good deeds, as if to say "beautify your deeds" (שפרו מעשיכם). A child of Israel must therefore seek to achieve both. And that is why the Rabbis say in the Mishnah with which we started (in accord with whom the halakha is decided) that we need both, קרן and שופר. And in this merit, may the transgressions of Israel be forgiven.


The B'nai Yisaskhar, in commenting on "יום תרועה," quotes the following passage from the Jerusalem Talmud:

R. Siman said it is written (Deuteronomy 4:8): "And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?" R. Hiya and R. Oshaia explained, this means what nation is like this nation? In the normal course of events, a man who has a court case, wears black and covers himself in a black cloak and grows a beard, because he does not know how the case will be decided. But Israel is not like this, they wear white, and they eat and they drink and they rejoice, for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them.

The B'nai Yisaskhar writes that the commentators on the Jerusalem Talmud were unable to explain how the verse and the derivation taken from the verse are connected. They therefore suggest altering the text and associating the derivation with the preceding verse: "For what great nation is there that has G-d so near to them." But the B'nai Yisaskhar upholds the text of the Jerusalem Talmud as is. And our master as well took his part in explaining the Jerusalem Talmud according to the extant text in a precious and exalted manner.

The Sages say in the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 26a): "all kinds of שופר may be used except that of a cow, because it is called קרן." R. Jose says: "are not all שופרות called 'קרן,' as it is written (Joshua 6:5): "when they make a long blast with a ram's horn (קרן)?" And the Gemara explains that the Rabbis hold that all שופרות are called both "שופר" and "קרן," but the horn of a cow is called only "קרן," but not "שופר."

This can be explained metaphorically inasmuch as the שופר represents the idea of repentance and calls on us all and arouses us to repent. As the holy Shalah expounds at length, the sound of the teqiah is a plain sound signifying a person before he transgresses and before there is any crookedness or perversion (Deuteronomy 32:4) within him. The short sounds of teruah recall crying, and the broken sounds of shevarim recall sighing, signifying the transgression that breaks a person and compels him to hang his head. The final teqiah signifies repentance which returns the individual to the Eternal and guides the direction of his feet and straightens that which was crooked.

However, people do not all return on the same path. There are those who repent from their wickedness because they fear that the Eternal will take retribution and will repay their wickedness in kind. This is the lower repentance. And though one who repents in this way emerges free from the stain of his transgression just as he was before he sinned, he has gained nothing by his repentance for the Eternal does not consider his transgressions as if they were meritorious deeds. But it is not so for the precious individual who returns to the Eternal with all his heart, whose soul proclaims "the Eternal is my portion" to love Him and to cling to Him. That is repentance from love and is the higher repentance. For the transgressions of one such as this become a hallowed fruit, inasmuch as his offenses are now considered as meritorious.

According to this, we may understand why the שופר has two names, "שופר" and "קרן." For in the language of the Talmud, a thing in itself (i.e., principal) is referred to as "קרן" as in "קרן וחומש" (the principal plus a fifth). See the Tosaphot Yom Tov at the beginning of the tractate of Pei'ah and the Ramban on the verse "בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה" who both say that the core and the being of something is called "קרן." This is what is signified by the sound of a "קרן" representing repentance out of fear. For if one repents out of fear, then his being is restored to its completeness as it was before the transgression. However, in the Talmud, the Sages understood the word "שופר" to suggest that we beautify our actions (שפרו מעשיכם). In other words, if one repents out of love one's guilt is beautified and is transformed into a meritorious act (just as they understood the name of the midwife Shifra in Exodus to signify one who beautified the newborn child).

This is why the Sages and R. Jose disagreed. In the view of the Sages only that which is called both "שופר" and "קרן"- signifying both types of repentance, from fear and from love - is valid. However, in the opinion of R. Jose even that which is called only "קרן" is also valid, because it would suffice if they repented from fear and trepidation. And would that we did repent.

In Rosh Hashanah 32b, R. Jose and R. Judah disagreed about whether a verse in which only the word "teru'ah" is mentioned may be recited as part of the "שופרות" section of the amidah on Rosh Hashanah. R. Yossi says that it may be recited as part of the "שופרות" section and R. Judah says that one does not fulfill his obligation by reciting such a verse. According to what we have said above, each opinion follows from one of the two general approaches that we have discussed. For a verse in which only the word "תרועה," but not "שופר," appears would suggest that a "קרן" would be valid for it is sufficient if one repents from fear. That is why, according to the Sages who disagree with R. Jose, one may not recite such a verse as part of the "שופרות." But according to R. Jose, one may recite such a verse, because he holds that even the horn of a cow, which is called "קרן" but not "שופר," would be valid.

We may in this manner explain the verse (Psalms 81:3-4) "blow the horn at the new moon, at the fool moon, on our festal day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the G-d of Jacob" (תִּקְעוּ בַחֹדֶשׁ שׁוֹפָר בַּכֵּסֶה לְיוֹם חַגֵּנוּ. כִּי חֹק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא מִשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב). In other words the Torah hid the name and did not explicitly say either "שופר" or "קרן," so that we should understand the two types of repentance that are represented by the שופר that is blown on this day. And the words "a statute for Israel" represent those who stand on a higher level (i.e., Israel the more distinguished name). They will repent out of love and will return to the Eternal with all their hearts. All their offenses will therefore be transformed into meritorious acts, which is a statute (חק) which is inexplicable, inasmuch as it does not conform to the ways of justice as it is beyond the understanding of mortals how a sinner may be rewarded by not only being forgiven for his sins, but even being rewarded for them. However, the words "an ordinance for the G-d of Jacob" represent those who stand at a lower level who are therefore designated by the less distinguished name, Jacob. These individuals repent only out of fear that the Eternal will repay their bad deeds in kind. To them G-d acts justly and forgives their transgressions, because He is a G-d of justice (אלקי משפט). On Rosh Hashanah, therefore, the Eternal performs a statute for Israel and an ordinance for Jacob (חֹק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא מִשְׁפָּט לֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב).

Now we can understand the passage in the Jerusalem Talmud from which we started.

R. Siman said it is written (Deuteronomy 4:8): "And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?" R. Hiya and R. Oshaia explained: this means what nation is like this nation? In the normal course of events, a man who has a court case, wears black and covers himself in a black cloak and grows a beard, because he does not know how the case will be decided. But Israel is not like this. They wear white, and they eat and they drink and they rejoice, for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them.

It is written in the holy Zohar that "today" in this verse refers to Rosh Hashanah and that the discussion in the Jerusalem Talmud was also in relation to Rosh Hashanah. And in quoting the verse "what other great nation has ordinances and statutes as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today," the Jerusalem Talmud is referring on the one hand to those who repent out of love, for it is a statute (i.e., rationally inexplicable) that the Eternal should transform transgressions into meritorious acts and on the other hand to those who repent out of fear whom the Eternal treats justly by forgiving them. "That I am setting before you this day" refers to Rosh Hashanah, and that is why they wear white, festive, clothes and they eat and drink delicacies and sweets and rejoice, for the love of the Eternal is their salvation. For not only does He forgive their sins, but he considers their offenses to be meritorious acts and good deeds. That is why the passage concludes, "for they know that the Holy One Blessed Be He performs miracles for them." In other words, just as a miracle is beyond comprehension, so too is the statute (חק) by which our transgressions are transformed into good deeds hidden from us.