A Shophar does not Equal a Lulav

In the wake of my published article ‘The Mitzva of Lulav on Shabbat–Getting back on track’ (in which I presented the Halakhic foundation for taking the Lulav on the first day of Sukkoth which falls on Shabbath), I received several queries which can be summed up thus: “What about Shophar?” (Indeed there were reports three years ago of a minyan where the Shophar was blown on Shabbath).

In this article I shall endeavour to explain why in my opinion the two issues are plainly disparate, and why therefore I do not advocate blowing Shophar on Shabbath.

Let us begin near the beginning (the true beginning being the words of the Holy Tora itself which we shall examine presently). The Mishna (Rosh haShanna 4:1; BT 29b) states:

When the Festival of Rosh haShanna falls on Shabbath, the Shophar was blown in the Temple, but not in the rest of the country. After the Destruction of the Temple R. Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the Shophar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din.

Regarding Lulav, however, we learn (Mishna Sukka 3:11; BT 41b):

When the first day of Sukkoth falls on Shabbath the people bring their Lulavim to the synagogue [on Erev Shabbath because of the prohibition of carrying from one domain to another]; and [the next day] everybody identifies his Lulav and takes it. Because [the Sages] taught: ‘One may not fulfil one’s obligation on the first day of Sukkoth with the Lulav of his fellow.’ On the remaining days of Sukkoth, however, one may fulfil one’s obligation with the Lulav of his fellow.

In fact, the Mishna (Sukka 4a; BT 42b) leaves no room for error:

The Lulav and the Arava (willow) [are taken] six or seven [days]….When is the Lulav [taken] seven [days]? When the first day of Sukkoth falls on Shabbath one waves the Lulav seven days; on other days, [when the first day of Sukkoth falls on the rest of the days of the week, one does not wave on Shabbath in the middle of the holiday because only on the first day of Sukkoth does the mitzva of Lulav override Shabbath and thus one waves Lulav] six [days only.] Clearly the two are not one and the same: the Lulav overrides Shabbath in all places, the Shophar in the Temple only. The Question is why?

According to the Babylonian Talmud (RH 29b; Sukka 42b) the matter is murky: we are told that due to the possibility that some people may carry the Shophar or Lulav in the street – something prohibited on Shabbath – the Sages decreed that both these commandments, Lulav and Shophar, be left undone when the Festival coincides with Shabbath. Why murky? Because as we have seen, the Mishna plainly distinguishes between the two. The BT (Sukka 43a), aware of this difficulty, posits: “As for the first day – when Lulav is a Tora-mandated mitzva throughout the land [as opposed to the Temple where Lulav is Tora- mandated for all seven days] – the Sages made no decree. On the remaining days, when Lulav is not Tora-mandated throughout the land [and is required in the Temple only], the Sages decreed [that the Lulav not be taken on Shabbath]”.

But what of the Shophar – is this too not a Tora-mandated mitzva? Here the BT is surprisingly reticent. The Tosaphoth (RH 29b; Sukka 42b) are perturbed by this rather loud silence and attempt to explicate the matter, with dubious success. Which brings us to the Jerusalem Talmud, also known as the Talmud of Eretz Yisrael. Here we discover that these two issues are not cut from the same cloth. The JT (like the BT) is bothered by the following Question “If blowing the Shophar is Tora-mandated, why should it not override Shabbath everywhere? And if it is not Tora-mandated, why does it override Shabbath in the Temple?”

The JT’s explanation is simple:

R. Shimon b. Yohai taught: [The Tora (Leviticus 23:24) states: “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, on the first of the month, you shall keep a solemn rest, a day of Remembering proclaimed by the blowing of a horn, a holy convocation. You shall do no manner of work;] and you shall bring an offering [made by fire before HASHEM]” – in the place where the sacrifices are offered.

Why is the Shophar blown only in the Temple when Rosh haShanna falls on Shabbath? Because the mitzva of Shophar is only Tora-mandated in the Temple, “in the place where the sacrifices are offered”! Put another way: blowing the Shophar is essentially part of the Temple service. Even though we normally extend this mitzva beyond the walls of the Temple, when Rosh haShanna falls on Shabbath it is performed in its original format.

The JT goes on to explain that this is evident from the wording of the Written Law itself. For there is one other occasion when the Tora commands us to blow a horn:

And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; the total number, seven Sabbaths of years, being forty nine years. Then shall you cause the sound of the horn to be heard far and wide, on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall cause the horn to be heard throughout your Land (Leviticus 25:8-9).

On Yom Kippur of the Jubilee year the shophar is to be sounded “throughout your Land” and is “to be heard far and wide” (the Tora’s “ta’aviru shophar” clearly suggests relaying the sound of the shophar throughout the country) – i.e. we are commanded to blow the shophar in all places, not just in the Temple (see Maimonides, Shemitta and Yovel 10:13-14; 10:10-11 in Vilna ed.). Regarding Rosh haShanna the Tora makes no such stipulation.

The once-murky picture now comes into focus: the Tora-mandated commandments of Lulav and Shophar are not overridden by a Rabbinical edict, nor are they identical. Both mitzvoth are performed on Shabbath: Lulav in all places and Shophar in one place, the Temple.

So what is to be done when no Temple exists? “R. Yohanan ben Zakkai decreed that the Shophar be blown wherever there is a Beth Din”. As with similar edicts pronounced in the wake of the national disaster of the Temple’s destruction, R. Yohanan and his Court wished to ensure that this Temple-based tradition – that even when Rosh haShanna falls on Shabbath the Shophar is sounded in one central location – not be forgotten. In the Temple’s absence, the seat of the Sanhedrin becomes the focal point of the nation – and there (or in a similarly constituted Beth Din), and only there, is the Shophar blown (Maimonides, Shophar 2:9).

It is only with the bright and penetrating light shed by the JT on this matter that we can fully appreciate the tremendous precision and profundity of both the Written and Oral Laws.

Our Sages were acutely aware of the qualitative difference between the Tora of Eretz Yisrael and that of the Exile. In the words of R. Yirmiya, the great 4th century sage from Eretz Yisrael:

“He has caused me to dwell in dark places, as those long dead” (Lamentations 3:6) – this refers to the Tora learning of Babylon (BT Sanhedrin 24a).
Regarding the Tora of Eretz Yisrael, however, our Sages taught:

“Her king and ministers are exiled among the nations; the Tora is no more” (Lamentations 3:6) – from here we see that the Tora is to be found [only] in Eretz Yisrael (Siphre Devarim, 37).

The Tora of Eretz Yisrael is albeit a different order of magnitude; nevertheless a Shophar does not equal a Lulav.