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Shiur #03: Shofarot: Tekiot Di-myushav, Tekiot Di-meumad and the Confusion of Satan

  • Rav Uriel Eitam
Introduction: The Mystery of the Shofar Sounds
Even though the mitzva of shofar-blowing is the most prominent and familiar aspect of Rosh Hashana, its most basic meaning is obscure. In the Torah, Rosh Hashana is referred to as “a day of blowing (terua)” (Bamidbar 29:1) and we sound the straight tekiot and staccato teruot with the shofar, but the foundation of the mitzva is unclear. The idea, of course, is to sound the shofar, but to whose ears are the sounds directed? To our great surprise, it turns out that there is no clear answer to this question.
The verse that describes the mitzva of shofar in the book of Vayikra states: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest to you, a remembrance of blowing, a holy convocation" (Vayikra 23:24), but it does not say to whom the sounds are directed. The same is true regarding the parallel verse in Bamidbar (29:1): "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month… it is a day of blowing for you."
Let us compare this wording to that of the verse describing a different sound commanded by the Torah — the mitzva of the trumpets:
And when you go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm (vahareiotem) with the trumpets; and you shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. (Bamidbar 10:9)
It is clear from this verse that the sounding of the trumpets is directed toward God so that we be remembered before Him.
Based on the comparison to the blowing of the trumpets, we can sharpen the key possibilities that need to be considered regarding this matter. The main question is whether to understand the mitzva of shofar-blowing as our sound that is directed toward God, as in the example that we brought from the trumpets, or perhaps just the opposite, the sound of the shofar is directed toward our own ears, as, for example, in the verse (Mikha 3:6): "Shall the shofar be blown in a city, and the people not tremble?" The difference between these diametrically opposed possibilities relates to our role: Is our primary function to send the shofar sound to God, or is our role to hear the shofar sound and let it permeate us?
The Reasons for the Mitzva of Shofar-Blowing
When we examine the words of the Chazal across the generations, we find that this fundamental question does not receive an unequivocal answer. In the literature that discusses the reasons for the commandments there are representatives of both possibilities. In the words of Rav Saadia Gaon, who brings ten reasons for the mitzva of shofar-blowing, the possibility that the sounds are directed toward us, so that we should hear them, is very prominent.[1] According to Rav Saadia, hearing the sounds is meant to remind us of some of the most important principles of Judaism, including the creation of the world, the Akeida, the revelation at Mount Sinai, the Temple, the call to repentance, the call to repent, the day of great judgment, the ingathering of the exiles, and the revival of the dead. The shofar sounds focus our attention on the great events that occurred in the past and on the great tidings for the future.
The most prominent element in the reasons offered by Rav Saadia is the phrase "to remind us."[2] According to Rav Saadia, the shofar sounds are directed toward our own ears, and the day of remembrance is meant to stir up our own memory. The sound of the shofar is the voice of God that moves about in the world and carries with it the foundations of faith and its consequences, which inspire us to live properly before God. The purpose of this mitzva is to awaken our memory to the foundations of faith in general and to those concerning Rosh Hashana in particular, on the day of remembrance.
We find a similar element in the words of the Rambam:
Even though the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashana is a decree, it contains an allusion. It is as if [the shofar's call] is saying: Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator. Those who forget the truth in the vanities of time and throughout the entire year, devote their energies to vanity and emptiness which will not benefit or save: Look to your souls. Improve your ways and your deeds and let every one of you abandon his evil path and thoughts. (Hilkhot Teshuva 3:4)
The shofar is the Divine voice that comes to awaken us from the spiritual slumber into which daily routine and the material nature of life have lulled us. The shofar contends with the possibility of living mindlessly, unaware of the essence and true meaning of life. Accordingly, the sound of the shofar is the voice of God that is directed to our ears, to inspire and to remind us.
To counter the words of Rav Saadia and the Rambam, let us bring the brief remarks of the Ramban in his homily for Rosh Hashana: "And we shall have remembrance through the sounds; we shall sound the shofar and be remembered before God" (Kitvei Ha-Ramban I, p. 220). The Ramban reverses the picture and sees shofar-blowing as sounds that we make in order to be remembered before God. The shofar sounds are directed toward God, and the remembrance is Divine remembrance.[3]
Indeed, we find these two possibilities in the liturgy itself.
On the one hand, the blessing that we recite before blowing the shofar is worded: "to hear the sound of the shofar,"[4] thus indicating that the shofar sounds are directed toward us.
On the other hand, central phrases in the Rosh Hashana prayers clearly indicate that the shofar sounds are directed toward God. The shofar sounds are accompanied by the Areshet Sefateinu poem: "May the request of our lips win Your favor… Accept gracefully our recital of Malkhuyot/ Zikhronot/ Shofarot" (Musaf of Rosh Hashana). This poem sees the shofar sounds as our voice, directed toward the ears of God. What is more, the Shofarot blessing, which concludes the series of special blessings in the Musaf service, ends with the words: "For You hear the voice of the shofar and give ear to the terua, and there is none like You. Blessed are You, O Lord, Who listens mercifully to the terua of His people Israel.” This concluding formula leaves no room for doubt regarding to whose ears the shofar sounds are directed.
We come to a similar conclusion when we examine the Gemara that deals with the content of the Rosh Hashana prayers. The Gemara states:
Also recite before Me on Rosh Hashana [texts making mention of] kingship, remembrance, and the shofar. Kingship, so that you may proclaim Me king over you; remembrance, so that your remembrance may rise favorably before Me; and through what? Through the shofar. (Rosh Hashana 16a)
The shofar is defined here as a means by which we say certain things before God. Here too it is clear that it is we who make things heard, that God hears them, and that our remembrance rises up before Him. A similar source is found in the continuation of that passage:
Rabbi Abbahu said: Why do we blow on a ram's horn? The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Sound before Me a ram's horn so that I may remember on your behalf the binding of Yitzchak the son of Avraham, and account it to you as if you had bound yourselves before Me.
The picture emerging from the words of Chazal leaves the two opposite options in place with no clear resolution. How is possible that such a fundamental question is left unanswered in the verses and the later sources, and how is it possible that the precise meaning of the mitzva remains so obscure to us?
Tekiot Di-myushav and Tekiot Di-meumad
It seems that the solution to our question can be found in the prayer service, in which, as stated, the two trends run back and forth. The key to the solution lies in the fact that the Rosh Hashana service includes two series of shofar sounds — the tekiot di-myushav, before Musaf; and the tekiot di-meumad, during Musaf.
The first series of sounds, preceding Musaf, expresses the idea that God is addressing us; we are the ones to whom the sound of the shofar is directed. Therefore we recite the blessing "to hear the sound of the shofar."[5]
On the other hand, the second series, those sounded during the Musaf prayer, consists of our appeal to God. The blessings of Malkhuyot, Zikhronot and Shofarot, which address God, as the abovementioned Gemara indicates, belong to the series of shofar sounds during Musaf. Shofarot concludes with “Who listens mercifully to the terua of His people Israel.” Areshet Sefateinu is also recited together with these sounds only, not the ones before Musaf.
We can now understand the entire system of the mitzva of shofar-blowing. We open with the blessing "to hear the sound of the shofar," and we blow the tekiot di-myushav that are directed by God toward us. We then move on to the Musaf prayer, in which we recite texts which make mention of kingship and remembrance that rise up by way of the shofar. We ask that the sounds formed by our lips win favor before God. And we conclude with the blessing: “Who listens mercifully to the terua of His people Israel.” With the first set of shofar sounds, we echo the Divine voice that permeates us; and with the second set of sounds, we direct our shofar-blowing toward God.
To Confuse Satan
Why are there two series of shofar sounds? The Gemara addresses this question:
Why do we sound a tekia and a terua while sitting, and then again sound a tekia and a terua while standing? It is to confuse Satan. (Rosh Hashana 16a-b)
The Ran explains that the Gemara's question relates to the tekiot di-myushav: "Seeing that later we will blow the tekiot di-meumad [during Musaf], for the sounds accompanying the blessings are the main ones, why do we blow a tekia and a terua while sitting [before Musaf]?" (Ran, Rosh Hashana 3a). The Gemara inquires about the need and the role of the tekiot di-myushav before Musaf, and it answers that they come to confuse Satan. The Ran explains the Gemara's answer: "To subdue the evil impulse. As it is written (Mikha 3:6): 'Shall the shofar be blown in a city, and the people not tremble?' For Satan is the evil impulse" (ibid.).
According to the Ran, the role of the first set of sounds is to subdue man's evil impulse. These sounds are directed toward man himself, penetrate deep within him, awaken his awe and subdue his passions. This process leads to his repair, after which the person can stand in clean fashion for the Musaf prayer and direct his own shofar sounds and cries to God. There is no comparing the shofar sound of one who has already woken up from subjugation to his passions, or from the routine in which he finds himself, to the sound of one who cries out to his God when he himself is subject to his passions.[6]
The Ran adduces support for his explanation from a different Talmudic passage (Bava Batra 16a): "Satan is the evil impulse." The Gemara identifies Satan, the evil impulse and the Angel of Death as being one. The Zohar adds another element, identifying the evil impulse and the Angel of Death which are mentioned in the Gemara with the serpent in the story of Adam.[7]
The connection to the story of Adam sheds additional light on the Gemara which speaks of "confusing Satan." Before the sin, man does not have an evil impulse. It is the serpent which comes and confuses him, seducing him to eat from the mixture of good and evil and turning his inner world into a mixture of good and evil. This evil impulse which is found thereafter in man is what brings a person even now to sin.
What is necessary now is the blowing of tekiot di-myushav, the role of which is to liberate us from the evil impulse and the inner confusion, and thus to confuse Satan himself whose weapon has stopped working. After we have dealt with the evil impulse which penetrates inward, and we have liberated ourselves from the consequences of the sin, the soul given to man prior to his sin can turn to God with the tekiot di-meumad. The Gemara which explains the two series of shofar sounds with the need to confuse the Satan, reveals that the need to blow the tekiot di-myushav before the tekiot di-meumad follows from the serpent's seduction of Adam. The tekiot di-myushav come to deal with seduction of the serpent, which is the evil impulse, and thus also to repair the sin of Adam.
According to the Ran, different intentions are required for the tekiot di-myushav and the tekiot di-meumad . Regarding the tekiot di-myushav, we must devote most of our attention to hear the sounds and allow them to permeate us, in order to wake up thereby and connect anew with the sound of the Divine shofar and all the precious truths that it bears. In contrast, with the tekiot di-meumad we direct ourselves to join the shofar-blower in order to raise up the sound of the kingdom and of the remembrance of the covenant by way of the shofar. Chazal, as we have noted above, disagree as to what is the most important element in shofar-blowing — our listening to it or our expressing it to God — but fundamentally the two components are included in our service in a clear and precise fashion.
Torah Versus Prayer
A comment of the Rema might advance us another step with regard to this issue. The Rema writes about the tekiot di-myushav: "It is our custom to blow the shofar at the bima upon which we read [the Torah]" (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 585:1). What is the meaning of this practice?
Situating the tekiot di-myushav at the bima upon which the Torah scroll is read reflects a desire to join the tekiot di-myushav to the reading of the Torah, and it teaches us the meaning of the tekiot di-myushav. The tekiot di-myushav are blown before the Musaf prayer begins. Is this schedule created only in order to finish blowing them before the tekiot di-meumad, or is this the time that is appropriate for them in themselves? Joining the shofar sounds to the time and the place of Torah reading teaches us about the fundamental connection between the two, as opposed to the fundamental connection between the tekiot di-meumad and the prayer service. According to this, it is not by chance that we have two types of shofar sounds. The different sets of sounds parallel the two main spiritual systems that we have: Torah study and prayer.
The difference between Torah study and prayer is the same as the difference explained above between the tekiot di-myushav and the tekiot di-meumad. Just as the Torah is the Divine voice that appeals to us, so too the tekiot di-myushav give expression to the Divine voice that permeates and awakens us. Just as prayer is our voice turning to God, so too the tekiot di-meumad express our voice calling out to God. During the reading of the Torah we employ a listening ear, whereas during prayer we employ a speaking tongue. Therefore we open our prayers with the request: "O Lord, open You my lips; and my mouth shall declare Your praise" (Tehillim 51:17).
It is not only once a year, in the mitzva of shofar-blowing, that we encounter these two systems, but rather daily in prayer. The recitation of Shema every day does not involve our turning to God, but rather it is a passage from the Torah — the words of God — directed toward us.[8] The reading of Shema parallels thus the tekiot di-myushav that are blown at the place where the Torah is read. In contrast, the Amida prayer is our appeal to God, and it parallels the tekiot di-meumad that are blown during the Amida prayer.
The first paragraph of Shema appears in the book of Devarim as part of the description of the assembly at Mount Sinai. Before the heretics sinned, it was the customary practice to read the Ten Commandments themselves every day when reciting the Shema (see Berakhot 12a). In this way, the reading of Shema parallels the Divine shofar in precise fashion; the assembly at Mount Sinai is the main place where a shofar appears in the Torah — not as the shofar of man, but rather as the shofar and voice of God. At this assembly, heaven and earth meet, and the depth of the connection between God and Israel finds expression. In this way, the Jewish people merit to encounter the Divine truth in the Torah and the distinction that the Torah's commandments make between good and evil.
Sounding the shofar at the bima from which the Torah is read turns the blowing into a continuation of the assembly at Mount Sinai and of the Divine voice heard there. That which is done all year round with words — through the recitation of Shema — is done on Rosh Hashana with the simple voice of the shofar, which plays a pivotal role in the assembly at Mount Sinai (as referenced in the blessing of Shofarot): "And when the voice of the shofar waxed louder and louder, Moshe spoke, and God answered him by a voice" (Shemot 19:19).
By contrast, the tekiot di-meumad parallel prayer. Alongside our deep listening to the voice of God, there is God’s deep listening to our voice.
This understanding of the tekiot di-myushav and tekiot di-meumad also explains the terminology for the shofar sounds. Standing is the fundamental state of prayer before God, and therefore the shofar sounds that have the nature of prayer and are directed from us to God are sounded while standing.[9] In contrast, sitting is the fundamental mode of Torah study, and therefore the shofar sounds which are sounds of Torah can be sounded while sitting.
It turns out that the recitation of Shema is the acceptance of God's kingdom every day, and the blowing of the tekiot di-myushav is the acceptance of God's kingdom for the new year. The Amida prayer is our main appeal to God with words every day, and the blowing of the tekiot di-meumad is our appeal to God for the entire new year.
Affection and Connection
We have seen the differing nature of the two series of shofar sounds, the tekiot di-myushav and the tekiot di-meumad; and their correspondence to two different spiritual systems, Torah study and prayer. These two systems are not only different from each other, but they build together one complete structure. Torah study and prayer are two different commandments, but both of them are integrated together in the prayer book, and are even juxtaposed to each other to create one system in "the juxtaposition of redemption to prayer," which in the Yerushalmi is defined as the juxtaposition of Torah study and prayer.[10] What is the innovation of this system, and what does it mean?
The Torah is the voice of God coming to us, and prayer is our voice going out to God. The integration of these two voices by way of the juxtaposition of the recitation of Shema to prayer creates a new entity — a mutual dialogue that leads to full connection. On Rosh Hashana as well, we begin by deeply listening to the Divine voice that contains the essence of all the profound and holy contents of His Torah, and we respond to this voice with our shofar-blowing/ praying which contain of all our deepest yearnings. This might be the reason that the Torah establishes, "it is a day of blowing for you" (Bamidbar 29:1), and, in contrast to the section dealing with the trumpets, does not define from where and to where the blowing is directed. The Torah teaches us that for the shofar sound to be complete, it must combine both directions, thereby creating connection and mutuality.
The Gemara explains that the double series of shofar sounds confuses Satan. Who is Satan and how do the shofar sounds confuse him? Satan represents everything that separates God's creations from their Creator, and in our case, Israel from their Father in heaven. Satan creates the separation and the bifurcation, and the double series of shofar sounds come to recreate the bidirectional unity. The creation of unity is what confuses Satan the separator and disrupts his activity.
This understanding, that the purpose of the shofar sounds is to connect the Jewish people to their Father in heaven, also emerges from Rashi's interpretation of Satan's confusion:
To confuse — so that he not accuse. When he hears how the people of Israel cherish the commandments, his words are silenced. (Rosh Hashana 16b)
Rashi explains that the duplication of the shofar sounds expresses Israel's affection for the mitzvot. How so? If we only wanted to fulfill our duty, one set of shofar sounds would suffice. The fact that nevertheless we blow a second set of sounds expresses our love for the mitzva. This confuses Satan and leads to our acquittal on Rosh Hashana. Why?
Affection indicates connection. When Satan sees that the people of Israel cherish God's commandments, he recognizes the relationship between God and Israel, and he is silenced; for as we learned in Shiur #01, the judgment on Rosh Hashana focuses upon the connection itself between Israel and God. A basic fulfillment of the mitzva of shofar still allows for a search for cracks in the connection, but when the people of Israel manifest love for the mitzvot, not only their obligatory observance, the accusations brought against them fall by the wayside.
Separation and Unity
What is the root of separation in our world? It is Satan in the guise of the serpent who brings about the first separation between God and His creations. This is the separation between Adam and God. The serpent proposes to Chava and Adam that they eat of the Tree of Knowledge and be like God, and in that way detach themselves from Him. It is not only following the serpent's advice that brings about disconnection from God. The concept underlying the serpent's words in itself creates a consciousness of detachment, for it describes God as wanting to withhold good from His creations; therefore He forbids them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, the eating of which would supposedly bring them happiness. The concept of detachment permeates the first couple even before the sin itself, distancing themselves from God even before they actually commit the sinful act.
Since the sin of Adam and Chava, humankind has been detached from God. When they hear the Divine voice in the garden, the connection is reawakened, but this is a one-way voice, unlike the shofar of Rosh Hashana. Adam does not respond to the Divine voice with a human voice of prayer. Man is sentenced to expulsion from the garden, a banishment that expresses the detachment created, and he does not attempt to change the decree by praying or talking to God. He comes to terms with the alienation, and thus Satan achieves at least part of his aim. On Rosh Hashana, the bond is re-established from both sides and can no longer be impaired; thus, we speak of the concept of "confusing Satan."
The use of a shofar is not by chance. The shape of the shofar expresses the idea explained above. The shofar has two openings, and inside it is hollow. This form expresses in its very essence the two-way channel of communication, and thus it serves a role in the renewal of the mutual connection between God and Israel.
The Gemara teaches:
Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: The bullock which Adam offered had only one horn in its forehead, as it is stated: “And it shall please the Lord better than a bullock that is horned and hoofed” (Tehillim 69:32). (Avoda Zara 8a)
Two horns apparently express the two directions of flow that a shofar allows, while one horn expresses a one-way relationship. According to this, the Gemara comes to teach us that even though God asks Adam, "Where are you?" and expels mankind from the Garden of Eden, when Adam offers a sacrifice to atone for his sin, he does not want to renew his connection with God truly, preferring to remain distanced from Him. The sacrifice may atone for the practical sin, but it does not repair the resulting alienation.
Upon deeper examination, we see that the question of connection and detachment, which accompanies our entire study of Rosh Hashana, is grounded in the primal global event of creation. The creation of the universe which is marked on Rosh Hashana is a transition from one to two: "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth" (Bereishit 1:1). From now on, alongside God, there exists the world. The existence of the two as distinct entities is liable to lead to a consciousness of bifurcation, and in its wake to sin. This indeed is what happens to Chava and Adam, who are persuaded that God wants to withhold from them good and that their own happiness depended upon moving away from God. Rosh Hashana brings us back to the consciousness of unity, through the double voice of the shofar that connects the two sides.[11]
In the future redemption for which we pray on Rosh Hashana, the illusion of bifurcation will be fully repaired and perfect oneness will be revealed: "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one" (Zekharya 14:9).
(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] The reasons proposed by Rav Saadia Gaon, which are largely based on verses that mention a shofar, are brought by Abudraham, and from there they have entered various Rosh Hashana machzorim (see, for example, Machzor Rabba, p. 161).
[2] This phrase apppears explicitly in seven of the ten reasons. In another two, it is abundantly clear that the shofar sounds are directed at us. Only regarding the first reason, that the day of creation is like the day of God's coronation as king, is the matter unclear.
[3] The two opposing possibilities can also be found among the authorities who list the mitzvot. The Rambam writes in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot: "That He commanded us to hear the sound of the shofar on the first day of Tishrei" (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, Positive #170). In contrast, Rabbi Moshe of Coucy defines the mitzva as follows: "There is a positive commandment to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana"(Sefer Mitzvot Ha-gadol, Positive #42). We see from this that according to the Rambam the mitzva is to hear the shofar sound, whereas according to the Semag, we are obligated to blow the shofar.
[4] This is according to the Rambam (Hilkhot Shofar 3:10) and the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chayim 585:2). Rabbeinu Tam rules that the blessing is: "… about the blowing of the shofar" (see Beit Yosef, ad loc.).
[5] The reasons proposed by Rav Saadia Gaon, which express the position that the shofar sounds are directed toward us, are cited by Abudraham and in the machzorim in association with the tekiot di-myushav.
[6] The Rambam's explanation also suits these sounds, though the Rambam himself does not link his words specifically to the tekiot di-myushav.
[7] "It is written: ‘And the serpent was more cunning' (Bereishit 3:1) — this is the evil impulse, this is the Angel of Death" (Zohar, I, 35b).
[8] See also Menachot 98b: "Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: Even though a man only reads the Shema morning and evening he has thereby fulfilled the precept of 'This book shall not depart [out of your mouth, but you shall meditate therein day and night]' (Yehoshua 1:8)."
[9] "There is no standing to pray except from…" (Mishna, Berakhot 5:1); "Standing means only prayer, as it is stated: 'Then stood up Pinchas and prayed' (Tehilim 130:6)" (Berakhot 26b). See also the Rambam's remarks on intention in prayer: "What is meany by [proper] intention? One should clear his mind from all thoughts and envision himself as standing before the Shekhina" (Hilkhot Tefila, 4:16).
[10] "Rabbi Yosei said: It is read in the synagogue, not in order to fulfill one's obligation, but in order to stand in prayer following a word of Torah" (Yerushalmi, Berakhot 1:1).
[11] Indeed, we say towards the end of the Shofarot blessing: "Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the signal to bring our exiles together."