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Sephardic Liturgy, Practices Theology and Mysticism

1.  The poetic-theological introduction to the Shofar

עוקד והנעקד והמזבח. These words are the refrain of a poem chanted by all Sephardic communities, from the Iberian Peninsula to North Africa, from Iran to Jerusalem. The meaning of these words is: He who bounds; He who is bound; The Altar.

Those three Hebrew words encapsulate the tremendous theological and emotional tension of the momentous event of the Binding of Isaac. They draw the readers’ attention and force them to focus on the singularity, deep pain, and desolate loneliness of the moment. At that moment, there are only two people in the whole world. Abraham and Isaac. No one else is aware of what is soon about to take place. Sarah was never told that her husband plans to slaughter her only child, the one she bore him when she was ninety years old, and the two pages are waiting at the foot of the mountain. On top of the mountain there are only Abraham and Isaac, father and son, devoutly religious man and a young innocent child, slaughterer and sacrifice. It is a terrifying image: a knife-wielding man looming over a small, helpless body of a child, who with hands and feet bound together, is curled un top of a pile of firewood, about to be slaughtered and burned. They are alone only on the human plane, though, for they are joined the altar, which seems to be a representation of a blood-thirsty and cruel deity, one who demands human sacrifices, and so the poem zooms in on the three tragic protagonists in their total isolation: He who bounds, he who is bound, and the altar.

The poem was written by Rabbi Yehudah) Abu-Al-Baqqa Yahya) ben Shemuel ibn Abbas. There is only fragmented information regarding his life, but it is known that he was a contemporary of the great poets of the Golden Age in Spain, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (1075-1141) and Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra (1058-1138), and that he passed on, at the earliest, at 1167. It is not clear if he ever lived in Al-Andalus, and he was probably born in the Maghreb, or North Africa, and visited Aleppo and Iraq. He is the only non-Spanish poet whom Yehudah Al-Harizzi included in his essay on the Jewish poets of Spain. As we shall see, his poem about the Akedah is a powerful theological debate about the balance between religious devotion and human interaction, and since his son Shemuel converted to Islam, there were those who suggested that the poem is a eulogy for his son. This theory is questionable because the father did not know of his son’s conversion until shortly before his death, and I believe that the conversion of the son was a result of the theological struggles of the father, described in the poem. 

The fact that the poem is still part of Sephardic liturgy around the world, despite the tarnished reputation of the poet as the father of a son who converted to Islam and then attacked Judaism, is a testament to the more flexible nature of the authors of Sephardic prayer books, as well as to the mesmerizing hold of the poem on the reader. 

There are several tunes for that beautiful poem, as well as different practices for chanting it. The following practices are all part of the diverse tapestry which is commonly referred to as Jerusalem Sephardic practice:

  1. The whole poem is recited by cantor and congregation. The cantor repeats the last stanza. 
  2. The cantor reads the first and last stanzas. The other stanzas are chanted by qualified members of the congregation. In most Sephardic synagogues there is no choir, but some members, vetted for their musical talent or revered status, are invited to take part in chanting. Being named to read one of these stanzas is a coveted honor, and I have personally witnessed in my first position as a cantor two men fighting over that honor.
  3. Only the first three and last three of the fourteen stanzas are chanted, and the rest is read quietly. The cantor repeats the last stanzas. 
  4. The congregation and the cantor chant together the first nine stanzas in one tune. The cantor then switches to a more solemn and mournful tune and chants the tenth and eleventh stanzas solo. These are the stanzas which describe Isaac’s dialog with his father and his concern for his mother, and seeing people crying at that point is not a rare sight. The congregation then resumes with the cantor the reading of the last three stanzas, and the cantor then repeats the last stanza.

In the third stanza, the poet seems to embellish the biblical story, by adding a conversation between Abraham and Sarah, probably on the night before the journey. That conversation is first imagined in the Midrash:

אמר אברהם: מה אעשה? אם אגלה לשרה, נשים דעתן קלה עליהן בדבר קטן כל שכן בדבר גדול כזה. ואם לא אגלה לה ואגנבנו ממנה בעת שלא תראה אותו תהרוג את עצמה, מה עשה? …אמר לה: “את יודעת, כשאני בן שלוש שנים הכרתי את בוראי, והנער הזה גדול ולא נחנך. יש מקום אחד רחוק ממנו מעט ששם מחנכין את הנערים, אקחנו ואחנכנו שם”,  אמרה לו: “לך לשלום”

[When Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac] he thought “what am I going to do? If I tell Sarah, [she will not be able to decide what to do because] women are slow to decide even when dealing with a minor issue, how much more so with such a major decision. If I do not tell her and steal the boy form her, when she will not find him, she will kill herself.” What did he do? …he told her: “you know that I have come to know God when I was three years old, and this boy has already grown up and has not been educated yet [lit. inaugurated]. There is a place, not too far from here, where young boys are educated [lit. inaugurated], let me take him there.” She answered: “go in peace.”

In the Midrashic version, Sarah, the hidden protagonist, is revealed, but for only a brief encounter. Abraham contemplates whether he should tell his wife Sarah, the mother of the unsuspecting sacrifice, about the divine commandment, and eventually rules against it. He decides to lie to Sarah and tell her that he is going to train the child, or perform with him a rite of passage, and she give her curt approval.

In the poem, the author takes the conversation to a new depth by adding several words to Sarah’s response. When Abraham tells her that her cherished one, Isaac, has to learn how to serve God, she answers:

לכה אדון, אבל אל תרחק

Go, master, but do not go too far.

It is as if her heart, a mother’s heart, senses the ominous danger. Her plea with Abraham refers not only to physical distance, but to religious extremism as well. “When you perform the rituals in your service of God,” she tells him, “do not go too far…”

Abraham answers with ambiguous words, not necessarily calming her fears:

ענה יהי לבך באל בוטח

He answered: let your heart trust God. 

The answer leaves her hanging. Does he mean that Isaac will return sound and safe, as she wants? Does it mean that God will do with him as He wishes, leaving her no choice but to accept the divine verdict?

Later, as Abraham and Isaac approach the mountain alone, Isaac asks his father a seemingly innocent, but truly chilling question: “where is the sacrificial lamb?” The poet rewrites this question, turning it into a piercing theological debate:

ויקרבו שניהם לעשות במלאכה

ויענה יצחק לאביו ככה

אבי הנה אש ועצי מערכה

איה אדוני שה אשר כהלכה

האת ביום זה דתך שוכח

They both approached to do the service,

When Isaac spoke to his father thus:

Father, here are the fire and the wood for the altar

Where, master, is the lamb required by law?

Are you, on this day, forgetting your religion?

Whereas in the biblical story Isaac addresses his father before they reach the mountain, the poet keeps Isaac silent until his engagement in the process of building the altar. In the bible, the question is almost theoretical, but in the poem, it dawns on Isaac, as he is preparing for the offering of a sacrifice, that something is terribly wrong. He addresses his father as “master” and the subliminal message of the question: “have you forgotten your religion?” is directed not at the lack of a sacrificial lamb but at Abraham’s future act. Isaac is asking him: “How can you prepare yourself to offer me as a sacrifice? Wouldn’t such an act violate your belief system?”

This question reflects the author’s struggle with the phenomenon of voluntary martyrdom which has become prevalent in Europe during the crusades. Not only did Jews sacrifice their lives to avoid being captured and converted to Christianity, they also took the lives of their children. 

This is attested to in the Daat Zeqenim commentary on the Torah, anthologized from the writings of Jewish German scholars of the 12-13th centuries:

There was one rabbi who slaughtered many children at the time of the decrees [i.e. the crusades] because he was worried that they will be forced to convert to Christianity. There was a rabbi there who was very upset with him and called him a murderer, but he did not pay heed. The [opposing] rabbi said “if I am right, that rabbi will suffer a cruel and unusual death”, and so it was… later the decree was nullified, and [it turned out that] had he not killed those children they would have been saved.”

But the challenge to Abraham is not over yet. In the tenth and eleventh stanzas, the poet puts in Isaac’s mouth a gut-wrenching farewell speech in which he forces his father to consider the consequences of the act he is about to perform. The poet skillfully weaves Midrashic elements into a new narrative, in which Isaac reminds his father that while sacrificing his child demands one moment of devotion, it will bring in its wake a life of sorrow and contempt. In the following few lines we find a full theological treatise, one which Sephardic Jews analyzed and reflected on every Rosh HaShana as they were preparing to blow the Shofar:

שיחו לאמי כי ששונה פנה

הבן אשר ילדה לתשעים שנה

היה לאש ולמאכלת מנה

 אנה אמצא לה מנחם אנה

 צר לי לאם תבכה ותתיפח

Tell my mother that her joy’s sun has set 

The son she bore after ninety years

Has been consumed by knife and fire 

Where can I find consolation for her, where?

I feel for my mother, who will cry and weep.

ממאכלת יהמה מדברי

נא חדדה אבי ואת מאסרי

חזק ועת יקד יקוד בבשרי

קח עמך הנשאר מאפרי

ואמור לשרה זה ליצחק ריח

From the knife my words hum

Please sharpen it, dad, and my ropes

Tighten them, and as the fire consumes my flesh

Take with you what is left of my ashes

And tell Sarah: “this is Isaac’s fragrance”

Listening to the poetic Isaac talking his father, we are unsure whether he has accepted the verdict and is truly preparing to die, or if this is a last attempt to dissuade his father. Be it as it may, he addresses Abraham and an unknown audience, perhaps the witnesses of the persecutions of all generations, and asks them to inform his mother that the joy of her life has been put out. The poet expresses his disbelief that a loving God could demand such sacrifices of the Jewish people and not consider the tremendous pain caused by that demand. Isaac reminds Abraham that upon returning to his tent he will have to reveal the truth to Sarah and then, for the rest of his life, deal with her shock, pain, and accusations. When we couple this with the third stanza, in which Abraham lies to Sarah, telling her that he is taking Isaac for a rite of passage, the full spectrum of the theological debate emerges. 

The poet poses tough questions to himself and to the readers: “How do you know that your actions please God?”; “If one has to conceal his actions from his own spouse, is it not a proof that the deed is wrong?”; “Are you always aware of the full consequences of your religious actions?” and, most importantly “Does God want people to suffer and die for His Name’s sake?”

The answers to these questions, subtly but painfully presented by the poet, suggest that God never wanted Abraham to take his son’s life. He wanted him to protest and refuse. Abraham had to understand that if he has to lie to Sarah, for fear that she would not be able to handle the divine command, it means that he should not follow that command. Isaac keeps mentioning this to him, first claiming that Abraham is abandoning his religion, and then explaining to his father the life-long implications of his actions.

Abraham’s dilemma is acknowledged in the ninth stanza:

הכין עצי עולה באון וחיל

ויעקוד יצחק כעקדו איל

ויהי מאור יומם בעיניו ליל

והמון דמעיו נוזלים בחיל

עין במר בוכה ולב שמח

[Abraham] prepared the firewood with might

Then bound Isaac as one would a ram

Daylight turned for him into night

Rivers of tears streaming from his eyes

Eye bitterly crying but heart rejoicing

Here Isaac is already bound, in a fetal position, hands and feet bound together. Until Isaac’s dialog in the next stanza, Abraham is the only active figure. He performs his duties mechanically, as he did in the past with the many altars he erected, but this time something is different. The light of the day has turned into darkness. Is it the darkness of Abraham’s heart, the darkness of religious fanaticism, or the realization that bleak future awaits him? His heart and eyes disagree on their reaction to the whole process. The eyes, perhaps representing emotion, stream tears, while the heart, representing faith, rejoices in the fulfilment of the divine commandment.

As I have mentioned earlier, the chanting of this poem in Sephardic synagogues is awe-inspiring and almost ecstatic. The congregants identify with the dilemmas of the protagonists, Abraham and Isaac who are mentioned in the Torah, and especially Sarah who is ignored in the biblical narrative. When the cantor performs solo the two stanzas where Isaac addresses his father, many tears are shed, and when, towards the end Isaac is redeemed, a sigh of relief undulates through the crowd.

The choice of this poem, from among many other liturgical pieces written about the binding of Isaac, is not coincidental and had tremendous influence on the course of Sephardic history. It is very probable, in my opinion, that Rabbi Yehudah Shemuel ibn Abbas’ theological questions and his refusal to accept an image of a wrathful God who demands human sacrifices, whether from Abraham at Mount Moriah or from Jews in France and Germany during the crusades, led to the conversion of his son to Islam. However, the poem remained in the Sephardic prayer book and conveyed the message that one must consider all factors before committing suicide in God’s name. 

This theological position, infused into the Sephardic psyche for centuries, was probably one of the major factors in the decision of Iberian Jews to leave Spain and Portugal, or to superficially convert, rather than remain there and become martyrs. It was a decision which was later denounced by historians and scholars as stemming from weakness, but as a matter of fact it was well informed and rooted in generations of theological debates, delivered to many by means of this poem read on Rosh HaShana.

2. The number of voices:

In all Sephardic communities today, it is customary to sound the Shofar 101 times. Thirty of these voices are sounded before Musaf, in the format of three sets of TSRT, TST, TRT, while the congregation is seated. Thirty more are sounded during the silent prayer, and another thirty during the repetition. There are different customs as to how these thirty are formatted. According to one tradition, the sets are TSRT, TST, TRT, after each one of the additional Rosh HaShana blessings. According to another tradition, mainly found in books printed in Baghdad, the order three times TSRT after the first special blessing, three sets of TRT after the second, and three sets of TST after the third one. Ten more are added in the middle of the first Kaddish after the Amidah, in the format of TSRT, TST, TRT. Finally, at the conclusion of prayers, a long vibrating sound, known as Teruah Gedolah, is performed.

This practice, which is widespread today, was unknown to Sephardic communities until the 1500’s as we shall soon see. In the 20th century, however, Rabbi Benzion Meir Hai Uziel, who was famous for his modern and liberal approach, writes very emphatically against attempts to cancel some of the one hundred and one sounds of the Shofar:

בטול עשרה קולות אחרונים של תקיעת שופר: כבר נהגו בכל תפוצות ישראל לתקוע מאה תקיעות שופר בימי ראש השנה. ואסמכוהו אקרא דכתיב במזמור של יום ראש השנה: כל העמים תקעו כף בגימטריא מאה, ותקיעה גדולה אחריהם. וחלילה לשנות מנהגם של ישראל, שהוא מתוקן ומקובל מרבותינו ז”ל. וכל המשנה אין רוח חכמים נוחה הימנו

Regarding the cancellation of the practice to blow the Shofar ten times at the end of Musaf prayer: It is already and established practice among all Jewish communities to sound the Shofar one hundred times during Rosh HaSHana. It has been supported by the verse which appears in the psalm designated for Rosh HaShana: כל העמים תקעו כף – All nations, clap hands. The word כף – hand, equals one hundred in numerical value. This is followed by the great ululation. God forbid, one should not change the practice of the Jewish people, which is regulated and transmitted by our Sages, of blessed memory. He who changes [tradition] is frowned upon by the sages.

The language rabbi Uziel uses is emphatic, unambiguous, and even aggressive, which is atypical for him. He says that the practice is already widespread through the whole nation, he supports the practice with a biblical verse and numerical values, he adds that it is unthinkable to change the practice which originated with the Sages of the Mishnah, and finally seals with a statement against those who introduce changes.

Before analyzing the sources of the practice to blow the shofar one hundred and one times, I must remark that the last statement, about changing the words of the sages, is of special interest. This is because rabbi Uziel presents it as if it were a Mishnaic or Talmudic statement, while it is an amalgam of two phrases in the Talmud dealing with two completely different topics, both unrelated to Shofar. This clever usage of rabbinic passages, in addition to the reference to the practice as established by the sages of the Mishnah, shows that Rabbi Uziel was particularly concerned about the suggested change. 

A possible explanation for his staunch opposition to this change might have to do with the two-year period in which he served as the rabbi of the community of Salonika (1921-1923), also called Jerusalem of the Balkans, and at one point, home to the largest Sephardic community in the world. Rabbi Uziel was succeeded by Rabbi Isaac Emmanuel, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau. Many of the seminary’s graduates became prominent leaders of non-orthodox Judaism and it is possible that Rabbi Uziel, who was in close contact with Rabbi Emmanuel, was concerned that the Salonika community will follow the path of the reform and conservative movements. This theory could explain his unyielding approach regarding the number of times the shofar should be blown, which is incongruent with his generally flexible approach to Jewish law.  

As previously mentioned, the custom in the Sephardic world was not always to sound the Shofar a hundred and one times. In Sheiltot of Rav Ahai we find the following instructions:

“Before praying Musaf, the cantor should stand up while the congregation [lit. the whole world] is seated and hold the trumpet in his hand [Rav Ahai explained previously that the terms trumpet and Shofar are interchangeable]. He should recite the blessings… and then blow TSRT, TST, TRT. He repeats this set three times… again when the cantor recites the Musaf in loud voice, he blows TSRT after Malkhuyot, TST after Zikhronot, and TRT after Shofarot. 

We learn two important things from the words of Rav Ahai:

  1. The total number of sounds was forty.
  2. Shofar was not blown during the silent Amidah.

In Seder Rav Amram Gaon we find the following description:

Where a cantor is present, they stand up for Tefila [i.e. Musaf]. The individuals recite seven blessings. When the cantor recites the Tefila, for the first blessing they blow TSRT, for the second TST, and for the third TRT. Following the prayer, they sound a long vibrating voice – Teruah, without Teqiah or Shevarim…

Another Halakhic response from the Geonic period provides an interesting explanation to the Great Teruah which Rabbi Uziel mentions as part of an ancient tradition:

You have asked about the Shofar of Rosh HaShana [since you have heard] that the practice of the Geonim is to blow a great Teruah after the prayer is over in order to confuse the Satan, and that this is the practice in both Yeshivahs [Sura and Pum Bedita in Babylonia]. We saw fit to answer you that we do not do this as a practice, and we have not heard that our forefathers did so, rather each individual does as he wishes. They rely on the statement of Rav Yitzhak bar Yosef: “when the cantor would finish blowing the Shofar in Yavneh [the spiritual center in Israel after the destruction of the Second Temple], one could not hear himself because of the many Shofars which were blown. We have learned from here that in previous generations individuals used to blow Shofar after the prayers. They were not obligated, because the cantor already represented them, but it is an additional measure to blow after the prayers to confuse the Satan, and if they did not do it, no harm was done. Other Geonim are of the opinion that the great Teruah is mandatory. 

This response indicates that there were no clear rules regarding Shofar blowing after prayers and that following the last blows by the cantor mayhem would ensue, as each person would blow his Shofar. Though the author mentions that some people believed that by doing so they confuse Satan, the divine prosecutor, one cannot escape the feeling that the reason is much simpler, and that people wanted to take part in the Mitzvah and blow their own Shofar, as happens today at in many synagogues.

From the Geonic period literature, which speaks of forty sounds during prayers and an ambiguous practice of Greta Teruah or great noise after prayers, we move to the legal codex of Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575), the Shulhan Arukh:

In Orah Hayyim, 590:2, Rabbi Karo writes that because we are not sure what is the nature of Teruah, we have to use different combinations, which bring the total number of Shofar sounds before the Musaf prayers to 30. In chapter 591, in which he discusses the silent Musaf prayer, he does not mention a practice to blow Shofar. This is reserved, according to him, to the cantor’s repetition of the Musaf. During that repetition, writes Rabbi Yosef Karo:

מחזיר שליח צבור התפלה, ותוקעין על סדר הברכות למלכיות תשר”ת פעם אחת, ולזכרונות תש”ת, ולשופרות תר”ת; ועכשיו נוהגים לתקוע למלכיות תשר”ת שלשה פעמים, ולזכרונות תש”ת שלשה פעמים, ולשופרות תר”ת שלשה פעמים

The cantor repeats the prayer, and they blow the Shofar following the blessings, for Malkhuyot TSRT once, for Zikhronot TST, and for Shofarot TRT. Now the practice is to blow for Malkhuyot TSRT three times, for Zikhronot TST three times, and for Shofarot TRT three times.

Rabbi Karo presents two practices for blowing Shofar during the repetition of Musaf: One set of each TSRT, TST, TRT, or three sets of each. These two practices would bring the total number of times the Shofar is blown, together with the sounds blown before the Musaf to either forty or sixty, still a far cry from the one hundred sounds rabbi Uziel defends so adamantly.

The question which must be asked is what has changed between the publication of the Shulhan Arukh, in which ancient Geonic traditions are reflected, and the response of Rabbi Uziel in the twentieth century.

The answer, rooted in mysticism, is found in the writings of a non-Sephardic author, Rabbi Yeshayahu HaLevi Horowitz. Rabbi Horowitz, better known as the Shelah, after his book, was born in Poland in 1558 and migrated to the Holy Land in 1621. He came through the city of Aleppo, in Syria, and then spent some time in Jerusalem before settling in Safed. In the century before his arrival in Safed, the city has been the center of Sephardic scholarship and mystical activity. It is not a surprise then that the Shela’s introduction of a Kabbalistic reason for blowing the Shofar a hundred times, was readily accepted by the Sephardic community.

This is what Rabbi Horowitz tells us about the number of Shofar sounds:

ומצאתי קונטריסים נחמדים, עין לא ראתה אלהים זולתך, והיה האור גנוז, עד בא איש האלהים הרב האשכנזי האר”י ז”ל, וגילה סוד ה’ ליראיו. והם נתקנו על מנהג לתקוע מאה קולות, דהיינו שלשים קולות בישיבה, ושלשים קולות בתפלת לחש, ושלשים קולות על הסדר בחזרת שליח צבור התפילה, ועשרה קולות לאחר גמר התפילה

I have found nice booklets… Hidden until the arrival of the Arizal… they establish the practice of blowing one hundred sounds: thirty sounds seated, and thirty in the silent prayer, and thirty in the repetition of the prayer by the cantor, and ten after the prayer is over.

In conclusion, we see that after over a thousand years in which the Sephardic practice was to blow the Shofar in only two sections of the prayer, before the silent prayer and during the repetition, the introduction of Kabbalistic teachings has introduced a new practice, which very quickly became the main practice of Sephardic communities worldwide.

Ref:

  1.  Schirmann, J., Poets contemporary with Mose ibn Ezra and Yehuda HaLevi (III) pp. 297-299, in Studies of the Research Institute for Hebrew Poetry in Jerusalem, vol. IV, Jerusalem, 1945, Schocken Publishing House.
  2.  For the full text of the poem as well as for audio recordings of the different traditions, visit http://old.piyut.org.il/articles/1169.html
  3. Yefeh Nof Sephardic synagogue, Jerusalem.
  4. Midrash Tanhuma, Warsaw edition, on Genesis 22:1.
  5. Genesis 22:7. 
  6. דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות, בראשית פרק ט: ומעשה ברב אחד ששחט הרבה תינוקות בשעת השמד כי היה ירא שיעבירום על דת והיה רב אחד עמו והיה כועס עליו ביותר וקראו רוצח והוא לא היה חושש. ואמר אותו רב אם כדברי יהרג אותו רב במיתה משונה וכן היה שתפסוהו עכו”ם והיו פושטין עורו ונותנין חול בין העור והבשר ואחר כך נתבטלה הגזרה ואם לא שחט אותן התינוקות היו ניצולין
  7. The sounds of the Shofar will be referred to here by the traditional acronym according to which the letter T stand for Tequia, a long flat sound; S is for Shevarim, three short bursts; and R for Teruah, a vibrating sound.
  8. Rabbi Uziel supported women’s right to vote as early as 1921On his life and theology see Angel, Marc D., Loving Truth and Peace, the Grand Religious worldview of Rabbi Uziel, Jason Aronson, 2013.
  9. Uziel, Benzion Meir Hai, Mishpete Uziel, Jerusalem, 1995, Vol 3, 5:5.
  10. Psalms 47:2.
  11. The first half of the formula “he who changes” appears in M. Bava Metzia 6:2 and in M. Shevuot 8:6. The is not looked favorably by the sages. The second half: “is not looked at favorably by the sages” appears three times in the Mishnah in a positive sense “is looked favorably” and only once in the negative form, in M. Bava Batra 8:5.
  12. On the rabbinate in Salonika in the early years of the twentieth century, see: Naar, Devin E., Jewish Salonika, Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece, Stanford University Press, 2016, pp. 89-137.
  13. When discussing Sephardic tradition, I include writings from the Geonic period, even though most of the activity of the Geonim took place in Babylonia. That is because the term Sephardic in the context of Halakha and practice is much more than a geographic marker. It describes a theology and an ideology which have begun to take root in the Geonic era in Babylonia, were carried over to Spain, and then globally promulgated after the expulsion.   
  14. Rav Ahai (680-752) was the leading scholar in the Pum Bedita school of Bavel following the Talmudic period. Despite his greatness, he never held the position of Gaon, which was reserved for the head of the school. His book of Sheiltot, or questions, is the first systematic work of Halakha to be written after the Talmud. 
  15. the term repetition of the Amidah cannot be used here, since the Musaf recited silently and the one recited by the cantor were not identical. The personal Amidah was written in the same formula of Shabbat and Holiday prayers, with one central blessing called קדושת היום – Sanctifying the day, flanked by three blessings of each side. In the public recitation, led by the cantor, the prayer was performed as we know it today, with the three blessings dedicated to Rosh HaShana in the center. 
  16. The sounds of the Shofar will be referred to here by the traditional acronym, according to which the letter T stand for Tequia, a long flat sound; S is for Shevarim, three short bursts; and R for Teruah, a vibrating sound.
  17. Teshuvot HaGeonim, Shaare Teshuvah, Hazzan Edition, Livorno, 1869, ch. 45: וששאלתם ענין שופר של ראש השנה, כי מנהג גאונים להתריע אחר סיום התפלה תרועה גדולה כדי לערבב את השטן, וכך הוא מנהג בשתי ישיבות. אנו ראינו להשיבכם כי אין אנו עושין כן בתורת מנהג, ולא שמענו שאבותינו נהגו כך, אלא שיחידים מתעסקים כל אחד ואחד בתאותו. מהא דכי אתא רב יצחק בר יוסף, אמר: “כד מסיים שליחא דצבורא תקיעתא ביבנה, לא שמע איניש קל או(ד)ניה מקל תקועייא” למדנו שהיו רגילים הראשונים שהיחידים תוקעין אחר תפלה, ולא שחייבין, כי שליח ציבור מוציאן ידי חובתן, אלא מצוה מן המובחר להתריע אחר סיום התפלה וכדי לערבב את השטן ושפיר דמי למעבד הכי, ואם אין עושין כן אין בכך כלום. ושאר הגאונים ז”ל מודים שצריך להתריע על כל פנים
  18. B. Rosh HaShana, 30:1.
  19. Malkhuyot, Zikhronot, and Shofarot are the three special blessings added in Musaf of Rosh HaShana, named after their main theme, respectively: God’s Sovereignty, Remembrance, and the Shofar.
  20. Horowitz-HaLevi, Yeshayahu, Shene Luhot HaBerit, Yad Ramah publications, Haifa, Israel 1995, tractate Rosh HaShana, 68.

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