This year, Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat and Sunday, and we will not therefore be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of sounding the Shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashanah – only on the second.
I always wondered, both as a young child and as an adult, why the Shofar is not sounded on Shabbat (beyond the familiar Halakhic reason for Chazal’s decree: viz. the fear that some unlearned person might bring his Shofar to an expert to learn how to blow it, and thereby accidentally desecrate Shabbat by carrying the Shofar in a prohibited domain).
However, beyond the purely Halakhic aspect, surely the Mitzvah of sounding Shofar is so lofty, special and unique – that it ought to justify overriding the Shabbat? Surely a Rosh Hashanah tefillah devoid of the excitement generated by the sounding of the Shofar cannot compare with a tefillah which awaits with bated breath the “Tekiah Gedolah”?
Rav Mordechai-Yosef Lainer (Rami), the Ishbitzer Rebbi, in his book, “Mei Ha’Shiloach” relates to the Mishna in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (4:1), which states: “When the Rosh Hashanah festival would fall on Shabbat, they would blow the Shofar in the Temple but not in the province” (i.e. outside the Temple precincts).
Rami explains that the Shofar and Shabbat symbolize two different realms of activity in the world. The Shofar represents human activity in the world, which derives from man’s internal side and exposes the Divine reality in the world. Performance of the Mitzvot is the realization of God’s Presence which is latent in the world and its elevation, its return to the upper worlds. It is for this reason that the giving of the Torah was accompanied by the sound of a great Shofar, because the Torah constitutes guidance to man on how through his actions he can reveal and realize God’s Divinity in the world.
Shabbat represents the opposite, viz. the activities of Hashem in this world, as a remembrance of the creation of the world and the Exodus from Egypt in which man was totally passive. It is for this reason that man is commanded to rest and not to create anything on Shabbat, and this is why Rami explains that there is no room for human activity, even by way of performing a Mitzvah (such as sounding the Shofar) on Shabbat.
However, the Mishna differentiates between the Mikdash – where the Shofar was blown – and outside the Mikdash, where the Shofar was not sounded. Rami explains that there are two levels of reality. Shabbat outside the Mikdash symbolizes a level in which a person sees a separation and confrontation between his activities and those of Hashem. A person cannot act in the place where Hashem acts. The human act stands at a lower level than the Divine act. He is therefore unable to act using his own abilities on Shabbat. However, Shabbat in the Mikdash represents man at the level at which he sees how his actions essentially derive from the power of Hashem; how each ‘human hand’ also contains within it God’s Divine Hand. The strength, security and certainty of human action become elevated to a different level of Godliness in light of this reality, which is why man is also able to operate on Shabbat. On this level, the Shofar would be sounded in the Mikdash also on Shabbat (in the same manner as all those acts performed on a weekday, such as the offering up of sacrifices etc, would also be performed in the Mikdash on Shabbat).
The year 5764 does indeed commence on the festival of Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Shabbat, and we are yet not on the level at which it is permissible to sound the Shofar. However, the hope is that as our activities increase, concerning which we sometimes have doubts and rethink things, especially as emissaries of a different reality, and to the extent that we better expose the Godliness latent in our world, so too we will merit to attain that level of the Mikdash in which we attain a total sense of oneness and confidence in both our actions and those of Hashem.
May we and all the House of Israel, wherever they may be, be written and inscribed for a good year ahead.