Volume 24 Number 89
                       Produced: Wed Sep 11  7:30:01 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The 1974 Teshuva Drasha of Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik - I
         [Arnold Lustiger]


From: <alustig@...> (Arnold Lustiger)
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 10:04:58 -0400
Subject: The 1974 Teshuva Drasha of Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik - I

Man as Both Subject and Object:
The 1974 Teshuva Drasha of Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik

The Brisker school of Lithuanian thought is known for precise categorization
of Halakhic constructs. The best known of these categorizations is the
"Gavra- Cheftza" dichotomy: whether a mitzvah is subject or object oriented.
In his teshuva drasha of 1974, the Rav expands the scope of such
categorization to describe the fundamental principles which underlay the
mitzvah of shofar. He then extends the concept further to forward a view of
the metaphysical effect of sin and repentance on man.

The Mitzvah of Shofar: Objective and Subjective Components

As a prologue to every section of the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam lists the
mitzvot discussed therein. In his prologue to Hilkhot Shofar, the Rambam
states that there is a requirement...

....to hear the sound ["kol"] of the shofar on the first of Tishrei

However, in the very first paragraph of the first chapter, the Rambam states
the following:

It is a positive biblical mitzvah to hear the blast ["terua"] of the shofar
on Rosh Hashanah as the verse states ' a day of  terua shall it be for you'
(Hilkhos Shofar 1:1)

The Rav picks up on two subtle differences in wording between the prologue
and the first sentence, and asks the following questions: 1)  Why does the
Rambam use the different terms of "kol" and "terua" to refer to the sound
emanating from the shofar?  2) Why is the day referred to alternately as
"the first of Tishrei" and "Rosh Hashanah"?  

The answer to both questions lies in understanding the dual aspect of the
Mitzvah, as laid out by the Rambam:

Even though the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of the
Torah, there is a hint in it as it is written: "Awake sleepers from your
sleep and slumberers from your slumber and search your deeds, return in
repentance and remember your Maker...(Hilkhos Teshuva 3:4)

These words do not merely constitute a moral message, but have halakhic
implication as well. By introducing the scriptural "hint", the Rambam here
proposes a new aspect to the obligation of blowing shofar.  Besides the
purely physical act of blowing the shofar, there is a so-called "kiyum
shebalev", an aspect of the mitzvah that requires a subjective inner

There are many mitzvot that do not contain any subjective component. As one
example, one can fulfill the obligation of taking the lulav on Succot
without necessarily reacting to the significance of the experience.

In contrast, intrinsic in the mitzvah of  shofar is a specific response that
the sound should evoke. In delineating the dual aspect of this mitzvah, the
Rambam's words are  precise. "Even though the blowing of the shofar is
Biblically decreed..." i.e. even though there is an aspect of the mitzvah
that is external and objective, with no reason provided, "... there is a
hint in it": there is an inner, emotional fulfillment without which one has
not truly addressed the obligation inherent in the mitzvah. 

The objective and subjective components of the Mitzvah of shofar are
indicated by the Biblical phrases " yom terua and zikhron terua respectively
(1). Yom Terua, the objective component of the mitzva, is democratic in the
sense that anyone who hears the necessary shofar blasts fulfills the
obligation, even if that person had no intention to fulfill such an
obligation. However, the  zikhron terua aspect involves a qualitative
dimension. One who has greater understanding of the significance behind the
shofar, who is deeply involved in both the festivity and awe engendered by
its sound, is merited with a greater fulfillment of the mitzva.

One indication that the mitzvah of shofar has this subjective component is
the close halakhic relationship between blowing the shofar and prayer.
Although there are two sets of  shofar blasts heard on Rosh Hashanah: the
"tekiot demeyushav" (the shofar blasts blown prior to the musaf prayer), and
the "tekiot deme'umad" blown during musaf, Rashi on Chumash states that the
Biblical obligation is not fulfilled until one has heard the latter (2). 

The integral relationship between prayer and shofar suggests that the highly
subjective, inner emotional experience of prayer must be paralleled by a
similar sensitivity regarding shofar. Verbally formulated prayer must be
synthesized with a second type of prayer, that emerging from the sound of
the shofar. As a result, there are a number of close parallels between the
mitzvah of shofar and the mitzvah of prayer. For example, at the conclusion
of the Rosh Hashanah Shemoneh Esrei, we say:"For you listen to the sound of
the shofar and are attentive to 'terua'". We request that Hashem listen to
the shofar blast, in language analogous to the request in the slichos

"Listener of prayer, unto you all flesh comes..."

The close identity between prayer and shofar is manifest elsewhere as well: 

" [The] shofar, since it is made to be a memorial, ("zikhron"), it is as if
it is in the Holy of  Holies [of the Temple]" (Rosh Hashanah 26a)

King Solomon, in his dedication of the Temple, similarly identified the
direction of prayer as well as its path by way of the Temple (1 Kings 8).  

In light of this concept, an apparent conflict between two passages in
Tractate Rosh  Hashanah can be resolved. In one Mishnah, a statement appears
that states:

"All shofar honms are valid [for the mitzvah] except that of a cow..." (Rosh
Hashanah 26a)

Yet in another statement later in the tractate we see the following:

"The shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah must be bent."(Rosh Hashanah 26a)

If virtually all varieties of horns are valid, how can they be limited to
shape (3)? The Rambam, in explaining this conflict as a difference of
opinion among Tannaim, states:

"And the shofar that is blown, whether on Rosh Hashanah or on Jubliee, 
must be a bent horn of a sheep, and all shofars are invalid except for the
horn of a sheep" (Hilkhos Shofar 1:1)

clearly assigning the halakha to the second opinion. The Gemara (Rosh
Hashanah 26a) explains the necessity for the shofar to be bent:

"The more a  person bends  his will,  the better"

 and Rashi elaborates:

"His face towards the ground is preferable because of the verse "and my eyes
and heart are there" (1 Kings 9:3). Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah when [the
shofar] is used for prayer, and to recount the sacrifice of Isaac, it is
required to be bent"

The halakhic specification of the shofar's shape suggests that prayer is a
critical motif underlying the performance of this Mitzvah (4), reinforcing
the integral relationship between prayer and shofar. 

The Dual Nature of Prayer

The close relationship between prayer and shofar is reflected in how one
should approach the act of prayer itself. The "kiyum shebalev" of prayer
rests on the absolute dependence of man to the Creator. As such, prayer is
not only an act in which Jews must engage: the need to pray is universal.
When Shlomo dedicated the first Temple, he specifically included the non-Jew
in the prayer community :

"And also to the non-Jew that will come from a distant land... will come and
pray in this house" (I Kings 8:41-42)

If a person feels no such dependence on a Creator something is missing in
his very humanity. Prayer is a natural urge: "As  a ram pants for brooks of
water, so my soul yearns for you, L-rd" ( Psalms 42:2).

Prayer is generally associated with the one attribute which differentiates
Man from other life forms: that of speech. Through speech, man represents
himself through the very attribute which attests to his greatness. Man
stands before the Creator and engages in conversation: 

Man, with his capability of achieving  prophecy, engages Hashem in a
dialogue through verbal prayer.

However, not only man engages in prayer:

"Hearer of prayer, unto you *all* flesh  will come"

All living creatures engage in this activity. Instinctively, all living
creature pours out their needs to Hashem. The mystics visualized the
chirping of the birds, the cry of the jackal as instinctive sounds united in
prayer to their Maker.

When a Jew prays, he must recognize that he does not pray alone. He must
identify himself not only as the the very crown of creation who can express
himself with words, but he must also identify himself as a simple a life
form with mundane but very real physical needs.

For the Jew, this wordless cry expresses itself best in the sound of the
shofar, and hence forms the basis of the halakhic and philosophical link
between shofar and prayer. 

In which of these two aspects of prayer must man engage first: in well
formulated verbal prayer, or instinctive, nonverbal prayer?  In the Rosh
Hashanah service, the three aspects of  Malkhuyot, Zikhronot and Shofarot
are first recited respectively, followed by the shofar blasts suggesting
that the verbal precedes the nonverbal. 

This sequence of verbal prayer followed by the shofar blasts reflects a sort
of frustration with the inadequacy of verbal prayer. As one example, the Rav
said that on Yom Kippur, at the conclusion of the Ne'ilah service, he often
feels that despite having spent the entire day in prayer that he has not
expressed a tiny fraction of the what he wants to impart to Hashem. This
thought is expressed explicitly within the Ne'ilah prayer itself: 

"The needs of you nation is great, yet they are lacking in intellect [i.e.in
the ability to express these needs]" 

As the closing moments of Ne'ilah approach, the supplicant feels that he has
in fact not prayed at all. What should he do? Start praying over again? Man
cannot live long enough to truly express all his inner feelings and needs. 

To illustrate this point, one can imagine that if a parent is absent from
home for an extended period of time, the child fantasizes that he will tell
all of what has transpired to him in detail during the parent's long
absence. However, at the moment of reunion, the son forgets all that he had
planned to tell the parent and is left with only disorganized and fragmented

A Jew feels the same way at the conclusion of Ne'ilah. He has spoken and
said nothing. In order to express everything that he wishes to impart, there
is only one solution: he must let out an instinctive yell. In one second he
must express what he could not verbalize in an entire day of prayer. As a
response to the ultimate futility of prayer in his expression of need,
shofar always follows, both in the musaf of Rosh Hashanah as well as in Ne'ilah.

This motif of the constrained nature of prayer in describing man's needs is
doubly true when attempting to praise Hashem. Our morning prayers starts
with the prayer "Baruch Sh'amar", a prayer in which we express confidence
and optimism that our praise and song will be adequate: "He is praised in
the mouth of His nation, extolled and glorified in the tongue of his
followers and servants...we will exalt you Hashem our G-d with praise and
song, and we will magnify You, laud you, glorify You, and acclaim You as
King and invoke Your Name..."

However as the praises in Pesukei Dezimra progress, the more dissatisfied
one becomes with the inadeqacy of his ability to even begin to express G-d's
praise. Finally, in the concluding prayer of Pesukei Dezimra, Yishtabach,
man understand that despite all the previous prayers he has accomplished
nothing and said nothing. According to the Baalei Hakabala, Yishtabach means
that G-d's true praise can only emanate from G-d himself: the word
Yishtabach is in the passive voice. The conclusion of Yishtabach states:
"for to You song and exaltation, praise and song is pleasing": not "we have
sung, exalted and praised You". The person praying doesn't have the
"chutzpah" to express such a thought, because if he did he would be lying.
Hashem is "Kel hahoda'ot, Adon Hanifla'ot": above the praise of mankind. The
only reason we are even allowed to brazenly make the attempt is because He
is "habokher beshirei zimra": chooses that he be praised with song. One of
the mercies of Hashem is that he gives us permission to give praise, despite
our abject inadequacy in even making the attempt. 

Thus, the differences in wording between the Rambam's introduction and the
Mitzvah detail can be understood. The Rambam, by his use of the phrase "to
hear the sound of the shofar on the first of Tishrei"  refers only to the
aspect of the mitzvas shofar dealing with the the outward act. The day
itself is merely referred to as the "first of Tishrei" as if to minimize the
emotional significance of the day, emphasizing instead the mechanical
performance underlying the mitzvah. However, when the Rambam  states: "It is
a positive mitzvah of the Torah to hear the terua of the shofar on Rosh
Hashanah" the emphasis is on the "kiyum shebalev": the emotional
fulfillment. As a result, the Rambam uses the word terua to denote the sound
of the shofar, evocative of the trumpet blast which is mandated at a time of
communal danger:

"And if you go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you,
then you should blow [a terua blast] with the trumpets" (Numbers 10:9)

The word terua is used when the trumpet is blown in response to moment of
crisis. Man is conscious of this day not merely as a specific occasion in
the calendar on which a mechanical act is performed, but as the in which man
engages in prayer to plead for his life on this day of judgement.. The
Rambam therefore uses the specific name for the holiday which evokes this
activity: Rosh Hashanah. 

Man's Split Personality

In the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of shofar, the "kiyum shebalev",  the
Rambam lingers on the reproof that man should take to heart inherent in its
sound. To whom is this reproof addressed? In the communal blowing of the
trumpet discussed earlier, the leaders of Israel blow, and hence provide
reproof,  while the masses hear the sound and accept the reproof.  However,
the mitzvah of shofar on Rosh Hashanah is incumbent on individuals as well.
When a Jew blows in order so that he can fulfill the Mitzvah, to whom is the
message of the shofar directed?  In other words, who is the "reprover" and
who is the "reproven"?

The answer can be inferred in a Gemara in Tractate Rosh Hashanah:

"The Rabbis stated: The following are obligated in the blowing of the
shofar: priests, levites, and Israelites, strangers, freed slaves,
hermaphrodites, those castrated and half slaves. One who is half slave
cannot blow on behalf of those of his own kind or those not of his kind. Rav
Huna states that for himself he can blow. Rav Nachman responded to Rav Huna:
What is the difference between blowing for himself or blowing for others?
Just as the part of himself  that is a slave cannot allow others to fulfill
their obligation [when the half slave blows the shofar on another's behalf],
similarly the part of himself that is a slave cannot allow the free half  of
himself  to fulfill his obligation. Rav Nachman said that he cannot blow
even for himself" (Rosh Hashanah 29a)

One who does not have an obligation to fulfill a Mitzvah cannot be the cause
of the fulfillment of one who has the obligation. A half-slave therefore
cannot blow shofar on behalf of a free man because the half slave is exempt
from the Mitzvah.

However, not only can he not blow shofar on behalf of non-slaves, but he
cannot even blow on behalf of another half slave. This is because the part
that is a slave cannot blow on behalf of the part that is free. Rabbi Nahman
goes further to state that the half slave cannot even blow shofar on his own
behalf, since the act of blowing is being accomplished by the part of the
individual who is a half slave, and hence exempt,  as well as the free part.

But what does a half slave do when it comes to other Mitzvos that only free
men are obligated to perform? With regard to prayer, tzitzit, tefillin or
lulav, the half slave must do all these Mitzvos, in effect ignoring the half
that is not obligated. Why then should shofar be different than these other

The reason shofar is different is because the actual mitzvah is not in the
blowing but in the hearing. The blessing said before hearing the first
shofar blasts states:"...who has sanctified us with his mitzvos and
commanded us to hear the sound of the shofar" Hence, he who blows the shofar
creates a sound in which others, as well as himself, can fulfill the
Mitzvah. In other words, inherent in the mitzvah of shofar is the
participation of two types of individuals: a "tokea" (blower) and a "shomea"
(listener). Regarding the mitzvah of megilla, in contrast, he who reads the
megilla is fulfilling his obligation through the reading itself, not the
listening. Similarly, in the other Mitzvos enumerated, such as donning
tallit and tefillin, there is no demonstrative aspect at all. One fulfills
the obligation through the act of the mitzvah itself.

In regard to shofar, it would appear that the shofar splits the person who
blows it into two parts: a tokea and a shomea: an active and passive

In light of this Halakhic construct, one can now infer an approach to who
provides the reproof and who is the reproven. When an individual is both the
"tokea" and "shomea", the individual is speaking to himself. The mitzvah of
shofar thus expresses itself as a dialogue between two personalities within.
As one talks, the other listens.

However, in a strict sense it is incorrect to state that it is the Mitzvah
of shofar itself which splits the personality in this way. Mitzvos in fact
should perform the opposite function: that of uniting the personality.
Fulfillment of Torah unites a split, scatttered personality into a coherent
whole. The prayer which includes the hope of gathering the dispersed of
Israel addresses an imperative on an individual as well as communal level.

The bifurcation of personality occurs not through Mitzvos, but rather
through sin. Sin splits the personality into "tameh" (impure) and "tahor"
(pure) components. Judaism in contrast desires the unity of the individual,
in keeping with the imperative to be the image of G-d. "Vehlakhta bidrakhav"
or "imitatio Dei" is the foundation of human existence. Since Hashem is One,
our own goal must be to emulate this attribute as closely as possible. The
Torah never accepted the dictum that the body is intrinsically impure: man
must strive towards sanctification of the body.  Judaism desires man to be
internally consistent: without conflict or contradiction. 

In a sense, we are fortunate that sin performs this function of splitting
personality.  Otherwise, the entire personality would become enveloped in
impurity. If the whole personality would be corrupt, it would be impossible
to engage in teshuva. Repentance can only work from an intially uncorrupted
core. Even in the most egregious of transgressors, something pure must
remain. Judaism does not believe in the modern theory that there are
irreedeemable criminals doomed to spend their lives in sin. Even Yeravam,
the greatest sinner of all, as well as Acher, were told "hazor bakh, hazor
bakh" (5), to return. A fundamentally impure personality cannot effect such
a return.  The split in personality makes teshuva possible.

The equation between sin and separation is a theme in Kabalah as well. Sin
results in the separation of the attribute of  "malkhut" from "yesod":
between the Divinity manifest in nature and the Divine spark revealed to
people through the soul.

The shofar therefore addreses itself to the split personality of the sinner.
The pure part of this personality provides reproof, while the the impure
part listens. The shofar thus in effect tells the person that the sinner can
only speak in the name of a portion of the personality, not the whole person.

The messsage of  the shofar, that the impure portion of the personality does
not represent the entire individual, is part of what the Rambam calls the
"story of the exodus from sin". In his first letter to the Ibn Ezra (6), the
Rambam drew an analogy between teshuva as Exodus from sin and the exodus
from Egypt. In this conception, the person is a slave to the sinful aspect
of his personality, while teshuva is the redemption from sin. Just as on
Pesach we must engage in telling the story of the exodus from Egypt, on Rosh
Hashanah we must also engage in telling the story of the exodus from sin.
The shofar is the medium through which this story is told. The message to
the sinner is that there is an inner, pure part to his personality which was
sublimated and in exile, and that the sinner is acting as a false witness if
he represents himself as the entire individual.

Arnie Lustiger


End of Volume 24 Issue 89