Monday, September 6, 2021

Rosh HaShanah: "With the Shofar"

 "With the Shofar"

Thoughts on Rosh HaShanah 2021

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The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 34b) describes the structure of Musaf on Rosh HaShanah. The Amidah includes three unique berakhotMalkhuyot (Kingship), Zikhronot (Remembrances) and Shofarot, and each part concludes with the sounds of the shofar. Rabbah explained:

 

The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: “Recite before Me on Rosh HaShanah Malkhuyot, Zikhronot, and Shofarot. Malkhiyot – so that you will crown me as King over you; Zikhronot – so that your remembrances will rise before Me for good. And with what? With the shofar.

 

The shofar isn’t blown as a “standalone” trumpet on Rosh HaShanah, but rather as an “accompaniment” to the words that we speak. The sounds of the shofar complement our statements of honor to God as our King and requests that He remember us favorably.

 

The shofar, then, is a rare opportunity to introduce a unique “musical accompaniment” to the tefilot on the holidays. Why?

 

The late neurologist Oliver Sacks once wrote about his meetings with patients who were struggling with expressive aphasia, unable to speak their thoughts or feelings. He would sing to them “Happy Birthday,” and then marvel as they joined in, singing the tune and sometimes even the words of the song. Sacks explained that the language capacities of these patients were never lost, but rather buried “inside” them, and it was the tempo, rhythm and melody of music which brought them out.[1] He cited, as well, the case of an elderly man who struggled to put together simple sentences, but could still play the piano, read and write music, take part in a weekly singing group, and – most surprisingly – read a passage chosen at random from the Torah with use of the music cantillation notes (ta’amim).[2]

 

R. Shimon b. Semah Duran z”l, a great 15th Century Sephardic authority, explained that just as the vowels (nikud) define the precise meaning of a Hebrew word, the ta’amim bring out the underlying messages of the laws and narratives of the Torah.[3] And although it is generally accepted that (in unideal situations) one may read from the Torah without ta’amim, R. Hayim Soloveitchik z”l was adamant that each of the ta’amim be read properly, at times even forcing the Torah reader to repeat a word or verse to correct a mistaken ta’am.[4] He seemingly reasoned that the rhythmic flow of the reading is inseparable from text itself.

 

“R. Yohanan said: Concerning anyone who reads from the Torah without melody or studies the Mishnah without a song, the verse states: ‘So too I gave them statutes that were not good’ (Yehezkel 20:25” (Megilah 32a). Tosafot (s.v. ve-hashoneh) referred to the ancient practice of reciting Mishnayot to a particular tune as an aide for memory. The text couldn’t stand alone. It had to be blended together with the melody of song.

 

The music which accompanies words, then, is like the soul which fills the body. It is a force which instills life, elevating the words from sound to meaning. Neither the body nor soul is complete on its own in this world. Instead, they must come together to sustain the miraculous entity of life.

 

…And with what? With the shofar.

 

Carefully chosen words of praise and request represent the “body” of Rosh HaShanah. The shofar is its “soul.” The prayers focus on the significant aspects of our relationship with God – our acknowledgement of Him (Malkhuyot) and His remembrance of us (Zikhronot). They fashion the “body” of the day. But what is a body without its soul? Therein lies the secret of the shofar. The majestic sound of the tekiah, the broken sigh of the shevarim and the whimpering cry of the teruah form the unique musical accompaniment of Rosh HaShanah. They are the soul.

 

I hope and pray that this Rosh HaShanah will be for you and your family an experience which is enriched by the lively union of body and soul – tefilah and shofar.



[1] Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (New York, NY, 2007), pg. 234.

[2] Sacks, pg. 236.

[3] R. Shimon b. Semah, Magen Avot, pg. 55.

[4] As related by R. Herschel Schachter, Nefesh HaRav (Brooklyn, NY, 1994), pg. 139.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Heating the Water in the Mikveh

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Heating the Water in the Mikveh," here.


Follow along with the sources here.


For further research:

Read Evyatar Marienberg's article, upon which the class was built, here.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Truths of Halakhah (5)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "The Truths of Halakhah (5)," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Yom Kippur: Contending with Reality

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Yom Kippur: Contending with Reality," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Continuing the Oral Torah (5)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Continuing the Oral Torah (5)," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Key Cards on Shabbat

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Key Cards on Shabbat," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Rosh HaShanah: Returning to Potential

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Rosh HaShanah: Returning to Potential," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The "Written Words" of Halakhah (5)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "The 'Written Words' of Halakhah (5)," here.


Follow along with the sources here.



For further research: 

Listen to our class on "Reading Secular Books or Newspapers on Shabbat" here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Elevators on Shabbat

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Elevators on Shabbat," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Mystery of The Three Keys

 

Listen to tonight's class, "The Mystery of The Three Keys," here.


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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Continuing the Oral Torah (4)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Continuing the Oral Torah (4)," here.


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Nefesh HaHayim 4.10 (1)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.10 (1) here.


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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Torah of Humans

 


Listen to tonight's class, "The Torah of Humans," here.


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Sunday, July 25, 2021

בריך שמיה: A Brief History

 


Listen to this morning's class, "בריך שמיה: A Brief History," here.


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The sources for this class were culled from R. Haim Talbi's Vezot HaTorah, pg. 97-111.

Nefesh HaHayim 4.7

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.7 here.


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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Security Cameras & Motion Sensors on Shabbat

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Security Cameras & Motion Sensors on Shabbat," here.


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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Forget About It!


Listen to tonight's class, "Forget About it!" here.


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Read a related devar Torah, from Mishpatim 2020, here.

Lost & Found: Finding Yourself in Exile

 


Watch yesterday's class, "Lost & Found: Finding Yourself in Exile," here.


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Sunday, July 11, 2021

Can Midrash Determine Halakhah?

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah? (4)" here


Follow along with the sources here.


For further research:

Listen to Part 1,  Part 2  and Part 3  of "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah?"

Nefesh HaHayim 4.6 (2)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.6 (2) here.


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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Lighting Shabbat Candles at a Hotel


Listen to tonight's class, "Lighting Shabbat Candles at a Hotel," here.


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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Transcendence

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Transcendence," here.


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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Where to Say the Sheva Berakhot

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Where to Say the Sheva Berakhot," here.


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Nefesh HaHayim 4.6 (1)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.6 (1) here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Netilat Yadayim in the Bathroom

 


Tonight we began a new series on "Hotels & Halakhah."


Listen to the first class, "Netilat Yadayim in the Bathroom," here


Follow along with the sources here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Recognizing Truth

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Recognizing Truth," here


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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Nefesh HaHayim 4.5

 


Listen to this evening's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.5 here.


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Can Midrash Determiine Halakhah? (3)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah? (3)" here


Follow along with the sources here.


For further research:

Listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah?"

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Nefesh HaHayim 4.4

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.4 here.


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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Continuing the Oral Torah (3)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Continuing the Oral Torah (3)," here.


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Nefesh HaHayim 4.3-4

 



Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.3-4 here.


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Sunday, June 6, 2021

Continuing the Oral Torah (2)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Continuing the Oral Torah (2)," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Nefesh HaHayim 4.3 (2)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.3 (2) here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Nefesh HaHayim 4.2-3

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.2-3 here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Continuing the Oral Torah (1)




Listen to this morning's class, "Continuing the Oral Torah (1)," here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Can Midrash Determine Halakhah? (2)

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah? (2)" here.


Follow along with the sources here.


For further research:

Listen to Part 1 and Part 3 of "Can Midrash Determine Halakhah?"

Nefesh HaHayim 4.1 (3)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.1 (3) here.


Follow along with the sources here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

R. Shimon bar Yohai & Life After Eden

 


Listen to tonight's class, "R. Shimon bar Yohai & Life After Eden," here.


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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Moshe Rabenu & R. Akiva

 


Listen to tonight's class, "Moshe Rabenu & R. Akiva," here.


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Sunday, May 9, 2021

טעמא דקרא - Halakhah, Reason & Tradition

 


Listen to this morning's class, "טעמא דקרא - Halakhah, Reason & Tradition," here.


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Nefesh HaHayim 4.1 (2)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 4.1 (2) here.


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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Limits of Hesed

 


Listen to tonight's class, "The Limits of Hesed," here.


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For further research:

Read a related passage from Mikhtav MeEliyahu vol. 4 (pg. 175) here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Light of Torah

 


Listen to tonight's class, "The Light of Torah," here.


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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Nefesh HaHayim 4.1 (1)

 


Listen to this morning's class on Nefesh HaHayim 1.4 (1) here.


Follow along with the text and sources we cited here.

Responding to Embarassing Origins

 


Listen to this morning's class, "Responding to Embarrassing Origins," here.


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Sunday, April 18, 2021

R. Ovadia Yosef: Texts & Traditions

 


Listen to this morning's class, "R. Ovadia Yosef: Texts & Traditions," here.


Follow along with the sources here.


For further research:

Listen to our class on "Non-Jewish Cooking and the 'Coffee Shoppe'," here.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Mystery of Sefer Hemdat Yamim

 


Listen to this morning's class, "The Mystery of Sefer Hemdat Yamim," here.


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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Parashat Shemini: Unity & Separation

 


Listen to last night's class on Parashat Shemini, "Unity & Separation," here.


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Friday, April 2, 2021

Oats, Hamess & Massah


Listen to this morning's class, "Oats, Hamess & Massah," here.


Follow along with the sources here.



For further research:

1) Read R. Yosef Efrati's "בענין זהוי שיבולת שועל," here.


2) Read R. Michael Broyde's blog post, "Oat Matzah," here.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Yessiat Misrayim - Continuing the Partnership

 

Listen to this morning's class, "Yessiat Misrayim - Cotinuing the Partnership," here.


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The "Secret" to "What We Do"

 


Listen to this morning's class, "The 'Secret' to 'What We Do'," here.


Follow along with the sources here.



For further research:


1) Listen to "The Kabbalists' Expansion of 'What We Do'," here.


2) Listen to "Halav Yisrael" here.


3) Listen to "The 'Danger' of Exposed Beverages," here.