Monday, June 20, 2005

Hadran alach!

Masechet Rosh Hashanah is completed! I won't give away the ending here; you'll have to wait for the siyyum, which we'll do sometime in the next few weeks.

We started at the bottom of 33b and made a valiant charge for the end. Rav Ashi and Ravina do not disappoint -- before the tractate is over, they tie up all the loose ends, including ends that we thought would remain loose. That's right, when we least expected it, we finally got the gezeirah shavah between Rosh Hashanah and yovel! This is necessary to show that the thing we blow on Rosh Hashanah has to be a shofar (rather than a trumpet or a bugle or a flugelhorn), since we never explicitly get the word shofar in the sections of the Torah about Rosh Hashanah. But then in the end, there was an unanticipated twist! We were all waiting for the obvious teru'ah teru'ah, and instead we got shevi'i shevi'i! I.e., all teru'ot in the seventh month (in Yom Kippur of the yovel year, or Rosh Hashanah of any year) must be with a shofar. We couldn't use teru'ah teru'ah for this, because that would run into trouble with Numbers 10, which uses teru'ah and is explicitly talking about a trumpet, not a shofar. And this gezeirah shavah (and/or its hekeish twin; the difference is quite subtle) gives us a bonus! We also learn that the teru'ah must have a teki'ah before and after it (you know, teki'ah teru'ah teki'ah, nothing to see here), and that there should be three sets of three blasts.

Another baraita has an alternate way of deriving these bonus properties for Rosh Hashanah, from a different gezeirah shavah..... teru'ah teru'ah!!!! But this time it's not from yovel, it's from the trumpets of Numbers 10! So if we're going that route, how do we derive that it has to be a shofar? We can't from the Torah. We have to go to Psalms. Tik'u bachodesh shofar...

Rabbi Abbahu instituted our crazy practice of blowing the shofar so darn many times. There is a fundamental uncertainty (indeterminable or indeterminate? I don't know) as to whether the thing between the two teki'ot is supposed to be what we now call teru'ah (staccato) or what we now call shevarim (three longer blasts). So R. Abbahu came up with the idea of tekiah shevarim-teru'ah tekiah, so if you think it's supposed to be shevarim, then you can ignore the teru'ah, and vice versa. Rav Avira says no way! What if it's really supposed to be teru'ah? Then we've interrupted with a shevarim. So we also have to do teki'ah teru'ah teki'ah. And Ravina says wait a second, what if it's supposed to be shevarim? Then R. Abbahu's plan interrupts this with a teru'ah. So we should also do teki'ah shevarim teki'ah. So can we now eliminate R. Abbahu's original proposal, and just do teki'ah teru'ah teki'ah and teki'ah shevarim teki'ah? NO!!! Because what if it really is supposed to be tekiah shevarim-teru'ah teki'ah? So, 1500 years later, we do all three permutations for each set of shofar blasts, just to stay safe. A final possibility: what if it's really supposed to be tekiah teru'ah-shevarim teki'ah? Don't be silly! the Gemara responds. No idiot would think that!!!

Rabbi Yochanan holds that the the nine shofar blasts need not have any continuity - they can be at nine different hours of the day. Some people might disagree, but they just tiptoe around it and no one explicitly disagrees with this point.

We plant the seeds for the practice in some communities of blowing the shofar during the silent Amidah. Rav Papa bar Shmuel was all for this, and would have someone blow shofar for him during his Amidah (he would snort or give some sort of signal when it was time), but others say that an individual praying on his/her own should just do shofar after s/he is finished with the Amidah.

The shofar is more important than the blessings! If you have a choice of going to one of two communities, one of which is blowing the shofar and one is saying the blessings, go to the shofar one! Even if there's a chance that you won't get there in time and you'll miss it!

The last sugya deals with whether the leader can fulfill the community's obligations for them, and I won't say a thing about it - you'll have to come to the siyyum! The only thing I'll mention is the entertaining meta-machloket, in which we argue for quite a while about whether we're arguing or whether we agree.

No finality here. See you at the siyyum!

In the meantime, I've started to learn the Rambam's Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh in preparation for my NHC class. So far it's the same content as the Gemara, but much more systematic, defining all the terms and giving scriptural sources in advance. The Rambam is Bert to the Talmud's Ernie.

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