Friday, October 3, 2008

Shofar & a break in the mesorah

One of the main parts of our Rosh Hashana service is the blowing of the shofar. I had always been taught in school that we are really only halachically required to blow a set of tekia-teruah-tekia blasts. However, in our times since we do not know the true sound of the tekia, we cover our bases and blow it in several possibilities. therefore, we have sets of tekiah-teruah-tekia, tekiah-shvarim-tekia, and tekiah-teruah + shevarim -tekia (for those not familiar with these terms, i have defined them below). After these, we blow additional ones just to round out the service.

This doesn't really jive with the concept of an unbroken chain from the time God gave the torah at Har Sinai to the Jews until our present day, which is something that is en essential belief in Orthodox Judaism. For if the chain was trully unbroken, we wouldn't have an issue of forgetting the right sound. This of course leads me to wonder what other things may have been forgotten and we are doing completely wrong.

Shofar sound primer:
teruah - one long shofar blast of approximately 5-6 seconds
shevarim - 3 medium blasts
teruah - 10+ very short blasts
shevarim-teruah - 3 medium blasts folowed by 10+ very short ones.


Garnel Ironheart said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the even more obvious problem: Raashi vs Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. However, there is an answer to your concern.
Remember that until the time of Rabbi Yehuda haNasi the Oral Law was forbidden to be written down, just as the Written Law was forbidden (and in many cases still is) to be recited from memory.
However, by the time of Rabbeinu Hakadosh, it was clear this system was no longer working well. Look at all the disputes Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai had, each of them holding that their school's interpretation of the law was THE correct one. Due to the troubles facing our ancestors different traditions had developed and become authoritative in different places.
Hence Rabbi Yehuda haNasi wrote down the Mishnah, using his brillians and Divine inspiration to decide which existing teachings were actually part of the Oral Law and which weren't. The authoritative ones became the Mishnah.
Later on, as different understandings of the Mishnah developed, the Gemara got written down in an attempt to create one unified. But even then, divergent opinions continued to appear and get written down. Rabbi Yehoshua says this, Rabbi Eliezer says that, etc. And what about "teiku"? How many times does it appear? Each time it's an admission by the gemara that it doesn't have an answer to a particular legal situation. Yet there should be an answer!
It is therefore most likely that two different traditions regarding teruah arose in different places and each was regarded as THE teruah. And our Sages, in their desire to serve God as perfectly as possible, chose to keep both in the liturgy.
This is another proof of the honest of the Oral Law, by the way. No attempt to wipe out dissenting views and present an unbroken, unchallenged chain of tradition was ever made. Any law that wanted to make it big had to overcome opposition and argument.

jewish philosopher said...

"This of course leads me to wonder what other things may have been forgotten and we are doing completely wrong."

We're doing the best we can; what's wrong with that?

Rich Perkins said...

I mentioned shofar because that what was on my mind since we just passed rosh hashana.

I am not claiming that the oral torah is being dishonest and is trying to fool us. However, if you agree that two traditions have evolved, it is very possible that one of them is not the way the halacha was intended. or perhaps, they are both wrong. why can't it be possible with other halachot, where we all do the same thing, that we are doing it wrong?

in the end, all I was saying was that just as we can lose the specifics of how to blow the shofar, we can lose the specifics of ANY mitzvah. And perhap we have added stuff on to some and completely lost stuff from others. In any case, it is a break in the chain that we supposedly have from Sinai.

Rich Perkins said...

JP - We're doing the best we can; what's wrong with that?

nothing wrong with that per se, but you have to realize that WE MIGHT BE WRONG. I don't think the rabbis are maliciously changing things, but it is possible that we are totally off base on the intention of some of the mitzvot.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Certainly there's a chance that a halacha practised today isn't being done right.

Some people, for example, don't believe anyone knows how to make matzah properly anymore and will avoid it during Pesach except for the seder.

As for different traditions, the gemara has an answer for that too: 1) eilu v'eilu divre Elokim
2) Rachaman liba ba'eh
3) Lo bahsomayim hi

All this principles allow for an evolution in halacha as long as the original principles, which we still know, are observed. Some people eat in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeres, some in the house. Who's right? Chazal tell us that a minhag in Israel (the people, not the state) is a holy thing to be observed. It is possible for both groups to be right as long as the tradition doesn't violate any halachic principles and is carried out with the intention of serving Heaven.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Have an easy fast, Rich.

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