Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Talking Between Shofar Blasts

I cannot recall attending a synagogue for Rosh Hashanah in which the rabbi or gabbai did not announce before the shofar blowing that one is not allowed to talk from the beginning of the shofar blowing until the very end, at the end of services (around two+ hours later). When I was single, refraining from speaking was never a challenge. But once I had little children who needed attention and instructions, maintaining silence became more difficult. And, frankly, I never quite understood the reason for this required silence. One fulfills the mitzvah of shofar with the first 30 blasts. So why the silence until the end of the full 100? After all, the 100 blasts is only a recent custom. It is true that there is a rabbinic requirement to hear the shofar blasts within the blessings of the Amidah prayer, but one who prays in a Nusach Sefard synagogue accomplishes that by the end of the silent Amidah, before the very long chazzan's repetition. So are you allowed to speak (if necessary) after the silent Amidah?

Looking into the texts, it seems the source of this prohibition is the Rif at the very end of Rosh Hashanah, who quotes a Gaon as saying that one may not speak until the very last shofar blast. However, the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or and Ran on that Rif dispute the halakhic reasoning behind such a prohibition. The Ran concludes, however, that since a Gaon said it, we should not speak unnecessarily. And so rule the Arukh Ha-Shulchan (592:8) and the She'arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halakhah (129:15).

Are you allowed to talk? No. It is a huge deal? I don't think so. While I still hesitate before telling a child "Go to mommy," I'm not sure that I need to. And if I do say it, I should not feel guilty about it (but I do anyway).

Note that this is not intended to encourage talking between shofar blasts, and especially not during the chazzan's repetition of the Amidah. But let's face it. Sometimes kids need to be taken care of.

(As always, ask your rabbi before following anything you see on the internet.)

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