If you ask any fourth-grade Yeshivah student, “How many sounds must we blow on the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah?”, he will respond, “100 sounds.” If you ask any well-educated college-age Yeshivah student, “Why do we blow 100 sounds on the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah?”, he will answer that we are told about blowing 100 sounds by Tosafot (Rosh HaShanah 33b s.v. Shiur), quoting the Sefer HaAruch, who mentions this Halachah under the word Areiv. The Mishnah Berurah (592:4), citing the Shelah, also explains that we blow 100 sounds on the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah.
The Sefer HaAruch (s.v. Areiv) states, “From here we learn that [we blow] 30 during the Amidah (standing Shofar sounds during the Shmoneh Esreih of Musaf) and 30 during the sitting Shofar sounds; there are those that are strict and blow 30 sounds during the sitting time (right before we put away the Sifrei Torah at the end of Shacharit), 30 sounds during the quiet Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf, and 30 sounds during the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf, corresponding to the Kolot which the mother of Sisera cried. Another 10 are blown as we complete the prayers. It is simple for one to blow these 10 as Tashrat (Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, Tekiah), Tashat (Tekiah, Shevarim, Tekiah), and Tarat (Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah). Three times each set (90 Kolot, plus the last ten) add up to the 100 [Kolot].”
The Shelah writes, “With regard to the matter of the order of the sounds of the Shofar during the order of the blessings, there is a disagreement among the authorities as cited in the Tur and in the Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 592). Praiseworthy are those holy congregations that flee to the chosen path to blow Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat for the section of Malchuyot; Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat for the section of Zichronot; and Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat for the section of Shofarot, as is our custom in the land of Israel. The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 592) writes, ‘When the person leading the prayers repeats the prayer (Shemoneh Esreih), we blow according to the order of the blessings: in the section of Malchuyot, we blow Tashrat one time; in Zichronot, Tashat; and in Shofarot, Tarat. Nowadays, we have the custom to blow, in the section of Malchuyot, Tashrat three times; in the section of Zichronot, Tashat three times; and in the section of Shofarot, Tarat three times.’ However, there is no taste or smell to this (it makes no sense to follow this custom) because by doing this, one has not pushed away all the doubts. Already, the custom has spread here in the land of Israel to blow Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat for the section of Malchuyot, again for the section of Zichronot, and a third time for the section of Shofarot. The more adherent of the most adherent blow 100 Kolot. So we, the holy congregation in the holy city of Jerusalem, are also accustomed to blow 30 Kolot during the sitting (at the end of Shacharit before we put the Sifrei Torah away), 30 Kolot during the blessings (in the Shmoneh Esreih of Mussaf), as we said above, and 30 Kolot after [the prayer of] Aleinu LeShabei’ach; after that, we recite Anim Zemirot and we blow Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat. This is a nice and beautiful custom.”
I recently encountered an old set of Rodelheim Machzorim from 1832. I was shocked to see that a total of only 40 sounds are mentioned. I then began to look at other Ashkenazic Rosh HaShanah Prayer Books. They included Machzor Vitri, printed some time before 1095/4855, which mentions 40 sounds; Abudraham, printed in 1350, which calls for 40 sounds; a Rosh HaShanah Machzor printed in Homburg, Germany, in 1737, which mentions 42 sounds; my parents’ and grandparents’ Rodelheim Rosh HaShanah Machzorim from 1953 and 1915, which call for 40 sounds; Kol Bo Machzor, printed in 1914/5674, which mentions 42 sounds; and Adler Rosh HaShanah Machzor, published by the Hebrew Publishing Company, NY, and printed in 1959, which calls for 42 sounds.
Chayai Adam (the author lived from 1748-1821) records that the custom was to blow 40 sounds, but he blew 42. He adds that some people had the custom to blow another thirty sounds after the prayers, and some of those people had the custom to add another 30 sounds to total 100 sounds. Shulchan Aruch (1488-1575) notes (Orach Chaim 592:1) that the custom was to blow 40 sounds, but during his lifetime, the practice changed, and people began blowing a total of 60 sounds. Rama (1530-1573) records (ad. loc.) that the custom was to blow 42 sounds. The number 42 follows the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer HaYashar Cheilek HaTeshuvot 68), who asserts that we should blow only three times Tashrat during Musaf (to give a total of 42 sounds) because Tashrat includes the other sounds of Tashat and Tarat.
I did not find any classic Rosh HaShanah Machzorim that mention 100 sounds. If both the Sefer HaAruch, written between 1035-1106 / 4866-4794, and the Shelah, written between 1560-1630 / 5320-5390, tell us that people were blowing 100 sounds, why did the Rosh HaShanah Machzorim and books of Halachah since that time tell us to blow 40, 42 or 60 sounds, but not 100?
Permit me to pose one other question: Rama (O.C. 596:1) rules that once we have completed blowing the required number of sounds of the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah, we should not blow any additional Shofar sounds. Accordingly, how could people have the custom to blow any additional sounds after the prayers? This question also arises according to the Sefer Chayai Adam, which states, “After we complete the prayers we have the custom to blow an additional 30 sounds. And there are those that have the custom to blow again an additional 30 sounds, so that there should be a total of 100 sounds. And when they would complete the blowing, there are those that say that it is prohibited to blow more sounds for no reason.…”
It is amazing that both the Aruch and the Shelah use words such as " those that are strict” and “the more adherent of the most adherent” to tell us that only those select people blew a total of 100 Sounds. If Halachah prohibits blowing any additional Sounds on the Shofar after fulfilling the commandment of blowing the Shofar on the day of Rosh HaShanah, what is “strict” or ”more adherent” about blowing more than the minimum number of sounds that have already fulfilled our Torah and Rabbinic commandment of blowing the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah?
The answer must be that both at the time of the Aruch and at the time of the Shelah, there were select people blowing different kinds of additional sounds to include as many of the opinions/customs to allow them to fulfill the Torah commandment of blowing the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah. To achieve this, they had to blow as many as 100 sounds. As the Shelah says regarding the custom of blowing a total of only 60 sounds, “There is no taste or smell to this custom because by doing this (blowing a total of 60 sounds), one has not pushed away all the doubts (opinions/customs).”
Based upon this complete reading of the Shelah and the Aruch, it is my opinion that anyone who blows all 100 sounds using the same exact sounds over and over again is not accomplishing the true purpose of blowing these additional 70 sounds. According to the decree of Rebbi Avahu, we have already accomplished our commandment from the Torah to blow the Shofar after the first set of 30 sounds that are blown at the end of the Shacharit service. Therefore, all the additional 70 sounds that are blown after the original 30 sounds should be utilized for the reason of the Aruch and the Shelah, which is to include as many of the opinions/customs as is mathematically possible.
Henry Feuerstein (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's Shofar-blower for the last 15 years of his life in Brookline, Massachusetts (1978-1993)) told me that he blew all his Shevarim like “Reb Chaim's Shevarim.” He blew short (Rashi-style) Shevarim, each with a hook. He blew 90 sounds (30 before Musaf at the end of Shacharit, 30 during the silent Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf and 30 during the repetition of the Shemonah Esreih of Musaf), blowing each Tashrat set either with a breath between the Shevarim and the Teruah or without a breath. Then Rav Soloveitchik instructed him blow 12 more sounds (Tashrat three times, following Rabbeinu Tam) at the end of Musaf, when Ashkenazim usually blow 40 sounds, either with a breath or without a breath between the Shevarim and the Teruah (the opposite of the method used for the Tashrat sets within the first 90 sounds). This brought his total number of Shofar sounds to 102. This would appear to be a prime example that Rav Soloveitchik also understood that we blow extra sounds to fulfill as many of the possible opinions/customs as possible.
Two of the Shofar-blowers from Elizabeth, NJ, Shlomo Wohlgemuth and Naphtali Goldstein, explained to me that there is a unique custom in Elizabeth that Rav Pinchas Teitz (1908-1995) started. Rav Teitz requested to blow the Shofar in Elizabeth this way: 30 sounds at the end of Shacharit before we put the Sifrei Torah away, then 20 sounds during Malchuyot in the repetition of Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf – 10 without a breath in the Tashrat set and 10 with a breath – then 20 sounds during Zichronot in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf – 10 without a breath and 10 with a breath – then 20 sounds during Shofarot in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf – 10 without a breath and 10 with a breath – then 10 sounds at Titkabeil during the Kaddish at the end of Musaf, for a total of 100 sounds. According to his son and successor, Rav Elazar Meyer Teitz, this unique version of the 100 sounds was conceived many years ago by his father, since during his father’s time, many of the congregants did not stay until the end of the davening. Therefore, Rav Pinchas Teitz forwarded into the repetition of Musaf as many of the 100 sounds as possible.
It would appear that Rav Pinchas Teitz understood that with each set of 10 sounds consisting of Tashrat, Tashat and Tarat, he was fulfilling the minimum amount of sounds required by the Torah, including the decree of Rebbi Avahu (since the Torah command is for us to only blow 3 times Tarat). With each set of 20 sounds, these Shofar-blowers in Elizabeth, NJ, are able to fulfill a full set of Torah sounds according to each particular opinion (with and without a breath in the Tashrat set) in each of the sections of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot.
Shlomo Wohlgemuth and Naphtali Goldstein report that when the congregants permit them, they blow different kinds of Shevarim in each set of 20 sounds. For example, the first set of 20 sounds will contain straight Shevarim, the second set of 20 sounds will contain “Ta’oo Ta’oo” Shevarim, and the third set of 20 sounds will contain a different kind of Shevarim (some years they will blow, if the congregants allow them, the “unusual-sounding” 5 Shevarim of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik). The last set of 10 sounds may contain “Yekke” Shevarim (“Breuer's”/Frankfurt am Mein custom of Shevarim). After this last set of 10 sounds, they will not talk, since after the davening ends, they will continue blowing the Shofar for women or men who had not yet heard the Shofar. They will now blow another set of 10 sounds with the same kind of Shevarim they had just blown in the previous set of 10 sounds, but this time either with or without a breath in the Tashrat set, following the opposite of the opinion they had followed during the previous 10 sounds. If they continue blowing the Shofar, they will usually use another kind of Shevarim for their next set of 20 sounds. Thus, Rav Teitz and these very talented Elizabeth, NJ, Shofar-blowers also understand that we blow more than 30 sounds for the sole reason of fulfilling as many of the different opinions/customs as possible.
The Otzar (Collections of) HaGe’onim (Ge’onim lived 589-1038 / 4349-4798) records that the Ge’onim blew only 40 sounds: “In the response of the Great Ga’on Rav Moshe, it is written that thirty Tekiot are blown when “seated” (before the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf) and ten [are blown] when “standing” (during the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf). Tashrat, Tashat, and Tarat are each blown once [in the Shemoneh Esreih of Musaf.] These 40 sounds correspond to the 40 days that Moshe stood on Har Sinai from Rosh Chodesh Elul until the day of Yom Kippur (which is 40 days later), when he received the last [set] of Luchot...”
We may understand that the explanation of the Great Ga’on Rav Moshe is only a Remez (hint) and not the Halachic reason to blow 40 sounds. Just like Hashem forgave Bnei Yisrael when He allowed Moshe to stand on Har Sinai for 40 days to receive the second set of the Ten Commandments, we should blow 40 sounds on Rosh HaShanah so that Hashem will forgive us too.
For many years, most Ashkenazic Jews blew only 40 (or 42) sounds on Rosh HaShanah. Only at some later date, perhaps even as late as the early 1900’s (or even as late as after World War II) did all Ashkenazic Synagogues begin to blow a total of 100 sounds on Rosh HaShanah. Editor’s note: Yemenite Jews to this day blow only forty sounds.
As the Sefer HaAruch mentioned above, these 100 sounds correspond to the cries of the mother of Sisera. What does the mother of Sisera have to do with the sounds of the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah? The Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 33b) tells us that Onkelos translates the sound of Teru’ah as a Yevava (cry). A form of this word Yevava is found in the Pasuk in Sefer Shofetim (5:28) regarding the cries of the mother of Sisera after she realizes that her son has died. The Pesukim state, “Through her window peered Sisera's mother. She wailed (“VaTeyabeiv”) through the lattice, ‘Why does his chariot delay? Why do the sounds of his chariot tarry?’ The wisest of her ladies answers her, and she, too, answers herself.”
Sefer Toda'ah tells us that there are 101 Hebrew letters in these two verses. These 101 letters correspond to the 101 cries of the mother of Sisera, and that is why we blow 100 sounds. We cannot blow 101 sounds to correspond exactly to the cries of the mother of Sisera because our sorrow of repentance cannot match the sorrow of a grieving mother. Editor’s note: Sephardic Jews blow 101 sounds.
We can understand that theconnection to the mother of Sisera is also just a Remez, similar to the Great Ga’on Rav Moshe’s Remez regarding the 40 sounds. Just as general Barak and all of Bnei Yisrael did Teshuvah (repentance), which allowed them to defeat and kill Sisera, which caused Sisera's mother to cry, Hashem should forgive us on Rosh HaShanah as we begin our path to complete our Teshuvah during these Aseret Yemei Teshuvah.
Editor’s note: The idea of utilizing the additional sounds to accommodate a variety of opinions is supported by the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 590:4; followed by Sephardic Jews) to blow Shevarim-Teruah in one breath during the first thirty Kolot and in two breaths during the standing Tekiot.
Author’s note: If anyone would be interested in seeing the complete version of this Devar Torah (27 pages), please e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org