• Chodesh Elul

  • Some Insights into the Minhagim of Yomim Noraim

  • Tkias Shofar

Chodesh Elul
1. We do not announce the new month the Shabbos before Rosh HaShana. Some say that the reason is because it is well known when the new month begins since it is Rosh HaShana.
2. Many recite the Yom Kippur Koton service for Elul even if they don’t observe this custom the rest of the year.
3. The custom of the Shulchan Aruch was to say Slichos the entire month.
4. The reason for this was the fact that Moshe Rabeinu ascended the mountain to receive the second Luchos and it is a time of favor from HaShem.
5. Our custom is to add the mizmor of “L’Dovid Hashem Ori” to our davening morning and evening.
6. There was a custom for the shamos to announce this month “Shuva Banim Shovavim” - it is a time for tshuva.
7. We blow the shofar the entire month until Erev Rosh HaShana. Some start from the first day of Rosh Chodesh, some from the second day.
8. There is a custom to recite ten paragraphs of tehilim each day with the tzibur.
9. Kaddish may be recited if ten people said tehilim together. If there were latecomers, wait and say at least one paragraph together.
10. We start saying Slichos the Sunday before Rosh HaShana unless Rosh HaShana is on Monday or Tuesday. In that case, we start saying Slichos on Sunday the week before.
11. One can say Slichos without a minyon, omitting the 13 midos and those passages that are written in Aramaic.
12. We begin each one of the Slichos With “Elokeinu”, etc. unless that paragraph already begins with one of the names of HaShem.
13. It is customary that the one who leads the Slichos also leads the other tefilos of that day. Some even say he takes precedence over one who is observing a yahrtzeit
14. Many have the custom to fast, at least for part of the day, on the first day of Slichos.
15. Some make “HaToras Nidorim”, rescinding of the vows, forty days before Rosh HaShana.
16. Some read the portions about the creation of the world, from 25 Elul until Rosh HaShana.
17. One should initiate serious introspection and confession during this month.
18. The Kaf HaChayim quotes sources that the people who will participate in leading the Rosh HaShana service should distance themselves from those items or conduct that could bring about “tuma”.

Some Insights into the Minhagim of Yomim Noraim
1. We begin to recite “Le David HaShem Ori” from Rosh Chodesh Elul until after Shmini Atzares because Rosh HaShana is “Ori”, my light, the light of judgement, and “yishi” is Yom Kippur, my help, my atonement.
2. At the end of Slichos we recite “Ashamnu” three times. This corresponds to the three statements of “I have sinned” mentioned in the vidui of the Kohen Gadol.
3. We open the Aron Kodesh at certain times during the davening to heighten the kavana; this is compared to the kohen entering into the Kodesh.
4. We begin blowing Shofar from the beginning of the month – a reminder of the Shofar blown when Moshe ascended to receive the second tablets. This reminds us of the sin of the “Egel” and the need to do tshuva.
5. Some insist that the chazan should be at least thirty years old, similar to the Levi who began his service at that age.
6. Likewise they insist he should be married, similar to the Kohen Gadol in Yom Kippur.
7. We rise early to daven on Rosh HaShana. Five times during the year we begin the davening early and these times are hinted at in the name of Avrohom. The five letters of Avrohom are the last letters of: a) Hoshana b) Tisha B’Av, c) Yom Kippur d) Rosh HaShana e) Purim.
8. During the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh HaShana, the Sifre Torah remain on the Bimah. Two reasons given for this are: a) to remind us of the blowing of the trumpets when the karbonos were brought to the mizbeach since the bimah is likened to the mizbeach and the Sefer Torah to the karbonos b) The Torah itself reminds HaShem of the good deeds of the Jewish people.
9. The Shofar is covered at first to remind us of the ram that replaced Yitzchok in the episode of the Akeida; it was covered in the bushes.
10. The Baal Tokea receives an aliya on Rosh HaShana. The Torah causes joy to a person and this heightens his ability to perform the mitzvah.
11. We recite the “mi sheberach” for the weekday since this is a time for calling out to HaShem.
12. We end with a Tkea Gedolah as a signal to the people that they may continue with the davening.

Tkias Shofar
1. One should blow shofar in a standing position, not even leaning on a table, etc. If one sat, he still fulfills the mitzva.
2. During the tkios before Musaf, it is only a custom for the listeners to stand, not an obligation.
3. If one already heard shofar, and is blowing for another person, that person should say the brochos. Some have the custom for the one blowing to say the brochos.
4. It is preferable to hold the shofar on the right side, lifted upwards.
5. If one arrives to shul late and didn’t hear the brochos, he should immediately say them quietly before the next set of tkios.
6. The mitzva begins with sunrise, but if one blew after daybreak it is still valid. The custom, however, is to wait until before Musaf to do the Mitzvah.
7. Already at the time of reciting the brochos, one should grip the shofar.
8. One should not blow shofar on Rosh HaShana for no reason. However, he may blow:
1) If he is not sure he heard or blew well.
2) If there is a custom to add certain sounds.
3) If he wishes to fulfill various opinions in halacha.
9. Any type of sound which emits from the shofar is acceptable. This includes shrill or deep sounds.
10. The Aruch HaShulchan feels that a barely audible sound is not acceptable for tkias shofar, as it does not qualify as a “kol”, a legitimate sound.
11. The sound of the tkiah should be as smooth as possible. It should not sound like two different sounds but should be evident that it is one tkiah.
12. Many opinions feel that one must hear the shofar without the use of a hearing aid or such amplifiers.
13. The one who announces each sound should not do so until the amain of the people is completed. Also he should not announce a new sound until the previous one is completed in its entirety.
14. A most interesting question is - does the place where one performs the mitzva and the person performing it have to be clean, just like when reciting the Shma, or except for the brochos, can the mitzva itself be performed in any place or circumstance?
15. The one listening to the sounds of the shofar should concentrate on hearing all the sounds from beginning to end.
16. The shofar itself should be clean and beautiful. Particles of foreign matter might constitute an obstruction or change the sound and invalidate the mitzva.
17. The Rambam reminds us that the shofar on Rosh HaShana has a power to awaken us to the task at hand which is tshuva and rectifying our ways. Perhaps this is another reason why the shofar is bent - to remind us that presently our actions are also not straight.