Is the Essence of the Commandment of Shofar in the Sound or the Physical Horn?


  • Rabin Shushtri


Mishna Rosh Hashanah, Yerushalmi Rosh Hashanah, Bavli Rosh Hashanah


The commandment of shofar blowing has evolved an incredible amount from the source in scripture to the rabbinic halakha. This article deals with an immensely important development within the commandment: the importance of the physical shofar structure within the context of the broader commandment.

A comparison between the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds in their respective passages regarding the legal status of shofars sanctified for temple use or shofars used for idolatrous practices teaches that there is an accepted stance amongst both Babylonian and Palestinian Amoras (Rava and Rabbi Elazar respectively) that the essence of the commandment lies in hearing the sound of the shofar and has nothing to do with its physical form. However, the stamaitic layer (the later, anonymous editors of the Talmud) of the Babylonian passage explains this viewpoint quite differently, so much so that it only emphasizes the physical form to be the essential element of the Shofar, utterly ignoring the previous opinion that the essential piece is the sound.

An examination of the sources which discuss a shofar that had a hole in it and he closed it up indicates a significant exchange of traditions concerning the question of the essence of the commandment of shofar. The outlook of the Mishna is that the essential element is the shofar’s sound. However, a Braita (external Tanaitic source) found in the Babylonian text presents that both standpoints found in the Mishnah (Tanna Kama and R. Natan) require the shofar to be physically whole in order to fulfill the commandment. In the parallel Braita in the Palestinian text, the stance taken by the Tana Kama matches the view held in the Mishna – that the commandment’s essence is the sound – unlike the Babylonian interpretation of it. In addition, the Palestinian edition also interprets the sentiment of R. Natan that the commandment is in the sound.



How to Cite

Shushtri, R. (2022). Is the Essence of the Commandment of Shofar in the Sound or the Physical Horn?. Sidra, 34, 21. Retrieved from