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QUESTION: I do not understand the practice of blowing so many extra blasts of the shofar, as is done in most synagogues on Rosh Hashana. Is that not in violation of the command bal tosif, as stated in Deuteronomy (13:1), “You shall not add to [G-d’s commandments]”?
Elliot Solomon
(Via E-Mail)
ANSWER: Last week we discussed the types and the sequence of the shofar blasts. This week we present our conclusion, focusing on the concept of adding to the minimum required number of blasts.

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Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 33b) s.v. “Shiur teruah”, refer to the Aruch (by Rabbi Natan ben Rabbi Yechiel zt”l, a contemporary of R. Gershom Me’or Hagolah and Rashi). We now quote from the text as found in the Aruch, under the entry “arev de’halin”, where he states as follows – referring to the verse (Isaiah 25:8), “Bila hamavet la’netzach… – Death shall be destroyed forever…” and another verse (ibid. 27:13) stating, “Vehayah ba’yom hahu yitaka be’shofar gadol – And it shall be on that day that a great shofar will be sounded…”: When Satan hears the shofar the first time, sometimes he is alarmed and sometimes he is not alarmed. But when he hears the shofar blast a second time, he is suddenly aware that the shofar blast is the great shofar heralding his own destruction, and he is thus shaken and confused and has no time to prosecute. (See Rosh Hashana 16b, where the Gemara explains that some of the blasts are performed while sitting and some while standing in order to confuse Satan).


From here, continues the Aruch, we learn that those who are strict blow 30 blasts while “sitting”, namely, before the amida (of Mussaf); 30 during the silent Shemoneh Esreh; and 30 according to the order [of Malchuyot, Zichronot, Shofarot in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh]. These sounds parallel the 100 sobs of the mother of Sisera [when she heard of her son’s defeat (Shoftim 5:28)]. Since the blasts listed here only total 90, the Aruch continues, an additional 10 [blasts] are blown when they finish the entire prayer, and this last set must  be TaShRaT, TaShaT, TaRaT, a set of 10 blasts, for a total of 100. (The custom is to blow these 10 blasts during the concluding Kaddish.)

We can now address your interesting question. The Gemara (Rosh Hashana 33b) concludes that we fulfill the mitzva with 30 blasts. Nevertheless, we follow the Aruch and blow an additional 70 blasts. You ask whether, in doing so, we transgress the prohibitory precept of “bal tosif.”

This precept is derived from two biblical verses. One is found in Parashat VaEt’chanan (Deuteronomy 4:2): “Lo tosifu al hadavar asher anochi metzaveh et’chem velo tigre’u  mimenu … – You shall not add to that which I have commanded you nor shall you detract from it…” The other verse is in Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 13:1) “Et kol hadavar asher anochi metzaveh et’chem oto tishmeru la’asot, lo tosef alav velo tigra mimenu – Every matter that I have commanded you, you shall take care to observe; you shall not add to it nor shall you detract from it.”

Rashi in his commentary gives numerous instances of how one might violate this command. Some examples are: attempting to enhance the mitzva of tefillin with five parashiyot instead of four, using five species on Sukkot for the mitzva of the lulav (one more than what the Torah commanded), adding a fourth blessing to the three of Birkat Kohanim (see Rosh Hashana 28b, which also discusses netifat hadam, the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifices. The blood of a sacrifice which requires only one sprinkling, such as that of a firstborn animal sacrifice, is not to be mixed with the blood of other sacrifices, such as shelamim or asham – peace offerings or guilt offerings – which require four sprinklings. This is also a case of not adding and not diminishing.)

Commenting on the verse in Deuteronomy (4:2), Da’at Zekenim explains that if one adds to a commandment, one is considered to be detracting from it because of the rule of “Kol hamosif gore’a” – Whosoever adds, detracts. Therefore, should one add a fifth tzitziyot, he has lost out by not fulfilling the required mitzva of four tzitiyot. Likewise, as Rashi states, a fifth parasha in the tefillin, or five species for the precept of lulav (and etrog) invalidate the entire mitzva.

Da’at Zekenim then concludes by explaining that if one sits for eight days in the sukka, the eighth day is not added to the seven days to invalidate them, and what he has done (on the seven previous days) is considered to be a fulfillment of the mitzva. Da’at Zekenim bases this opinion on the Gemara’s (Sukka 47a) conclusion in reference to the eighth day, which might actually be the seventh day: “The halacha is that indeed we do sit in the sukka, but we may not recite the beracha (leishev basukka).”

Beit Yosef in his commentary on the Tur (Orach Chayyim 668) cites the Rosh, who explains that the reason we do not recite the blessing (leishev basukka) is that the last day is referred to as Shemini Atzeret, the Eighth Day of Assembly (which is considered a separate festival). If it is still Sukkot then it is not Shemini Atzeret. On the other hand, if it is Shemini Atzeret it is not Sukkot. Since we have a doubt, we opt for strictness and continue to eat in the sukka. However, we do not recite the blessing.

If such is the case, then why not use the lulav on that day as well, as we have done throughout Sukkot? Beit Yosef explains that as regards the lulav they did not wish to rule that we should take it without reciting a blessing – since there is a doubt – because it would then be considered muktzeh on Yom Tov. As regards the sukka, at times sitting in the the sukka is quite pleasurable, and thus we will eat in it on the last day of Yom Tov (Shemini Atzeret).

Regarding tekiat shofar, we might ask whether it can be compared to the mitzva of lulav, and thus we may not blow any additional blasts beyond the 30, or whether it is similar to the sukka, where, although we do not recite a blessing, we do sit in it (on the eighth day). Do we violate “bal tosif” when blowing beyond the first 30 blasts?

Tosafot (Rosh Hashana 16b s.v. “Vetok’im”; and note also Tosafot 28b s.v. “Umina teimra”) ask this question. How can the Gemara state that we blast the shofar when we sit (before the amida), preceded by the two berachot, Lishmo’a kol shofar and Shehecheyanu – see Orach Chayyim 585:2, Hilchot Rosh Hashana – and then blast the shofar when we stand (during the amida) in order to confuse Satan, when this seems to be a violation of “bal tosif”, not to add to a mitzva?

Tosafot then postulate that since the first set of tekiot fulfill the obligation, any additional blasts would not be in a timely manner of performance. Since the mitzva has been [completely] fulfilled, there cannot be a violation of “bal tosif.” That is further explained by Tosafot regarding Birkat Kohanim, the [three] priestly blessings to which a kohen may not add a blessing of his own. As long as it is still within the time when the Priestly Blessing may be recited, and possibly another assemblage in need of the Priestly Blessing will call upon his services, he may not insert a blessing of his own (because that would be a hefsek, an interruption). Here as well, perhaps it is possible that another congregation will seek out the ba’al tekiah to blast the shofar for them, thus it is still timely, and any additional blasts possibly constitute a bal tosif.

Tosafot then allay this concern and point out that the rule of bal tosif is not relevant when one fulfills a mitzva (in its entirety) more than one. Thus, even where a kohen blesses the same assemblage twice (the three berachot are recited twice) or if one takes the lulav twice, or in our case, if one blasts the shofar (the required thirty blasts) and then blasts again, or regarding the sprinkling of blood of the sacrifice of the firstborn animal, and the kohen sprinkles at the same corner (of the altar) twice, this is not considered a violation of bal tosif.

Yet even with the analysis of Tosafot we still do not fully comprehend how it is not bal tosif. For further clarification, we turn to Responsum 20 of the Ketav Sofer (R. Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer-Shreiber, zt”l, one of the great poskim of Hungarian Jewry in the 19th century), where his main topic is the sukka on the eighth day, on Shemini Atzeret, regarding eating, sleeping, etc. In that responsum he discusses our problem at great length. He cites Rashba (in Rosh Hashana 16b), who states as follows: “Whenever there is an enactment by the Sages (which appears to be in violation of bal tosif), there is actually no bal tosif, and thus we may add to the blasts of the shofar and, likewise we sit in the sukka on the eighth day – which is possibly the seventh day – because for a mitzva to be considered in an untimely fashion there is a need of intent (kavana), and without that element of premeditation there is no bal tosif.”

Rashi (Eruvin 96a) s.v. “ve’od ha’yashen ba’shemini basukka” states that if the day is indeed the eighth day, it is understood that the specific intent is not to fulfill any obligation of sukka. This would be satisfactory in a case where there is true doubt. Today we are considered “beki’im bi’keviat di’yarcha,” experts at calculating the calendar, and thus when we observe a second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora, we keep the traditions of our fathers, as our sages instruct us. Since we do it at the behest of our sages, there is no bal tosif.

Similarly, in our case we deduce that where the Sages have decreed to blast the shofar again (and it appears to be timely), one is considered to be an annuss, one who is forced against his will to fulfill the instruction of the Sages. According to Rav Shreiber’s scholarly thesis, as we noted at the outset, our blasting of the extra tekiot on Rosh Hashana does not violate bal tosif.

Indeed, may the final blast of the shofar at the conclusion of Yom Kippur shatter Satan as well as those who wish Klal Yisrael any harm, and may it herald the beginning of our final redemption. As we read (Isaiah 27:13), “Vehayah bayom hahu yitaka beshofar gadol, u'[b]a’u ha’ovdim be’eretz Ashur ve’hanidachim be’eretz Mitzrayim vehishtachavu la’Hashem behar hakodesh biYerushalayim – And it shall be on that day that a great shofar will be sounded, all those who were lost in the land of Ashur will come, and the outcasts in Egypt, and they will bow to Hashem on His holy mount in Jerusalem.”

Le’shana haba’ah biYerushalayim ha’benuya – Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at