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As a general rule, it is forbidden to speak once the blessings before the blowing of the shofar have been recited until after the hundredth final blast has been blown.1 This is because speaking between the first and last shofar blasts is deemed to be a forbidden interruption in the course of the mitzvah. It might even render the blessings in vain depending on when the interruption was made. In most congregations, the rabbi or other official makes an announcement immediately prior to the blowing of the shofar reminding the congregation that conversation is forbidden from this point onwards until the shofar blasts have been concluded.

Rav Moshe Feinstein was once asked whether it is appropriate for such an announcement to be made in a congregation where it is likely that no one will pay attention to the halacha and speak between shofar blasts anyway.2 Perhaps the principle of “mutav sheyihiyu shogegin ve’al yehiyu meizidin – better that they should transgress unknowingly rather than knowingly” should be applied.

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Rav Feinstein answered that such an announcement should continue to be made for a number of reasons. He says that the principle of mutav sheyihiyu shogegin ve’al yehiyu meizidin only applies when there is complete certainty that the people will ignore the halacha. However, where there is no reason to assume that the warning will be ignored by everyone, it should still be made for the benefit of those who will abide by it. He also adds that in a situation where the majority of people are likely to abide by the warning and only a minority will ignore it, one is obligated to make the announcement since it is better to have a minority that are deliberate transgressors than to have a majority who are unintentional transgressors.

Finally, he says that the principle of mutav sheyihiyu shogegin ve’al yehiyu meizidin only applies when one is in a situation that calls for rebuking someone directly. However, it does not apply in a situation where one is simply educating people regarding what halacha says. Indeed, one is permitted to teach halacha even when there are those in the audience who will choose to ignore it. So, too, when a rabbi is asked a question, he is required to respond according to the halacha even if the questioner is likely to ignore the ruling.

 

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  1. OC 592:3; Mateh Ephraim 592:5. See also Rivevot Ephraim 1:403.
  2. Igrot Moshe, OC 2:36.
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Rabbi Ari Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He teaches halacha, including semicha, one-on-one to people all over the world, online. He is also the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (9 volumes), the rabbinic director of United with Israel, and a rebbe at a number of yeshivot and seminaries. Questions and feedback are welcomed: rabbiari@hotmail.com.