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Laws of the Conclusion of Yom Kippur

Rav David Brofsky
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The Shofar of Yom Kippur


            For many, the concluding moments of Yom Kippur constitute the most powerful part of the day. The congregation declares “Shema Yisrael” and “Hashem Hu Ha-Elokim” in unison, the chazan concludes Ne’ila with the festive Kaddish, the shofar is sounded, and all join in singing “Le-shana ha-ba’ah bi-Yerushalayim.” In this sequence of events, the blowing of the shofar stands out. Why is the shofar, generally associated with Rosh Ha-Shana, sounded on Yom Kippur? Furthermore, shouldn’t it be prohibited to sound the shofar on Yom Kippur, similar to when Rosh Ha-Shana falls out on Shabbat?


            The Rishonim offer numerous suggestions regarding the reason for this practice.


Tosafot (Shabbat 114b) record that the contemporary machzorim (prayer books) relate this practice to the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur of the yovel year (Vayikra 25:9-10). However, Tosafot reject this suggestion; if the shofar blowing is really related to the yovel year, then it should not be blown every year but rather twice each century! Furthermore, the Hagahot Maimoniyot adds that according to this reason, one should blow the shofar on Yom Kippur itself. Alternatively, he suggests that the custom to blow shofar is based upon the midrash that teaches that at the conclusion of Yom Kippur a heavenly voice (bat kol) proclaims: “Go and eat you food in happiness” (Kohelet 9:7). Similarly, Tosafot (ibid.) explain that the shofar is blown to declare that the fast has concluded, and therefore children may be fed and the festive meal to be eaten after the fast should be prepared.


Others offer different interpretations. The Rokeach (217) writes that blowing the shofar symbolizes our victory over the “satan.” The Kol Bo (70) explains that the shofar is intended to “confuse the satan,” who regains “control” after Yom Kippur. Finally, the Smag (Negative Mitzvot 67) writes that the blowing of the shofar corresponds to the Shekhina’s ascent through the seven heavens, parallel to each “Hashem Hu Ha-Elokim” that we declare, as the verse says, “And God ascends with the teru’a” (Tehillim 47:6).  


            There are two customs cited by the Rishonim regarding this shofar blowing - blowing one long sound or blowing a set of Teki’a-Shevarim-Teru’a-Teki’a (Tashrat). These customs would seem to correspond to the reasons we have just seen. If the sounding of the shofar corresponds to the ascent of the Divine presence, or even serves as a proclamation regarding eating or preparing food, then one long sound should suffice. However, if the blowing of the shofar parallels the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur of the Yovel year, then a proper set of Tashrat should be blown.


            As for the permissibility of blowing the shofar, the Rishonim (Ran, Shabbat 2a; Mordekhai, Yoma 727; Smag, ibid., et al.) explain that blowing the shofar is a chokhma (skill) and not a melakha (labor), and it is therefore permitted during twilight (bein ha-shemashot) of Yom Kippur. While some question this practice, as generally this leniency only applies before Shabbat begins and not as Shabbat ends, it is customary to blow the shofar before the fast is completely over. Indeed, some explain that certainly twenty minutes after sheki’a, beginning from the time established by the Geonim as tzeit ha-kokhavim (the halakhic end of the day), one may blow the shofar.


Kiddush Levana


Birkat Ha-Levana, also known as kiddush levana, may be recited within the first sixteen days after the appearance of the new moon (the molad). While the Shulchan Arukh (424:4) writes that one should not recite the blessing until at least seven days have passed since the molad, the Acharonim (see Mishna Berura 20, for example) rule that one may recite this blessing as early as three full days (i.e. 72 hours) after the appearance of the molad.


The Posekim cite different opinions regarding whether kiddush levana, the blessing recited upon seeing the new moon, should be recited before or after Yom Kippur.


The Rema (ibid.) records that one should not recite kiddush levana until after Yom Kippur. Some explain that one who fears the upcoming judgment cannot properly recite the Birkat Ha-Levana, with joy and happiness. After Yom Kippur, however, when one’s sins have been absolved, on may recite the kiddush levana.


Many Acharonim disagree. R. Mordekhai Yoffe (1530-1612), in his Levush Malkhut (Orach Chaim 602), explains:


The custom is to not to sanctify the new moon until after Yom Kippur because we are suspended in judgment and sanctifying requires happiness. I heard from one sage that on the contrary, it is preferable to sanctify the moon during this time so as to add this mitzva to one’s merits and perhaps tip the scales in favor of one's merits.


In other words, the Levush argues that it is preferable for one to perform the mitzva during the Aseret Yemei Teshuva in order to “tip the scales” in his favor. Similarly, R. Eliya Shapira (1660–1712), author of the Eliya Rabba (an important commentary of the Shulchan Arukh), wrote in his commentary on the Levush, known as the Eliyahu Zuta:


I also heard that one who recites the sanctification of the moon is guaranteed to survive the month. I cited this to support the Levush's argument that it is better to sanctify the moon before Yom Kippur so as to ensure that a decree of death will not be issued against you for the coming year.


In his Eliya Rabba (602:7), he also rules that one should preferably recite kiddush levana before Yom Kippur. The Gra (Ma’ase Rav 155) concurs.


Common practice seems to be to recite kiddush levana after Yom Kippur. The Matteh Efraim suggests eating a bit before reciting kiddush levana, although he acknowledges that one should not separate from the community if they recite the blessing immediately after the fast.


Havdala on Motza’ei Yom Kippur


The mishna (Berakhot 51b) discusses the blessing recited each Motza’ei Shabbat over the fire, in addition to the havdala blessing recited over the cup of wine and the accompanying blessing over besamim (spices). Regarding this blessing, the gemara (Pesachim 54a) relates that God has intended to give man fire on the sixth day, but waited until after the first Sabbath.


R. Yossei said… The Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed understanding upon Adam … and he took two stones, rubbed them one upon the other, and fire emerged.


Each and every Motza’ei Shabbat we acknowledge God as the one who has endowed us with the ability to create and use fire through reciting the blessing “borei me’orei ha-eish” (Blessed be He… Who created the lights of the fire).


            For havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat, one may use a preexisting flame that remained lit for the duration of Shabbat, known as a “ner she-shavat,” or a newly lit flame, known as an “eish ha-yotzei min ha-eitzim u-min ha-avanim” (see Berakhot 52b–53a), as we commemorate both the phenomenon of fire and its creation by Adam after the first Sabbath. Regarding Yom Kippur, however, the gemara explains that one must use a ner she-shavat. Seemingly, after Yom Kippur, during which we were denied the use of fire, we acknowledge the phenomenon of fire, but not its creation.


            What is considered a “ner she-shavat”? Seemingly, “ner she-shavat” refers to a fire which remained lit for the entire duration of Yom Kippur. Rashi (Pesachim 54a), however, explains that “if it was lit in a permissible manner [on Yom Kippur], such as for a new mother or a sick person… one may recite the blessing upon it after Yom Kippur.”


The Rishonim write that one may recite the blessing over a fire which was lit from a preexisting flame. Nevertheless, the Maggid Mishneh (Rambam, Hilkhot Shabbat 9:27) writes that although on Motza’ei Shabbat one may light a fire from a non-Jew’s preexisting flame and recite the blessing of “borei me’orei ha-eish,” on Motza’ei Yom Kippur on may not. The Shulchan Arukh (624:4-5) rules that one may recite the blessing on a fire that was lit from a preexisting flame, although it seems that preferable one should recite the blessing over the actual fire which remained lit for the duration of Yom Kippur, the “ner she-shavat” itself.


R. Avraham ben Natan Ha-Yarchi (12th century), in his Sefer Ha-Manhig (p. 362) records the custom to light extra long candles before Yom Kippur in order to recite the havdala blessing upon them after the fast. Furthermore, some Rishonim write that it was customary to light one’s own flame from the lanterns of the synagogue which remained lit over Yom Kippur. The Rema (624:5) cites two opinion regarding whether one should recite the blessing over the candles in the synagogue, as they were not lit in order to provide light but rather for “kavod” (Mishna Berura 12). He concludes that one should preferably light another candle from that fire, and then combine them and recite the blessing over both flames, in which case one’s blessing includes both the original “ner she-shavat” as well as a flame lit exclusively for light. Ostensibly, a “ner neshama,” lit in memory of a deceased relative, might also pose this problem. Therefore, one should light another flame from the “ner neshama” and recite the blessing upon that flame, or preferably upon both of them together.


May one, be-diavad, recite the blessing from a flame which was lit after Yom Kippur, which did not “rest” for the duration of Yom Kippur?


The Kol Bo (70) as well as the Sefer Ha-Me’orot (Berakhot 53a) and the Sefer Ha-Michtam (Berakhot 53a), cite a view which permits one to recite the blessing over a flame which was lit from a fire lit after Yom Kippur. The Shibbolei Ha-Leket (322) also cites a similar view in the name of R. Yehudai Gaon. The Shulchan Arukh cites this view (624:4), although he seems to reject this opinion further on (624:5).


Some Acharonim (Eliya Rabba 624:6; Chayye Adam 145:40; Arukh Ha-Shulchan 624:6; Kaf Ha-Chayyim 624:17) rule that in extenuating circumstances one may rely upon the opinion cited above and recite the blessing of “borei me’orei ha-eish” on a flame lit from a new fire. The Mishna Berura (624:7) as well as R. Ovadia Yosef (Yechave Da’at 1:63) and R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe 4:122), write that one should not rely upon the minority opinion cited above, and should rather refrain from reciting the blessing upon fire after Yom Kippur.


Incidentally, one who is unable to obtain a “ner she-shavat” may recite havdala over the wine, and afterwards, if possible, recite the blessing of “borei me’orei ha-eish” upon a “ner she-shavat.”


When Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, the Ra’avya (Berakhot 8:141) writes that one does not need a “ner she-shavat” for havdala, as on Motza’ei Shabbat one may recite havdala upon a new fire. The Meiri (Berakhot 53b) and the Nimukei Yosef (Pesachim 54a), who cites the Ra’ah, concur. The Ritva (Hilkhot Berakhot 8:23) writes that one should perform havdala in such a case on a “ner she-shavat,” although this may only be “le-khatchila.


Indeed, the Mishna Berura (7) writes that while one may certainly use a newly lit fire for havdala after a Yom Kippur which fell on Shabbat, it is customary to use a “ner she-shavat.”


Interestingly, the Acharonim discuss whether to consider an electric light, which remained lit for the entire Yom Kippur, to be a “ner she-shavat.” The Acharonim discuss whether one may recite the birkat ha-ner over an electric light on Motza’ei Shabbat. Certainly one cannot recite the blessing over a fluorescent light. Regarding incandescent light bulbs, in which a glowing filament produces the light, the glowing filament would seemingly constitute “eish” (see Rambam, Hilkhot Shabbat 12:1). Some (R. Tzvi Pesach Frank, Har Tzvi 2:114; R. Ovadia Yosef, Yechave Da’at 2:39, et al.) prohibit this, while others (R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski [1863-1940]; R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 1:20:13; R. Chaim Solovetichik, et al.) permit it. (See R. Howard Jachter’s and R. Michael Broyde’s “Electrically Produced Fire or Light in Positive Commandments,” Journal of Halacha & Contemporary Society XXI, for a full treatment of this topic.)


Regarding Yom Kippur, R. Moshe Shternbuch (Teshuvot Ve-hanhagot 2:302) rules that according to those who permit using electric lights for havdala in general, one may also, when necessary, use an electric light on Motza’ei Yom Kippur as a “ner she-shavat.” R. Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eli’ezer 1:20:13:5) disagrees, arguing that a filament “fueled” by the constant flow of electricity does not constitute a “ner she-shavat.”


            While generally one should not eat or drink before havdala, one who is thirsty or weak may drink water after the conclusion of the fast even before hearing havdala. This is especially pertinent to women whose husbands may be delayed at the synagogue. Furthermore, they may also make their own havdala and then eat or drink regularly.


            The Rema (624:5) writes that one should eat and drink on Motza’ei Yom Kippur, as it is a “minor Yom Tov.” The Beit Yosef attributes this to the midrash cited above, which describes the heavenly voice that declares upon completion of the fast: “Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works” (Kohelet 9:7).


Indeed, the Geonim (Sha’arei Teshuva 243), as well as the Rishonim (Machzor Vitri 73, Orchot Chaim Hilkhot Havdalat Shabbat 33, et al.) record that it is customary not to recite vidui or tachanun during the months of Nissan and Tishrei (after Yom Kippur).  The Rema (624:5) writes that one does not recite tachanun until Sukkot. It seems to be customary to omit tachanun until after Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.


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