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S.A.L.T. - Motzaei Shabbat

Rav David Silverberg

          The Gemara, in a famous passage (Rosh Hashanah 16a-b), raises the question of why it is customary to sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah more than the Torah requires.  The Torah obligation to sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is fulfilled through the set of shofar blasts sounded after the Torah reading, before the musaf service, but the Sages enacted blowing the shofar also during the musaf prayer.  The Gemara, enigmatically, comments that we add the second series of shofar blasts “kedei le-arbeiv ha-Satan” – “in order to confound Satan.”

          Rashi explains this to mean that when Satan sees how much we cherish the mitzvot, sounding the shofar even more than we are technically required to, he can no longer prosecute against us before the Heavenly Tribunal.  On this day of judgment, we seek to demonstrate our love for mitzvot, our fierce desire to serve God to the best of our ability, and thereby silence the “prosecution” so we earn a favorable judgment.

          Tosafot cite a much different explanation in the name of the Arukh (Rav Natan ben Yechiel of Rome).  He explains that upon hearing the additional shofar sounds, Satan mistakes these blasts as the shofar blasts which will herald the arrival of Mashiach (as prophesied by Yeshayahu 27:13).  Knowing that the final redemption will mark his permanent downfall, Satan is overcome by fear, and thus does not have the peace of mind to prosecute against the Jewish People as they stand trial.

          How might we explain this image, of Satan misidentifying our shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah as the shofar of Mashiach?  Why would the Gemara – as understood by the Arukh – want us to imagine the “prosecutor” being befuddled by the fear that the final redemption has arrived?

          One meaningful explanation that has been given is that this image serves to encourage us by assuring us that our final redemption is well within reach.  The notion that Satan could easily mistake our shofar blasts as the announcement of Mashiach’s arrival indicates that even Satan – the symbol of the “prosecutor,” who draws attention to, and highlights, all our faults and misdeeds – anticipates our imminent redemption.  The Gemara here depicts the image of a prosecutor who does not truly believe in the case he brings against us, because he realizes that any minute, Am Yisrael might be deemed worthy of redemption.  We are assured that even the prosecutor, those who desperately seek to have us convicted on this day of judgment, are aware of our virtues and merits, and fear that we will be deserving of blessing. 

The extra shofar sounds, therefore, serve to counterbalance the fear of judgment with the confidence that we are fully capable of bringing our final redemption.  We are reminded that we are far closer than we sometimes think to the point we need to reach.  We should not observe Rosh Hashanah with a feeling of dread and despair, but rather with the confidence of knowing that we are fully capable of realizing our destiny and becoming worthy of God’s boundless grace and kindness.




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