Sunday, September 13, 2009

What if the Shofar Isn't Cooperating?

The Magen Avraham 585 sk 11 brings from the Maharil that one time, someone tried to blow shofar, and it didn't work, so he turned the shofar around and said וִיהִי נֹעַם (Tehillim 90) into the wide end, and when he tried again, it worked perfectly. I think this idea might be applicable to many of our endeavors: instead of exhausting yourself blowing harder and harder, turn it around, in other words, think about what you are trying to accomplish, read וִיהִי נֹעַם into it-- the passuk Moshe Rabbeinu said to invite Hashra'as Hashechina into the just-built Mishkan (Rashi, Shemos 39:43) -- in other words, imbue the work with a tachlis of avodas Hashem, and maybe it'll work when you try it again.


  1. Oh. So you mean there is nothing magical about whispering vhei noam? I wonder why the Mahril and M"A didn't make that clear.

    This would probably be the time and place to wish you and yours a k'siva v'chasima tovah and a word of thanks for keeping this wonderful blog going. The time and effort that must go into it is much appreciated by this reader.

  2. First, thank you so very much for writing. Ve'chein le'mar-- K'siva ve'chasima tova to you and yours.

    As for the magic issue:
    The Gemara in Shavuos 16b says that it is assur to read a passuk to effect a cure for an illness or a wound-- assur le'hisrapos be'divrei Torah. The Taz in YD 179 sk 8 says the reason is because, and this is very cool, the Torah was not given for curing the Body, it was given to cure the Soul. The Taz says that while it is a misuse of Torah when it is used to cure bodily ills, you are allowed to use pesukim from the Torah to prevent a malady or hezek from happening.

    What's the lomdus of that? If it addresses any bodily matters, why is it not the same misuse? I would answer that curing is more in the field of 'magic' and preventing is more in the nature of tefilla.

    Relevant to your point: there is another very interesting diyuk to be seen in the Taz. that you CAN use divrei Torah to cure a SPIRITUAL malady. So, it seems to me that even assuming that the Maharil was 'using' the passuk to cure his inability to blow the shofar, this would be muttar according to the Taz because it uses the pasuk to cure a spiritual malady.

    Actually, in this case, it's more than just "using the passuk to cure a spiritual malady;" it's an exact duplication of what Moshe Rabbeinu did: we are asking that the Shechina be shoreh in our ma'aseh yadayim, that is, that we be able to be mashreh Shechina through the shofar that is in our hand.

    Yes, this calls into question the whole point of the post, which is that one should use the passuk to 'cure' a financial or personal problem. You're right. If you say it as a magic formula, it may be inappropriate. But I would say that since it is clearly intended as a reminder to yourself that Hashem is the One that brings hatzlacha, and as a tefilla, the Taz would be mattir. It's certainly better than reading the Braisa of the Ketores from a klaf.

  3. I read this before yom tov and appreciated it, but came back now, and realized I should probably thank you for a good vort. If I had a printer, I'd probably print out the post and hang it up above my desk.

  4. Thanks for writing. Just keep it in mind, and pass it on next Rosh Hashanna.

  5. The mussar haskeil here is not limited to Rosh Hashana. I will probably be saying it between now and then, whether publically or otherwise. I'm sure at midterms and finals time it will be quite relevant.