The Mitzvah of Chatzotzrot

Taanit (1:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

Masechet Taanit opens with discussing when we begin to ask for rain and how the nation responds if rain does not fall in the days that follow. The Mishnah describes the rounds of fasting and how they increase in intensity if the drought unfortunately continues. During the final and most intense round of fasting the shofar was blown. This requirement is found in the following pasuk (Bamidbar 10:9):

When you go to war in your Land against an enemy who oppresses you, you shall sound short blasts of trumpets, and you shall be recalled before Hashem, your G-d, and you shall be saved from your enemies.

The Rambam (Taanit 1:1) explains that it is a biblical mitzvah to cry out to Hashem and blow trumpets when any calamity befalls the community. 

The next pasuk is as follows:

On a day of your gladness, and on your festivals, and on you new moons, you shall sound the trumpets over your elevation-offerings and over your feast peace offerings; and they shall be a remembrance for you before your G-d; I am Hashem your G-d.

The Rambam (Klei Ha’Mikdash 3:5) explains that above pasuk teaches that there is a mitzvah to blow trumpets when the festive and daily korbanot were offered.

Thus far it appears that we have two separate mitzvot; while they both involve trumpets, the times they are used are quite different. It might therefore seem surprising that the Rambam lists them together as one mitzvah (Aseh 59). The Magid Mishneh finds this difficult because, as mentioned above, they are sourced from two different pesukim. The Magid Mishneh suggest that there is perhaps on overarching mitzvah of blowing trumpets, but ultimately leave the question requiring further analysis. 

The Minchat Chinnuch cites the Parshat Derachim who also finds this Rambam difficult*.*He adds to this difficulty from the mitzvot of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (170) and on Yovel (137). Despite the fact that their actions is the same, since they are performed at different times are listed as separate mitzvot.

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav OC 575:2) suggests the following explanation. The Sefer HaChinnuch (384), when discussing the mitzvah of blowing trumpets while the korbanot were offered explains as follows:

At the root of the precept lies the reason that at the time of an offering they had to focus their thoughts well about its purpose. As is known, it could become disqualified through certain specific thoughts. Moreover, an offering required perfect concentration of intention before the Sovereign Master of all, who commanded us about it. So also at time of trouble, a man needs great concentration when he is before his Creator that He should have pity on him and rescue him from his misfortune. Therefore they were commanded about sounding the trumpets at these times. For man, being possessed of physical matter, requires a great arousal to matters. For human nature, with nothing to arouse it, will remain asleep. And nothing will stir him like sounds of melody – it is a know matter – and all the more certainly trumpets, the blast of which is the strongest sound among all musical instruments.

The Trumat Hadeshen explains that with korbanot, pure intent that the korban is solely for Hashem is critical. Likewise, it is vital that on a fast day, one recognises that the calamities being endured are not by chance. Both of these require tremendous hitorerut (awakening). Consequently since the intent of the chatzotzrot are the same for these two events, the Rambam lists them as the same mitzvah. The same cannot be said for Rosh Hashanah and Yovel where the intents for blowing the shofar at these two times is very different. 


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