י״ב בסיון ה׳תשע״ד (June 10, 2014)

Rosh HaShana 33a-b: Performing a Mitzva Voluntarily

Although playing a musical instrument on Shabbat or Yom Tov is ordinarily forbidden by shema yetaken klei shir – lest someone fix the instrument – nevertheless, blowing a shofar on Rosh HaShana is a mitzva that must be fulfilled. Can someone who is not obligated in the mitzva of shofar blow it on Rosh HaShana?

The Mishna (32b) teaches that children are permitted to try out the shofar and that adults can even help them practice blowing it. The Gemara on our daf argues that by specifically permitting children to blow the shofar, the Mishna is implicitly teaching that women are not allowed to do so.

The Gemara asks: Isn’t it taught in a baraita that one does not prevent women or children from sounding the shofar on a Festival? The Gemara answers that Abaye said: This is not difficult: This mishna is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda while that baraita is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yosei and Rabbi Shimon.

These positions stem from the disagreement between the tanna’im on the issue of semikha – part of the sacrifice ceremony when the person bringing a korban in the Temple would put pressure on the animal’s head before it was slaughtered and brought to the altar. Rabbi Yosei and Rabbi Shimon rule that women can perform semikha even though they are not obligated in it, from which we conclude that they generally permit women to perform mitzvot on a voluntary basis, even when they are not obligated in them. Rabbi Yehuda forbids women from doing semikha.

Our tradition follows the opinions of Rabbi Yosei and Rabbi Shimon, which allows people to perform mitzvot on a voluntary basis, even if they are not commanded in them. The main differences of opinion regarding this halakha relate to situations where performing the mitzva voluntarily will involve a potential transgression, or the question of whether the blessing of asher kidshanu be-mitzvotav – which suggests that the mitzva is commanded – can be recited..

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