Shulchan Aruch – The Halachot of Rosh Hashanah


Note: The RAMA is in brackets [ ]


Chapter 586:  The Laws of the Rosh Hashanah Shofer (23 Paragraphs).


1.  The Shofer of Rosh Hashanah (used for) the commandment must be from a ram and bent over.  בדיעבד (according to the letter of the law), all Shofers are Kosher, whether they are straight or bent.  But it is a better Mitzvah if a bent/curved Shofer is used over a straight one.  A cow’s Shofer is invalid in any case as well as the horns of most animals since they are one (solid) bone and don’t have an inside part of the animal’s horn.  They are invalid.  [Also a Shofer from an unclean animal is invalid.]


2.  One who steals a Shofer and blows it is Yotzai, even if the owner(s) did not give up hope on it. 


<>3.   Consider the case of blowing a shofar which is an object of idol worship.  If the shofar is owned by a Jew, he does not fulfill the mitzvah.  The reason is that such use for idol worship is never nullified and it is as if the shofar has been reduced to a size too small to use.  One should not blow a shofar owned by an idol worshipper which was an object of worship or was used in the worship of idols.   If one did blow such a shofar then he does fulfill the obligation.  This only applies if one did not intend that in this action the ownership staus of the Shofer would transfer and become one’s own possession.  However, if one intended that the shofar would become one’s possession, then one has not performed the mitzvah, since it becomes an object of idol worship owed by a Jew. [And there are those who are stringent, who regard even blowing a shofar of an idol worshipper as not a performance of the mitzvah, unless the idol worship was nullified before the holiday.]<>                                              
4.  Blowing the shofar of an animal that was sacrificed to idol worship, even if owned by an idol worshipper, does not perform the mitzvah as such a shofar is eternally nullified.


5.  One who makes a vow (נדר) to not have benefit from a Shofer, someone else may blow it and the one who makes the vow is Yotzai[1] his obligation.  However, if he said “קונם לתקיעתו עלי[2], it is forbidden to blow from it, even for the purpose of a mitzvah. 


6.  If the sound of the Shofer was very thick or thin, it is Kosher since all blasts/sounds are Kosher for the Shofer.


7.  If the Shofer had a hole, or if it was not closed up, even thought its sound is changed, it is Kosher.  [However, if you have another Shofer available, you shouldn’t blow with this one since there are some authorities that say you can’t blow with a Shofer that has a hole.]   If the Shofer was closed up using a foreign material other than its contents[3] (other than a ram’s horn), even though it does not hold back the blast, since after it was closed, the sound sounds like it used to be, it is invalid.  This applies even if most of the original Shofer remains.  If it was closed up using its contents, if most of the original Shofer remains, and the closing process did not hamper the blast, but it’s sound returned to how it originally was before it got a hole, it is Kosher.  If it is missing one third of its original contents, it is invalid.  If it is an emergency situation, where no other Shofer could be found, one may validate a closed up Shofer with its own contents if most of the original remained, even if its sound did not return to how it was originally before it was perforated. 


8. If it was cracked lengthwise, it is invalid and some say even the most slender crack[4] invalidates it unless it was (a) very tiny or miniscule (meaning not the majority lengthwise).  [And enough remained to satisfy the minimum amount needed for blowing (שׁיעור התקיעה) from the Kosher part and upwards to the side of the mouth (otherwise known as the mouthpiece).]  And some say that this only applies when the majority of it was cracked, but if it was (simply) cracked it’s valid even if it was cracked (and fixed) with glue[5].  Others say that it is not valid unless it was sealed on its own like when you heated it with fire until it melted and you joined the edges together.  But if it was entirely split even on one side, it is invalid even if you heated it with fire and joined the edges together.   


9.  If it was cracked widthwise, if it was the minority it is valid but if it was the majority it is invalid.  This is unless there was left over enough from the crack to the mouthpiece the minimum amount needed for blowing (שׁיעור התקיעה), which is four thumb breadths.  If this much was left over, it is Kosher even if it hampers the blasts.  Some authorities say it is valid when the above measurement remains, even not on the side of the mouth.


10.  If you joined two Shofers together and made them into one Shofer, it is invalid even if there remained from the joining to the mouth hole the minimum amount needed for blowing (שׁיעור שׁופר). 


11.  If you add to the Shofer anything, whether its own material or a foreign material it is invalid even if it already had the minimum amount needed for blowing  (שׁיעור שׁופר). 


12.  If you reversed/inverted the Shofer and blew it you are not Yotzai.  This applies whether you inverted it the way you invert a garment where you turn it inside out or whether you left it the way it was but widened the short part and shortened the long part.  [The same applies if you blew in the wide part.  It is invalid.]


13.  If it was long and you shortened it; if the minimum amount needed to blow the Shofer remained, it is Kosher. 


14.  If you shaved it from the inside or from the outside until it became very thin like a scab, it is valid.


15.  If you did not remove its bud (M.B. the bone of the animal that goes inside the Shofer, where the horn grows from that is normally removed) but instead just made a hole in it, it is valid.  But if you remove the bud and make a Shofer out of it, like by making a hole, it is invalid.


16.  If you adorned the Shofer with gold on the place where you put your mouth, it is invalid.  If it was not on the place where the mouth is placed, it is valid.  If you adorned the inside with gold, it is invalid.  If the outside was adorned, if its sound was changed from what it was, it is invalid.  And if not, it is valid.  Some explain “the place where you put your mouth” as the inside diameter of the Shofer where you put your mouth (tongue) into; and the outside of the Shofer after the diameter itself is not considered “the place where you put your mouth”[6].  Others explain that the diameter from the narrowest part of the Shofer (lit. “short place”) is the place where you put your mouth.  And the place where the mouth is not placed is the entire length of the Shofer from the narrowest part (lit. “short side”) to the wide part. 


17.  Those who design the Shofer patterns of different colors to make it look nice, they are not doing a good thing. [But it is permitted to engrave the Shofer with patterns in order to make it look nice.].


18.  If you put gold on the diameter of the Shofer on the wide side, this is identical to adding on to it any amount (כל שׁהוא) and it is invalid. 


19.  If you were far away from the Shofer[7] and blew into it in order to use it for the Shofer blasts, it is invalid.    


20.  If you put one Shofer inside another Shofer, if the inner one goes over the outer one on its two sides and you put the inner one to your mouth and blew with it, it is valid.  [To me it appears that even if it does not protrude on the wide side but is equal to the outer one, since it protrudes on the side of the mouth and you blew with the inner one, you are also Yotzai.]  This only applies if the sound was not changed with it being placed inside the outer one.  And if not, it is invalid. 


21. The festival (יום טוב ) may not be violated for the Shofer of Rosh Hashanah, even if it involves an occupation forbidden by the Rabbis on Shabbat and Festivals (שׁבות). How is this?  If the Shofer was on top of a tree or over a river, and there is no Shofer but that one, you don’t climb the tree or swim in the water in order to retrieve it.  But if a non-Jew does it, it is permitted since it is שׁבות דשׁבות (Rabbinical prohibition described above of another Rabbinical prohibition).  [He means that it is forbidden to tell a non-Jew to do something if it involves a Biblical prohibition due to שׁבות.  A שׁבות of a Rabbinical (prohibition), this you can tell a non-Jew to do since when it involves a Rabbinical prohibition, it becomes a שׁבות דשׁבות.]  For the purpose of a Mitzvah[8], they did not decree (that a שׁבות דשׁבות is forbidden).


22.  If a non-Jew brought the Shofer from outside of the תחום (boundry limits), you may blow with it.  Similarly, if a non-Jew made a Shofer on the festival, you may blow with it. 


23.  One is permitted to put into the Shofer (on the festival) water or wine to polish it.  But urine is forbidden even on a weekday because of honor.        


Translated by Jay Dinovitser 6/21/06

[1] Lit.  “another one blows it and this one is Yotzai his obligation”

[2] This is a complicated vow where he forbid the use of the Shofer even in a situation where he would derive no benefit from its use.  See the Mishna Brura for a complete explanation. 

[3] מינו

[4] Lit. “even the smallest amount..”

[5] The M.B. says that this is not like the case in paragraph 7, which says that if a foreign material was used to close up the Shofer, it is invalid since here the glue applied to the crack is added in such a small amount that it is not recognizable.  But if the glue is recognizable, then it is an invalid Shofer as explained in paragraph 7.. 

[6] The Mishna Brura writes that the author means that one thumb breath from the mouth hole both inside and one thumb breath from the mouth hole outside are considered the place where you put your mouth.  So, the “from the diameter itself” means one thumb breath. 

[7] M.B: Not touching it with your lips.

[8] Lit. “in the place of a Mitzvah”

Special Thanks to David Frankfurter for translating the 3rd and 4th paragraph