Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ROSH HASHANA: Men, women and the Shofar (Also, 'erub tabshilin)

Do women have the same obligation as men regarding the Mitzvah of Shofar?

Men are obligated to listen to the Shofar following a Biblical commandment (yom teru'a yihie lakhem). And although women are formally exempted from every time-bounded positive Mitzvah, in practical terms when it comes to the Shofar there is virtually no difference between the two genders.  Why? Because in most communities women are very careful to attend Synagogue and listening to the Shofar in Rosh haShana. Let's remember that besides the formal fulfillment of this important commandment, the voice of the Shofar "wakes us up from our spiritual lethargy" and help us to repent and improve our actions. And that is a message that both, men and women, need to hear in these days of Teshuba. It is therefore highly meritorious for women to attend Synagogue, listen to the Shofar, be inspired by its voice, repent and do Teshuba.

The only practical difference between men and women relates to the recitation of the Berakha in a case that a person cannot attend the Synagogue service in Rosh haShana.  In the Synagogue the Toke'a (=the person who blows the Shofar) recites the BerakhaASHER QIDDESHANU BEMITZVOTAV VETZIVANU LISHMOA' QOL SHOFAR on behalf of the entire community. And all those who listen to this berakha and say AMEN are included in this blessing. However, if a woman was not able to attend Synagogue, when a Toke'a blows the Shofar for her no berakha should be recited. While in the case of a man who listens to the Shofar outside the formal Synagogue service, that man himself or the Toke'a should say the Berakha.

'erub tabshilin (Cooking from Yom Tob to Shabbat)
This year 5774 Rosh haShana falls on a Thursday (beginning Wednesday Sept 4th at night) and Friday, followed by Shabbat. And although most of the cooking for these three festive days will be done before Rosh haShana begins, some of the cooking might be done also during Friday Sept 6th in preparation for Shabbat (Sept 7th).  
As we know cooking is allowed on Jewish Holidays (Yom Tob) as we learn from Shemot 12:16 "...You shall not do any work on these days [=Yom Tob], except preparing food for everyone to eat, this is the only thing you may do". However, our rabbis explained that it is only allowed to cook during Yom Tob whatever will be consumed during Yom Tob, but we cannot prepare or cook on Yom Tob food that will be consumed after that particular day.  Thus, when a Holiday occurs on Friday we cannot cook from Yom Tob to Shabbat.   Unless an 'erub tabshilin is prepared. 
'erub tabshilin consists in 1.preparing prior to Yom Tob some cooked and baked food, 2. stating that we are preparing this food for Shabbat (there is a special blessing and text to say when we put together the 'erub. See below ); 3. storing that food for Shabbat and 4. eating that food during Shabbat. Thus, when we begin cooking for Shabbat before the Holiday begins, our rabbis authorized to continue the preparation of food from Yom Tob to Shabbat.

In practical terms:  Wednesday September 4th, before 7.00 PM (NYT) we should put aside a plate with some cooked and baked foods and keep this food for Sabbath. This plate is what we call the 'erub. Since some food is already prepared for Shabbat before the Holiday, the cooking that will take place during the Holiday will be considered an addition or in more accurate terms an extension (the word 'erub in this context means "extension") to the food that has already been prepared before the Holiday began.

 The following Berakha is recited while holding the plate with the foods (='erub) in one's hands:  
"Baruch Ata A- donay E- lohenu Melekh ha'Olam Asher Qiddeshanu beMitzvotav veTzivanu AL MITZVAT ERUB"
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל מִצְוַת עֵרוּב
Then we read the following text which asserts that by preparing this 'erub we are allowed to do all necessary work and cooking from Yom Tob to Shabbat.
בַּדֵין עֵרוּבָא יְהֵא שָׁרֵא לָֽנָא לַאֲפוּיֵי וּלְבַשּׁוּלֵי וּלְאַטְמוּנֵי וּלְאַדְלוּקֵי שְׁרָגָא וּלְתַקָּנָא וּלְמֶעְבַּד כָּל צָרְכָּֽנָא, מִיּוֹמָא טָבָא לְשַׁבְּתָא
Then we place the 'erub in the refrigerator and we keep it until Shabbat. For the concept of 'erub to make sense we must eat that food at some point during Shabbat (September 6th at night and September  7th).
The general practice is to prepare the 'erub with a cooked egg and one loaf of bread. Many people will also add meat, rice and other types of cooked foods.