Siyum Masechet Rosh Hashanah
The 7.5-year Talmud daily learning cycle started January 5th 2020. Today on November 13th 2021 we complete masechet Rosh Hashanah, the eighth masechet of the cycle.
The fourth and final chapter of masechet Rosh Hashanah (starting Rosh Hashanah 29b) begins with mishnayot that discuss the differences between the Holy Temple era and modern times. Specifically, it mentions the behaviors and rituals that were allowed to be performed there, even on Shabbat when such actions are otherwise prohibited. The sanctity of the Holy Temple offers a special dispensation, a pocket of holiness in which earthly nature and laws are suspended, some bent others broken.
Nowadays we are on a lower level spiritually without the Temple. A revealed, open holiness has been absent from the world these last 2000-some years.
Where did the magic go? How do we get those miracles back? By building the Temple, apparently. And how do we get the Temple back, which is destined to be rebuilt in the time of the Messiah?
Be your own Messiah. Be your own miracle.
The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 31a) lists the psalms sung by the Levites at the Temple service, one for each day of the week which pertains to that corresponding day of Creation…or maybe the 7th day refers to the Redemption, according to Rabbi Akiva.
Those psalms are recited nowadays toward the end of the daily morning prayer service, each one said on the appropriate day of the week.
The mussaf prayer on Rosh Hashanah has three special sections — malchuyot (kingship), zichronot (remembrances), and shofrot (shofar blasts). In each section we recite 10 verses from the Torah, three each from Chumash, Prophets, and Writings, completed by a 10th from Chumash. The Gemara discusses the order of these sections (Rosh Hashanah 32a) then lays out the sources for the 30 total verses (Rosh Hashanah 32b).
The final mishna discusses: the order and length of the shofar blasts; the necessity to pause between the shofar blasts; how to deal with the blessings and shofar blasts when the shofar is temporarily unavailable; and whether the obligation of the Rosh Hashanah prayers applies to each individual or just the prayer leader (Rosh Hashanah 33b).
The base unit of measurement for the time length of the shofar blasts is interestingly derived from the enemy: the mother of an enemy army general crying over her son’s apparent death (Judges 5:28). The Sages discuss whether her cries are considered moaning (broken sighs — the medium sized shofar blasts, shevarim) or whimpering (the shorts blasts, teruot). Both sides seem to have merit so we follow both interpretations to avoid any doubt.
We do that sometimes in Jewish law, where we take a strict approach to be safe in case of any doubt. This only applies to Torah-level ordinances like the sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. When it comes to Rabbinic ordinances, however, we follow a lenient approach in cases of doubt.
Mazal tov and shkoyach on learning some masechet Rosh Hashanah! May we merit to return and learn it again. Tomorrow we start masechet Taanit.