Question: Should an outdoor Shacharis minyan blow shofar during Elul where there is a chance that the early morning blowing will disturb local residents, or is it preferable to blow shofar by Minchah?
Short Answer: Rav Hershel Schachter shlita and Rav Mordechai Willig shlita ruled that it is preferable to blow the shofar in this situation by Minchah and not disturb the neighbors.
I. Blowing Shofar During Elul
The Tur (Orach Chayim 581:1) cites the Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, who notes that a shofar was blown when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to the top of Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul to accept the second set of Luchos. This shofar was to remind the nation not to mess up again by serving avodah zarah, and as the pasuk in T’hilim (47:6) relates, it was as if Hashem himself “went up to Heaven with the shofar blasts” (“alah Elokim bi’sruah”). The Tur explains that this is the source for our minhag to blow shofar after Shacharis and in the “Arvis” during Elul. The Tur also mentions that we blow the shofar during Elul in order to confuse the Satan.
The Rama (Orach Chayim 581:1) also notes that we blow throughout Elul, but only after Shacharis, although “some” have the custom to blow by “Arvis” as well. Later (581:3), the Rama adds that we do not blow on Erev Rosh HaShanah. The Magen Avraham (14) expounds that we don’t blow on Erev Rosh HaShanah in order to separate between obligatory blasts (on Rosh HaShanah) and customary blasts (during Elul), as well as to confuse the Satan.
II. Shofar at Night
Notably, both the Tur and the Rama mention that the minhag is to blow the shofar after Shacharis and “Arvis.” While the Rama ruled that this is not the minhag Ashkenaz, the Tur does adopt this minhag.
The Chayei Adam (138:1) adds two interesting facets to the discussion. First, he cites this minhag of “some” to blow shofar twice daily, despite that it is not minhag Ashkenaz. Second, he interprets “Arvis” as “Minchah.” In other words, the second time that the shofar is blown is after Minchah, and not after Maariv.
Based on the Chayei Adam, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Orach Chayim 4:21:5) rules that if a minyan cannot blow at Shacharis, they should certainly blow after Minchah. This blowing is not even considered “tashlumin” (make-up), but is simply fulfilling the classic minhag, either by (i) blowing the morning blasts a bit later in the day or (ii) by following the “some” who generally blow at Minchah as well. Rav Moshe does warn that shofar should not be blown at night, because the early evening is not an “eis ratzon.”
Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlita (Kovetz Halachos 1:20,24) also agrees that if a minyan cannot blow at Shacharis, it should blow at Minchah. However, Rav Shmuel shlita adds that one can also blow after Maariv, as well. He disagrees with Rav Moshe’s interpretation and says that the Rama is explicit that some blow shofar at “Arvis,” which refers to Maariv after nightfall. He concludes that the ruling of the Aruch HaShulchan (581:12) – that one should not even practice blowing shofar at night – is troubling, and one does not need to be machmir like that opinion.
III. Stealing Sleep
Putting everything together, it appears clear that a minyan may blow shofar at Minchah when necessary. But when is it necessary to do so? Blowing shofar at an early morning outdoor Shacharis minyan in a residential area certainly risks waking sleeping neighbors. However, is preventing the stealing of sleep from neighbors a valid reason to push off the blowing from Shacharis until Minchah?
In general, the poskim debate what is the exact prohibition for stealing sleep (“gezel sheinah”). Rav Neriah Gafni (cited in sefer Kerem Rabbanan, Vol. 1, p. 81) notes that while some poskim, including Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlita (Derech Sichah, p. 367), understand the prohibition as falling under the rubric of “V’Ahavta L’Rei’acha Kamocha” (loving your friend like yourself), others, including the Chofetz Chaim, understand that it is actually the prohibition for stealing (or, at the very least, “destroying”) something.
An important ramification of this dispute is whether one should perform a mitzvah at the expense of waking someone else and thereby stealing that person’s sleep. For example, may a person leave a n’tilas yadayim cup by his bed when washing his hands near his bed will cause his roommate to wake up? Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Kerem Rabbanan, ibid) ruled that it was permissible, as long as the washer tries his best to wash quietly. Since there is no prohibition of stealing, and the issue of stealing sleep is merely a chesed to the sleeper, there is room to be lenient and allow the washer to wash by the bed. This is the ruling of Rav Elyashiv zt”l, as well (see Avnei Yashfe 3:1). On the other hand, the Avnei Yashfe cites many others who disagree, including the Riv’vos Ephraim and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l, as this involves a prohibition of stealing.
Thus, the key question is whether we pasken that it is preferable to avoid disturbing the sleep of neighbors when the alternative is to avoid performing the ideal minhag of blowing shofar during Shacharis in Elul?
IV. Ruling of Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Mordechai Willig
This author asked Rav Hershel Schachter shlita and Rav Mordechai Willig this specific question: Should an outdoor minyan in New York City (which is anyway noisy) blow Shofar at a Shacharis minyan and rely on the lenient poskim who allow one to disturb the sleep of neighbors for the performance of a mitzvah OR is it preferable to blow the shofar at the end of Minchah in this scenario?
Rav Schachter responded that in such a situation it is better to blow at Minchah, although L’David would still be recited at the end of Shacharis. Rav Mordechai Willig likewise responded that, chas v’shalom, to blow in a way that wakes someone up.
Next Week’s Topic: In order to minimize unsafe socializing, should everyone, including people whose parents are still alive, remain inside shul for Yizkor?