Question: What is the proper nusach of the brachah on the shofar?

Short Answer: The proper brachah is “lishmoa kol shofar,” although you are yotzei b’dieved if you recite “lishmoa b’kol shofar.”


I. Proper Brachah

The Rosh (Rosh HaShanah 4:10) discusses the proper brachah that is recited on mitzvas shofar on Rosh HaShanah. He first cites Rabbeinu Tam, who holds that you recite the brachah of “al t’kias shofar” because “making (the sound) is the final step of the mitzvah.” The Rosh then cites the Ra’avyah, who cites the Yerushalmi who writes that you must make the brachos of “lishmoa b’kol shofar” and “She’hecheyanu” on mitzvas shofar. Notably, the Korban Nesanel (200) writes that there is no such Yerushalmi, nor can there be, as the Ramban and Baal HaMaor separately disagree whether the brachah of shofar was instituted during the time of the Geonim (hundreds of years after the completion of the Yerushalmi). Obviously, neither the Ramban nor Baal HaMaor reference this Yerushalmi.

The Rosh concludes by citing the B’hag who agrees with the Ra’avyah that the proper brachah on mitzvas shofar is “lishmoa b’kol shofar.” He explains that reciting a brachah such as “liskoa b’shofar” or “al t’kias shofar,” similar to the brachah on Megillas Esther, is incorrect, as you fulfill the mitzvah of shofar through hearing the sounds of the shofar and not by simply blowing the shofar. The proof to this is based on the Gemara (Rosh HaShanah 27b) that a person who blows into a pit (which creates an echo) does not fulfill the mitzvah of shofar, even if the blower is standing outside the pit.

II. Without A Beis

The Rambam (Hilchos Shofar 3:10), while agreeing with the Ra’avyah and B’hag that the brachah on the shofar should emphasize listening as opposed to blowing, actually disagrees with the Ra’avyah and B’hag on the precise formulation of the brachah. The Rambam writes that the brachah of “lishmoa kol shofar” should be recited without the letter “beis” at the start of the word “kol.” The Rambam’s nusach is cited in the Tur (Orach Chayim 585:2).

The Bach (ibid) explains the nusach of the Rambam/Tur, that saying “b’kol” is improper, as it implies that Hashem commanded us to listen to the command of the shofar. The mitzvah, however, is simply to hear the sounds of the blasts, i.e., “kol shofar.” While the Bach expressly rules that “liskoa shofar” is a valid nusach b’dieved, the Bach does not address whether “b’kol shofar” is also a valid nusach b’dieved.

III. Practically Speaking

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 585:2) codifies the proper nusach as “lishmoa kol shofar,” like the Rambam/Tur. Both the Magen Avraham (2) and the Taz (2) cite the Bach, that “b’kol” is improper because it implies that Hashem commanded us to listen to the command of the shofar. Neither of them, however, address whether “b’kol” is a valid nusach b’dieved, although the Magen Avraham does write that b’dieved, you are yotzei if you say “liskoa b’shofar.”

The Elya Rabbah (585:4) notes that if you say “b’kol,” you are yotzei b’dieved. The Chayei Adam (205:7), as well, assumes, without discussion, that “b’kol” is valid b’dieved.

The P’ri M’gadim (585, both E”A & M”Z 2) notes that the Magen Avraham seemingly holds that “b’kol” is NOT valid b’dieved, as he only cites the ruling that “liskoa b’shofar” is valid b’dieved. The P’ri M’gadim himself disagrees and holds that “b’kol” is valid b’dieved. The Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 585:4) likewise paskens that “b’kol” is valid b’dieved, citing in the Shaar HaTziyun to these above Acharonim.

IV. Rav Soloveitchik’s Explanation

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l (cited in the new Batei Yosef, Yamim Nora’im, p. 24) explains the nusach of “b’kol” based on the Rambam. The Rambam (Hilchos T’shuvah 3:4) writes that even though the mitzvah to blow shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a “g’zeiras ha’kasuv” (and thereby needs no explanation as to the reason behind it), nevertheless, the shofar is a “remez” (allusion) to doing t’shuvah on Rosh HaShanah. In other words, the shofar reminds us to “awaken from our slumber, introspect our actions, and repent.”

The Rambam is not simply giving the reader “musar,” expounds Rav Soloveitchik, but is teaching us the essence of mitzvas shofar: to arouse in the listener feelings of t’shuvah. The listener fulfills the mitzvah by not only hearing the sounds of the shofar, but by also internalizing the message of t’shuvah. It is thus appropriate to make the brachah “lishmoa b’kol shofar,” that we are actually listening to the command of the shofar, i.e., the command to repent.

V. Rav Proof from the Ramban

The sefer Meoros HaTzov’os (T’shuvah, p. 173) suggests a similar idea as Rav Soloveitchik. The “b’kol” refers to the obligation of every listener to imbue the reason behind blowing shofar, i.e., to awaken us to do t’shuvah. The sefer cites a proof to this idea from the Ramban (Sh’mos 15:26), who explains that every time that the letter “beis” or “lamed” follows the word “lishmoa,” it is incumbent on the listener to internalize the message of the speaker and not only to hear the sound of the words. For example, the words “Im shamoa tishma l’kol Hashem Elokecha” teaches that we must internalize Hashem’s commandments, and not only hear what they are.

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Associate Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.