Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is shofar a decree, or a rational statute?


Psalms 81:5 says of blowing the shofar that it is "a decree [chok] for Israel, a law [mishpat] for the Gd of Jacob." On this, Malbim explains:

"We do not analyze the reason for this mitzvah of blowing shofar; for Israel it is a law, without any reason other than a decree from Gd. But it is a statute for the Gd of Jacob; Gd knows its reason, and for Him it is statute, not law."

[Note that the terms "law" and "statute" do not truly translate the Hebrew. The point here is to distinguish between chok as a law with power and force without need for explanation, and mishpat as a rational rule.]

(Malbim to Tehillim 81:5)

Have a great day,


  1. However, the Malbim's point speaks more to the nature of choq than the nature of the mitzvah of shofar blowing. Every choq is "choq leYisrael hu, mishpat lEilokei Yaakov".

    So the answer to your title question is "decree".

    Two followup questions:

    1- Why does the Torah make the theological point that every choq is metarational not irrational -- makes sense but in a way that's beyond human comprehension -- specifically about shofar?

    2- Why the shift in name? Why are we Yisrael while He is "Elokei Yaaqov"?

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  3. R' Micha-
    By now I've seen your aishdas post, which I want to contemplate. I'll only note that R' Hirsch has another take on this perek, and he sees celebration of Rosh Chodesh as transforming us from Yaakov into Yisrael.