The Talmud now goes on to explain more sections of the mishnah that outlined the end of the Simchat Bet Hashoevah ritual.
On their way down the steps to proceed out of the Temple, the priests would stop on the tenth step and blow the shofar. R. Yirmiyah tends to ask questions that are a bit nudnicky. Here he asks whether this was the tenth step from the top or the bottom. There is no answer to the question.
When Ezekiel describes the idolatrous priests in the Temple, he is a bit redundant. They face the east, so obviously there backs were to the Temple. The Talmud uses this redundancy to make the priests out to be even worse than Ezekiel actually stated. The priests turned toward the sun, exposed themselves and actually defecated towards the Temple.
According to the mishnah, the priests leaving the Temple after the Simchat Bet Hashoeavh would say “We are the Lord’s and our eyes are turned to the Lord.” The problem with this statement is that it comes close to sounding like a belief in two powers, which seems to be the arch-heresy according to the rabbis. Someone who says the word “Shema” or “Modim” (part of the Amidah prayer) is to be silenced because it looks like he is praying to two Gods.
Therefore, the Talmud offers a slight adjustment of this statement. By adding the word “our eyes” into the second half of the statement, they avoided creating the impression of worshipping two Gods.
Today’s section is a mishnah. The commentary is from Mishnah Yomit.
Since the previous mishnah mentioned the extra shofar blasts that were sounded during Sukkot, today’s mishnah discusses how many shofar blasts were sounded on other occasions in the Temple. As we shall see, more shofar blasts were blown on the eve of Shabbat during Sukkot than at any other time during the year.
Section one: This is an introduction to the rest of the mishnah. We should remember that each tekiah (unbroken sound) and each teruah (staccato sound) counts as one blast. The blasts always come in sets of three, first a tekiah, then a teruah and then another tekiah. Sometimes this order is repeated and sometimes it is performed three times.
Section two: On normal days there were twenty-one blasts. There were three blasts in the morning to announce the opening of the Temple gates, and then nine blasts at each of the two daily sacrifices, the morning tamid and the afternoon tamid.
Section three: On the festivals and on Shabbat there were an extra nine blasts for the musaf offerings. The Talmud explains that no matter how many musaf offerings were offered on that day, nine and only nine blasts were sounded. Thus even on Shabbat during the festival, when there were musaf offerings for Shabbat and for the festival, there were still only nine.
Section four: On the eve of Shabbat there were six other blasts, whose function was not connected to sacrifices or to Temple procedures but rather to Shabbat. There were three blasts that let people know that Shabbat was approaching and that they needed to stop working. And then there were another three blasts to let people know that Shabbat had begun. Interestingly, there was a stone from the ruins of the Temple found in Jerusalem that had written on it “bet hatekiah lehav…” which means “the house of blasting to distinguish.” Probably, the reference is to the practice in this very mishnah. This stone was once part of the section in the Temple where they blew shofar blasts to distinguish between kodesh (Shabbat) and hol (non-Shabbat). To this day in Jerusalem and in a few other cities in Israel as well they sound a warning to let people know that Shabbat has begun.
It turns out therefore, that on the eve of Shabbat during Pesah or on Shavuot, there would be thirty-six blasts—21 for the normal occasions, 9 for musaf, and 6 for the eve of Shabbat.
Today’s section begins to explain the mishnah about how many shofar blasts there were in the Temple.
The mishnah sets the minimum and maximum number of shofar blasts at 21 and 48, whereas R. Judah sets it at seven and sixteen. The explanation for this discrepancy is actually quite simple. According to R. Judah each set of tekiah, teruah, tekia counts as one note, whereas the other rabbis count each set as three.
R. Judah derives that these two notes are all part of one because the Torah uses the root for tekiah as the verb meaning “to blast a teruah.” Therefore, a tekiah and a teruah are all part of the same note, and together they count as one.
The rabbis who hold that the tekiah and the teruah count as different notes derive this from Numbers 10:7, which says that the people should sound a tekiah but not a teruah. Clearly this means that they count as two different notes, for if they were each half of the same note, the Torah would be telling the people to perform half of a mitzvah.
R. Judah responds to the rabbis that their verse cannot serve as proof for the shofar blasting in Numbers 10 was not a mitzvah, it was just a signal to the people to march. Therefore, he can maintain that a teruah and a tekiah are part of the same note.
The rabbis agree that Numbers 10:7 refers to a signal. However, despite this, God treated it like a mitzvah, therefore teaching that they are two different notes.
The Talmud analyzes R. Kahana’s statement in light of the mishnah. R. Kahana stated that there may not be any time interval between the tekiah and the teruah. This seems to go according to R. Judah, who holds that these two notes count as one note. Since they are one note, one can’t pause in between.
The problem is that this is obvious. Why would we even need to ask such a simple question?