Beis Moshiach: Short Stories of Tekios with Our Rabeim


    Beis Moshiach: Short Stories of Tekios with Our Rabeim

    Short Stories of Tekios With Rabboseinu Nesienu • The Baal Shem Tov once told his disciple, R’ Zev Kitzes, to study the kavanos (mystical intentions) of the tekios, since he would be the designated baal tokeia (shofar blower) on Rosh Hashana • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    By Yisroel Yehuda, Beis Moshiach Magazine

    The Baal Shem Tov once told his disciple, R’ Zev Kitzes, to study the kavanos (mystical intentions) of the tekios, since he would be the designated baal tokeia (shofar blower) on Rosh Hashana.

    R’ Zev learned the kavanos and even wrote them down on a paper that he put in his pocket so he could refer to it during the tekios. The Baal Shem Tov did not like this and the note mysteriously vanished.

    When it came time for the tekios, R’ Zev began looking for his paper with the kavanos and when he didn’t find it, he didn’t know what to do. He was so upset by this that he wept bitterly and blew the shofar without any kavanos.

    After the davening, the Baal Shem Tov said to him, “In the king’s palace there are many rooms and there are different keys for each door. Yet, there is one tool that can open all the locks and that is an ax. The kavanos are keys to the heavenly gates, with each gate having a different kavana. However, a broken heart can open all the gates and chambers.”


    The Mezritcher Maggid was not the baal tokeia in his shul. We know this from the Rebbe Rashab who said, “Everything was mesudar (organized) by the Mezritcher Maggid. On Rosh Hashana there were regular baalei tefilla and a regular baal tokeia, etc.”

    In another source it says that R’ Menachem Mendel of Horodok blew the shofar for many years. In that source it tells about one year when R’ Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev took his place:

    “For many years, R’ Menachem Mendel was the baal tokeia in the Maggid’s Beis Medrash. At that exalted time, as all around the talmidim pierced the heavens, the Maggid and his distinguished talmid would stand on the bima, R’ Mendele blowing the shofar and the Maggid serving as “announcer” by pointing in the machzor to the next shofar sound.

    “One year, R’ Menachem Mendel was not in Mezritch. He was on a mission for the Maggid. Before Rosh Hashana, the Maggid asked R’ Levi Yitzchok his talmid to blow the shofar. R’ Levi Yitzchok happily agreed, and immediately began preparing for the awesome moment.

    “When the time came, the Maggid and R’ Levi Yitzchok stood on the bima. The Maggid’s face looked serious to the point of fearsomeness. He recited the brachos, and when R’ Levi Yitzchok put the shofar to his mouth, he fell in a faint. His colleagues labored a long time to revive him.

    “Afterward, the Maggid declaimed with a smile, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with him; Mendele sees a lot more every year, and yet he doesn’t faint.’”

    In addition to the Maggid’s lofty kavanos during the tekios, he was instructed by the Baal Shem Tov to picture the face of his Rebbe. This is what the Baal Shem Tov wrote him in a letter that was found in the Charson geniza:

    “On the two holy days of Rosh Hashanah, before the tekios, you should also picture my image as well as the holy image of my master [the prophet Achiya HaShiloni] whom you merited to see.”

    From here we learn to picture the Rebbe as part of our kavanos during the tekios. More pointedly, the mashpia, R’ Shlomo Chaim Kesselman (apparently in the name of the Rebbe Rayatz) said that the words, “yisvadeh b’lachash,” meaning to confess silently, that appears between the series of tekios, refers to picturing the Rebbe!


    The Alter Rebbe did not know how to blow the shofar. On a certain occasion he explained that it was because a person learns to blow in his childhood, “But I was never a child.”

    However, the Alter Rebbe surely knew the kavanos of the tekios as illustrated by the following story. Once, before the Yomim Noraim, the Maggid called his disciple the Alter Rebbe, and said, “Since on Rosh Hashana the regular baal tokeia won’t be here, I want you to be the baal tokeia.”

    The Alter Rebbe replied, “I agree on condition that you give me the kavanos.”

    The Maggid agreed and arranged a time for him to come and learn the kavanos with him. Only after the study session did the Alter Rebbe say, “But I can’t blow …”

    The Maggid asked, “So why did you fool me and have me teach you the kavanos?”

    The Alter Rebbe replied, “I learned from Moshe Rabbeinu. When Hashem appeared to him at the burning bush and told him to go to Egypt and redeem the Jewish people, he asked Hashem what His name is. After Hashem revealed His name to him, Moshe said he couldn’t speak well and he did not want to go.”

    * * *

    The Alter Rebbe would take the Tzemach Tzedek under his tallis during the tekios until he was nine years old.

    * * *

    We do not have other information about the Alter Rebbe and tekios except that the teruos were comprised of 63 short notes. They would extend longer than the shevarim and the first tekia combined. This is according to what it says in Shulchan Aruch HaRav, that unlike the shevarim, which are limited in the number of notes, one may extend the terua for as long as he wishes.

    * * *

    As for the Mitteler Rebbe, there was a brief conversation on Rosh Hashana in the year 5720/1959, as the Rebbeim were generally very careful to greatly minimize speech on Rosh Hashana. In a response to one of the Chassidim who said, “Regarding the tekios, it is known that one of the Rebbeim did not know how to blow,” the Rebbe responded, “It was probably the Mitteler Rebbe.”

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    The Tzemach Tzedek blew the shofar on the Yomim Noraim in his Beis Medrash. One year, he could not blow, and he called over someone whom he knew could blow and asked him whether he would be willing to serve as the baal tokeia in his place. The person agreed.

    The Rebbe asked him whether he knew the kavanos and the man said, “Rebbe, I only know this – Hashem commanded us to blow the shofar.”

    The Rebbe said, “If so, you shall blow.”

    Another story is told about R’ Chaim Avrohom, the son of the Alter Rebbe. He was very great in Torah, Chassidus and middos. His appearance was similar to his father’s, and he would daven at great length with tremendous fervor. Despite his greatness, he was supremely humble and modest in his ways and was a man of truth who hated falsehood.

    R’ Chaim Avrohom accepted upon himself the leadership of his nephew the Tzemach Tzedek, and after the passing of his brother the Mitteler Rebbe, he was amongst those who urged the Tzemach Tzedek to accept the Chabad leadership. R’ Chaim Avrohom would always go to hear Chassidus from the Tzemach Tzedek despite his own greatness and genius, and he acted as one of his talmidim.

    Towards the end of his life, R’ Chaim Avrohom suffered pain in his feet, and he could not go to the Rebbe to hear Chassidus and to daven in his minyan. He had a minyan of his own in his house.

    One time, on Rosh Hashanah, after finishing the tekios in his minyan, he walked slowly to the Tzemach Tzedek’s shul to hear the tekios from him too. Walking was extremely difficult for him, and one of the Tzemach Tzedek’s sons asked him why he went to so much trouble when he had already blown the shofar himself.

    R’ Chaim Avrohom answered in great humility, “It does not say, ‘Fortunate is the nation that blows the terua’ but ‘fortunate is the nation that knows the terua,’ and that is why I have come to the Rebbe to hear the tekios.”


    We have no information about the tekios by the Rebbe Maharash aside from the number of teruos he would blow: “The Rebbe Maharash would blow a terua of 72 notes and the tekia after the shevarim/terua was as long as the shevarim, teruos and the first tekia combined.”

    R’ Yitzchok Yoel Rafaelowitz, the rav of Kremenchug, was present when the Rebbe blew the shofar. During the tekios, he could not fathom why the Rebbe blew as he did, and he decided to ask him.

    When he had yechidus, the Rebbe Maharash told him before he could even pose the question, “What do you think – that extraneous thoughts just consist of nonsense? When you think about that which is unnecessary, even in kedusha, those are also machshavos zaros.”

    Even when the Rebbe was absorbed in the supernal realms, he knew the thoughts of every person.

    * * *

    It is interesting to note that in Sefer HaSichos 5698, the Rebbe Rayatz writes that the Rebbe Maharash had a “long breath in song” so that he was able to blow 53 teruos with the shofar of the Maharal. This shofar was hard to blow and therefore, it was quite a feat that he was capable of blowing 53 teruos with it.


    The Rebbe Rashab began blowing shofar only after 5660. In the early years of his nesius he was the mesader tekios, which meant he would say the pesukim before and after the tekios, and he would be the announcer.

    For the two prior years, from 5658-5660, his son (later to be the Rebbe Rayatz) blew the shofar while his father announced the notes. That the Chabad Nasi did not blow the shofar in the first years of his nesius is something that repeated itself with the Rebbe Rayatz and the Rebbe MH”M.

    Beginning with the Rebbe Rashab we already have a detailed description of the awe-inspiring event of tekias shofar, which applies to the later Rebbeim as well:

    “After saying the Haftorah, the Rebbe prepared himself for the tekios, his face and head wrapped in his tallis. A low voice could be heard from under the tallis humming a fragment of a well-known Chabad niggun with great dveikus. Then, there would burst forth from deep within his holy heart the call ‘La’menatzeiach.’ Similarly, the Rebbe would recite each of the verses said before the tekios in a hoarsened voice suffused with deep sighs and terrible sobbing.

    “The Rebbe would say the pesukim before and after the tekios with a special niggun and once, they heard after the words, ‘arov avdecha l’tov’ that he said, ‘oy gevald’ – ‘al yaashkuni zeidim.’

    “After the tekios, when the Rebbe Rashab removed the tallis from his face and sat down to rest a little, he gazed upon the congregation who gazed back at him. Afterwards, I found out that gazing at the people after the tekios has kabbalistic significance. His holy countenance shone like that of an angel …” (Otzar Minhagei Chabad)


    On Rosh Hashana 5681, while the Rebbe Rayatz was in mourning, he did not want to blow the shofar. In general, that year he avoided any signs of being the Nasi. However, his mother, Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah told him, “I want to hear the shofar blown by you.” Since his mother asked him, he recited the brachos and blew one tekia and then gave the shofar to R’ Y. Rafaelowitz so he could continue the order of the tekios.

    Ishkavta d’Rebbi describes that year in very moving terms: “Tishrei passed with all the rituals like those of the Rebbe Rashab. The dveikus and terrible sobbing of the Rebbe [Rayatz] during the tefillos on the Yomim Noraim, especially during the Haftorah readings and the tekios, were very frightening. It melted the hearts of the congregants …”


    770 was packed with Jews of all ages who stood throughout the lengthy davening, hours upon hours, under very uncomfortable conditions. Yet they did not feel hungry and they were not bothered by the crowding because their hearts and minds were focused on something else entirely, on being with the Rebbe.

    The Rebbe entered the Beis Medrash for Shacharis holding the shofars and two or three Siddurim. He was followed by the secretaries who held three or four bags of panim. The Rebbe’s holy face looked very somber and tense. He walked to his place, put the shofars on the lectern and the bags of panim were placed next to him or on a small table set up especially for that purpose.

    As the time for Maftir approached, the tension in the room rose. Anash came from shuls all over the neighborhood, which added to the already packed room. The pushing created pulsating waves of humanity that swayed to and fro. What a dilemma – the Rebbe’s regular place was in the front and people wanted to stand as closely as possible to him; but then the Rebbe would stand at the bima (Torah reading table) for the tekios.

    The Rebbe was called up for Maftir and he took the shofars and Siddurim and turned towards the bima. He looked grim and as he walked to the bima, people froze in their places. It looked as though the Rebbe was not present, as though he was unaware of what was going on around him. The pushing stopped, as the crowd’s eyes and hearts were fixed on the Rebbe. Nobody gave a thought to their personal comfort for close to an hour. The tension in the room was palpable.

    The Rebbe read the Haftorah about the birth of Shmuel HaNavi. Many years, he cried as he read it. R’ Yoel Kahan wrote in his diary from one of the early years that he remembered that the Rebbe cried unceasingly at the verse, “I [Chana] am a woman of a sorrowful spirit, etc. and have poured out my soul before G-d.”

    Someone else related:

    “A bachur told me a frightening thing. He said that his father was once honored with hagba’ah on Rosh Hashana. His father lifted the Torah and then remained standing there near the bima for the tekios. Suddenly, in the middle of the Rebbe’s reading of the Haftorah, he felt a hand grasping the eitz hachayim (wooden handle) of the Torah and he heard the Rebbe cry out, ‘Oy Tatte,’ though not loudly, but in a cry from the heart.”

    On the Rebbe’s table were the Siddur “Torah Ohr” and the “Siddur im Dach,” and sometimes the Rebbe would also take the Arizal’s Siddur (composed by Reb Shabsi Rashkov). Two of Anash held the sifrei Torah.

    On the reading table were the bags of pidyonos and in the center of the table were the shofars. Generally, the Rebbe had three shofars, one from the Rebbe Maharash, a black shofar from the Tzemach Tzedek, and a third shofar. There were also about three white handkerchiefs and one red one, and another (red) torn one that had apparently belonged to the Alter Rebbe, and one could only see the edge. The Rebbe would spread out one of the handkerchiefs (usually a white one), put another one on top of it, place the shofar on them, and cover it all with another handkerchief. All this could take five minutes!

    Then the Rebbe in an abrupt motion “threw” his tallis over his face covering his face together with the pidyonos and the shofars. In 770 a tense silence reigned, as the congregation closely followed the Rebbe’s every move.

    “One could see that the Rebbe was crying a lot, the tallis was completely wet, I don’t know whether from sweat or tears; maybe both,” wrote R’ Yoel Kahan in his description of the tekios in 5712. “In the middle, I heard a quiet niggun in the midst of the tears as he was covered by his tallis, but I could not discern which tune fragment and those who stood nearby said that it was a Rosh Hashana’dike tune that they sang on Parshas Nitzavim. This took a long time. I did not look at the clock but it was a long time.”

    R’ M. M. Groner, son of the Rebbe’s secretary, relates: “I heard from my father that during those awe-inspiring moments, the Rebbe would silently sing a few niggunim. He always sang the “Three Tenuos” and then some other niggunim, as he cried a lot. Those moments felt like an eternity. Picture it: utter silence in the huge room, with everybody following every move of the Rebbe. During this time, people did not think of themselves. The feeling was that the Rebbe was elevating everyone together with him to another world. People suddenly cried; nobody paid attention to those around them; you did not even know who was standing next to you.”

    From R’ Yoel Kahan, 5712:

    The tense silence was broken when the Rebbe lifted his tallis till his eyes and began the familiar tune for La’menatzeiach. Then he threw the tallis over his face again. There was something entirely different with that La’menatzeiach. On a weekday, the Rebbe would daven in an ordinary fashion and his inner feeling was not externally expressed. However, when the Rebbe began reciting La’menatzeiach with the special tune, you could clearly hear the emotion bursting forth. The same was true afterward, when the Rebbe said the pesukim with great emotion.

    There were years that the tekios were blown easily and years that they weren’t, and the shofar was exchanged for another one. When the Rebbe tried to blow and it didn’t “go,” the crowd tensely followed the proceedings, realizing that a heavenly war was being waged and the difficulty was not a technical matter but had its source up above. One of the men who helped out at the Rebbe’s house said that the Rebbe blew the shofar later on for the Rebbetzin and never had any difficulty blowing it.

    A tekia … shevarim … terua … tekia … and once again, the Rebbe threw the tallis over his face and from among its folds one could hear dreadful crying, and then another tekia … shevarim …tekia, and so on, until the tekia gedola.

    A silent sigh of relief is felt in the crowd. The King has been crowned once again. Surely the Rebbe effectuated a good year for the Jewish people.


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