A question by רבות מחשבות here asked about counting the Omer in the bathroom. In the spirit of Elul, that raises the question if one may listen to the shofar while standing in an unclean place?

On the one hand, even if we say one may not count, the passive act of hearing the shofar might be more lenient. One could make sure not to concentrate on the mitzva, but still listen to it. Or perhaps we should say one should block one's ears, because perhaps mitzvot don't need kavana and the mitzva of hearing the shofar is equivalent to thinking about Torah (unlike, say, wearing tzitzit).

I assume in any case, we would require a person to hear it again, so my question is mainly if one should try not to listen.

  • It would depend what the place is. Sep 6, 2018 at 18:09
  • For example, while one is in the bathroom Sep 6, 2018 at 18:54

3 Answers 3


R. Kook phrases this query differently while encapsulating the underlining question: Is blowing shofar likened to sacred speech ("dibbur shel kedushah") or is it a mere action/mitzvah. The given ramification is if one may fulfill the aforementioned obligation in an unclean place or in the presence of an uncovered body-part "for which we don't find that it is prohibited in such circumstances, save for Torah and tefilah" (Orach Mishpat §139). Biur Halachah too (§588 s.v. שמע) raises this issue and leaves it unsettled.

In looking for precedent we find in Yerushalmi Demai (1:4) that the deconsecration of Demai in a bathhouse is permitted since no blessing is required. Similarly, Rema (YD §19:1), upholding the opinion of Aggudah, rules that it is permissible to ritually slaughter an animal (i.e. the mitzvah of shechitah) in an unclean setting, though the prescribed blessing should be recited beforehand in a clean place. It would seem from these sources that a mitzvah without speech may be performed in an unclean setting.

R. Ovadia Yosef, in a responsum about tithing Terumah and Ma'asrot in an unclean setting (Yabia Omer vol. 6 YD §29), also marshals the Yerushalmi in Demai and suggests to prove that one may indeed tithe in an unclean setting as well. Additionally, he cites other authorities who permitted various biblical mitzvot to be performed in an unclean setting basing themselves on this Yerushalmi. However, he initially objects to equating a biblical mitzvah (tithing Terumah or, as in our case, listening to shofar) which requires intent (cf. Shulchan Aruch OC §60:4), and forbidden to do so in an unclean place (cf. Ber. 24b), to a non-biblical or only preparatory mitzvah (shechitah, deconsecration of Demai etc.) which, according to some authorities, does not require intent.

Yet, R. Yosef concludes that since many authorities, including some Geonim, maintain that even biblical mitzvot do not require intent one should therefore rely on this opinion and perform a mitzvah in event of extenuating circumstances and will not have another chance at appropriately performing the given mitzvah.


Mesoras Moshe (volume I, page 181), by R' Moshe Feinstein's secretary, says someone asked Rav Moshe what to do if hearing it while in the bathroom. He said to not intend to fulfill the mitzvah, as doing so would be like thinking about Torah; all you need to hear is 30 sounds, so most likely you can miss that bunch and catch another bunch at some other part of davening.


It is the same as kriat shema and shouldn't be heard(since he would be fulfilling a mitzvah d'oraita if it's the first time he heard it on Rosh Hashana and is intending to be yotze) and is required to hear it again(see Rama in Shulchan Aruch OC 85:1 and 65:1 and the Ba'er Heitev 2 ibid. that brings the opinions of Maharam Mintz in siman 85, Bach, and Magen Avraham that being in an unfit place has the status of oness).

Although the simanim sourced above were written with regards to kriat shema, I don't see why it wouldn't apply to hearing the shofar since they are both on the level of d'oraita; nor do I know of any shut'im dealing with this question.

There are places, however, that it may be heard(like the kriat shema; see Shulchan Aruch OC 84).

  • Thanks for your answer, and the references. However, it's not so clear that shofar and kriat shma have the same laws. See the discussion at the question I linked to. Sep 6, 2018 at 19:24
  • Good point. The rule of shome'a k'oneh makes the listener like the reader(or in this case, the toke'a) and shoudn't be done in an unclean place. However, our bathrooms(when clean) have the din of a parsai and may be yotze hearing the shofar b'diavad. My answer is l'chatchila and based on the reasoning mentioned making the listener like the toke'a. Sep 6, 2018 at 19:30
  • 2
    Shema has Hashem's name in it. Shofar doesn't.
    – Heshy
    Sep 6, 2018 at 19:44
  • True. There are opinions that say one doesn't need to repeat the shema when said in an unclean place. L'ma'aseh, we repeat it anyway. While there is room to be lenient in the case of a bathroom nowadays, since they are both d'oraita and there are some that disqaulify the act; safek d'oraita l'chumra and hear it again. Sep 6, 2018 at 19:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .