We are just a few short weeks before the holy days of Rosh Hashanah.
Before every special event we plan and prepare and do all we can to get ready for whatever it might be that we are celebrating; a wedding, a graduation, a special birthday, or any special moment. We want to make sure we won’t miss a thing in the preparations so that the event will come out perfectly.
On the highest of holy days of the year we want to make sure that we are prepared for this day with all our heart and soul, so that when we stand before our creator we can show him how much we love and care about him. We prepared and learned and repented in order to make Hashem very proud of us. And then G-d will announce once again, as in the past, I am your G-d, your creator and I will rule over you and all of the world once more.
The shofar is an ancient musical horn made of ram’s horns. It is similar to the modern bugle. The shofar lacks pitch-altering devices. The control of the shofar is done by the pitch of the blower. We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, at the end of Yom Kippur, and every weekday in the month of Elul. The shofar varies in sizes and shapes, depending on the choice of animal and level and finish..
There is a Commandment to Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. It is written in the Torah in a number of places regarding the shofar.
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation.”
”And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.”
To better understand the meaning behind the sound of the shofar there is a small parable which expresses these thoughts.
There was once a King who had an only son, the apple of his eye. The King wanted his son to master different fields of knowledge and to experience various cultures, so he sent him to a far-off country, supplied with a generous quantity of silver and gold. Far away from home, the son squandered all the money until he was left completely destitute. In his distress he resolved to return to his father’s house and after much difficulty, he managed to arrive at the gate of the courtyard to his father’s palace.
In the passage of time, he had actually forgotten the language of his native country, and he was unable to identify himself to the guards. In utter despair he began to cry out in a loud voice, and the King, who recognized the voice of his son, went out to him and brought him into the house, kissing him and hugging him.
The meaning of the parable: The King is G-d. The prince is the Jewish people, who are called “Children of G-d” (Deuteronomy 14:1). The King sends a soul down to this world to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot. However, the soul becomes very distant and forgets everything he was accustomed to above, and in the long exile he even forgets his own “language.” The soul then utters a simple cry to its Father in Heaven. This is the blowing of the shofar, a cry from deep within, expressing regret for the past and determination for the future. This cry elicits G-d’s mercies, and He demonstrates His abiding affection for His child and forgives him.
When a baby is born he doesn’t speak he only knows how to cry, and yet this cry is sweeter than any words he might be able to say. The cry is innocent and pure and goes straight to the heart with no intervention.
We too would like our shofar cry to be pure and sweet and go straight to G-d’s heart.
We’re familiar with the sights, tastes, and sounds of Rosh Hashanah – the sweet sensation of honey on our tongues, the rhythmic swaying of the congregation in prayer, the cry of the shofar piercing the air. But have we ever stopped to think about the messages behind the deeds of the day?
While every commandment is essentially supra-rational – performed solely because it is the will and command of the Creator – our sages have found meaning and messages behind the commandments we fulfill. There are at least 11 reasons given for blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
The shofar was blown at Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given. On Rosh Hashanah, we blow the shofar to remind us to rededicate ourselves to Torah study – and to remind G‑d of our original commitment and sincerity.
On Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of creation, G‑d renews the creative energy that sustains our world. Once more, He is crowned as King of the universe. Just as trumpets are sounded at a coronation, the shofar announces G‑d’s continued kingship.
On Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, we awaken from our spiritual slumber. The shofar is like an alarm clock that calls on us to examine our deeds and correct our ways, as we return to G-d.
The shofar reminds us of the voice of the prophets, who like the blast of the shofar’s cry, reminds us of the cries and tears shed for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, galvanizing us to bring Moshiach and hasten the rebuilding of the Temple.
The shofar calls upon us to correct our ways, follow G‑d’s commandments, and act properly.
The shofar is made of a ram’s horn. This reminds us of the binding of Yitzchak and the ram G‑d provided as a sacrifice in his place. By blowing the shofar, we remember the faith of our forefathers and our own capacity for self-sacrifice.
The shofar fills us with awe and humility as we contemplate the truth of G‑d, how He fills all space and time.
The shofar will be blown on the Day of Judgment when Moshiach comes. We thus blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us to examine our deeds and contemplate how we can improve them.
The shofar blast will signal the return of all the Jewish people when the full redemption will come. We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us of G‑d’s salvation in our own lives.
In the time when all of the world will be redeemed, the shofar blast will herald a time of universal understanding and recognition of G‑d’s unity. Therefore, we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us of G‑d’s unity.
The call of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of the eternal voiceless call of the soul expressing its desire to return to its Creator.
Let all our shofar sounds and the reasons behind them, be fulfilled, and may we merit the 3rd temple speedily in our time, amen.