Since the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah, the Bible calls it Yom Truah and focuses on two key concepts: it is the first day of a new year and it is the day of judgment, a day of reflection. Consequently, at the beginning of a new year, we evaluate the previous one and make plans for the future.
Meaning of blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah
The source of Rosh Hashanah in the Torah is:
According to Bemidvar/Numbers 29:1, “the first day of the seventh month shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no slave labor; it is a day to rejoice at the sound of the trumpet.”
Furthermore, it is stated in Vayikra/Leviticus 23:24 that “you must remember it with the sounding of trumpets on the first day of the seventh month.”
Why sound the Shofar?
Rabbi Saadaia Gaon enumerates the reasons for this principle:
Today we celebrate the coronation of the Holy Blessed Sea in the same way that kings are proclaimed: trumpets and shofars are sounded in their presence to announce the beginning of their reigns everywhere.
King David said: “With trumpets and the sound of the cornet, shout for the Eternal King” (Psalm 98:6).
The sounding of the shofar reminds us of the revelation at Sinai, which was accompanied by the words “The sound of the shofar was very loud,” at which time the Israelite people proclaimed:
“We will hear and we will do.”
The sound of the shofar reminds us of the long-awaited gathering of the Passover.
Ram’s horn is used to make the shofar
It should serve as a reminder of the binding of Yitzchak. A ram that was nearby and had its horns entangled in the underbrush caught Abraham’s attention after the attempted sacrifice and he offered it in place of his son.
Sounding the shofar serves as a reminder of the accomplishments of our ancestors. It must be sounded 101 times. By order of the Sages, on Rosh Hashanah, it is not sounded if it falls on the Sabbath.
The requirement to listen to the Shofar is the law that distinguishes Rosh Hashanah. The trumpet is a man-made instrument, in contrast to the shofar, which is a natural instrument made from a ram’s horn.
When it is a human being who blows the trumpet, the Torah says that it serves to call (either to God or to other people). When it is God Himself who calls, the shofar is sounded (R.S.R. Hirsch).
They consist of a long, fixed sound called “Teki’ah”, a “Shevarim” or “Tru’ah” (break), or both combined and another “Teki’ah”.
The sounds made to alert the inhabitants that the camp of Israel was advancing were the same sounds heard in the wilderness.
The Tekiyah calls to a place, the Teruah of dismounting and the last Tekiyah of the new place to which it is taken.
God calls us to renounce our vices and preconceptions, to reflect and consider, to free ourselves from what does not make sense and to reorient ourselves according to His commandment on Rosh Hashanah.
The components of the Amidah of Mussaf (prayer) pertain to the same idea.
“Malchiyot” (taking God’s kingship), which calls us, “Zichronot” (memories) of how our lives have been up to that point and “Shofarot”, the sounding of the shofar, which frees us from the bonds of the past and enables us to begin a new life, are all related concepts.
Just as the Shofar achieved the goal of freeing the slaves and the fields sold on Yom Kippur of the Lovel, which occurred once every fifty years.
Traditions of the holiday
In the month of Elul, preparations for Rosh Hashanah begin.
Every morning, after the Shacharit prayer at the beginning of the month of Elul, the shofar is traditionally blown to call the people to repentance for the coming days of judgment.
Sephardim have a tradition of rising early in the month of Elul to say the “Selichot”, or penitential prayer.
For their part, Ashkenazim do so since the Sabbath ended before Rosh Hashanah. It is customary to wish one’s neighbor a happy new year and to have one’s name inscribed in the book of good deeds as the holiday approaches. We start the New Year with rituals that represent the desires within us:
- The apple is dipped in honey and a prayer is made asking for a good and sweet new year.
- The head of a fish or sheep is eaten and prayed to become the head and not the tail.
- “May it be Your will that our merits grow like the pomegranate,” one exclaims while consuming an overflowing pomegranate.
- While eating dates, one prays for the annihilation of one’s adversaries.
Related Shofar video on Youtube
With information from Israel News