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Shofarot: A Drash for Rosh Hashanah by Zoë, September 11, 2018

16/10/2018 10:07:07 AM



Why is the shofar such an important part of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? How can something as simple as the horn of a ram bring all of the Jewish people together once a year? The shofar is not only an instrument, but an item that has a lot of symbolism associated with it.

Shanah Tovah. There are three main themes of the musaf, which teaches us the meaning of Rosh Hashanah. The three main themes are: Malchuyot which means sovereignty and kingship, Zichronot: Remembrance, and shofarot, which I am going to talk about today. In the machzor, we read biblical examples of when the shofar is blown. The Shofarot starts off in poetic way, כבודך בענן נגלית אתה/attah niglita ba’anan k’vodecha/ you revealed yourself amid your cloud of glory.

With this, G-d reveals himself on Mount Sinai through the heavens with the sound of the shofar, to make himself heard. The noise of G-d was loud and booming and made all of the Jewish people tremble because of the thundering sounds. Next, we hear that Moses spoke to G-d and that he answered, by creating thunder, flaming torches, the sound of the shofar and smoke on the mountains. This causes the Jewish people to become afraid, but they still witness the experience from afar. Next, G-d rises from the horn blasts and is referred to as the redeemer.


As you know, the shofar is the hollowed out horn of a ram or occasionally other kosher animals with horns, and as simple as that sounds, it creates one of the holiest noises that the Jewish people hear all year. The shofar is usually from the horn of a ram, because of the binding of Isaac. The binding of Isaac happened when G-d asked Abraham to bring his son Isaac as a sacrifice, to test Abraham's faith. When Abraham brought Isaac, God sent down an angel, who showed Abraham a ram which they used as a sacrifice instead.


Now, I would like to describe the meaning of the blasts (calls):

Tekiah, Shevarim, and T'ruah. The Tekiah is supposed to be an awakening, telling us to listen to the shofar and wake ourselves up, and to not let dullness of our everyday lives prevent us from doing what we dream to do. The Shevarim is supposed to sound similar to someone wailing or sighing, so that we will become aware of all of the people in the world suffering and feel compassion and love in our hearts. The T’ruah is supposed to sound like a trumpet blast, and a call to battle. We are supposed to be devoted people, who do mitzvot, and give to others when they are in need.


As I mentioned earlier in my Dvar Torah, the shofar has a lot of symbolism associated with it. The 9th century Talmudic scholar and Jewish philosopher, Saadiah Gaon describes 10 symbols of the Shofar. The first one he speaks about is how the shofar represents the trumpet that is blown during the coronation of a king, meaning that the shofar acknowledges God’s sovereignty. The second symbol he speaks about is that the shofar blast represents the ten days of Repentance. The third symbol is that the sound of the shofar is supposed to remind us of God’s Revelation at Mount Sinai, where the Jewish people said, “We will do, and we will listen.” The fourth one is that the sound of the shofar, like the prophets, warns the people of their wrongdoing and calls them towards God. Fifth, the shofar reminds us to pray for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. The sixth symbol is about the ram's horn reminding us of the binding of Isaac. Seventh is about how the shofar inspires people to fear and tremble when they hear it. The eighth symbol is about how the shofar reminds us of judgment day and the ninth is that the shofar brings all the exiled people together so that they can return to Jerusalem. Lastly, the shofar reminds us of the future resurrection of the dead and reminds us of our faith in God.


Years ago, at my elementary school, we broke a world record for the most shofars blown at once. I remember that we made our own shofars out of animal horns, then afterwards we all gathered together outside with over 1000 people, and blew our shofars. When it happened, I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but I remember that it was chaotic, exciting, loud and that it was a very important occasion. Now, as I reflect on Rosh Hashanah as a thirteen year old, I have a better understanding of what is going on, and I have a lot of reasons why I think that Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important Jewish Holidays for young people. Rosh Hashanah is important because it is one of the only times during the year to start completely fresh, which is a relieving feeling, because it gives us a chance to change and improve ourselves.

According to Maimonides, Rosh Hashanah is an awakener. He says that Rosh Hashanah is a time which gives us perspective to see the flaws in our routines, and how to fix them. To interpret this into a tween’s or kid’s lifestyle, it can mean a lot of things. For example: School. How was your school routine last year? Were you always late to class, unorganized, and felt like you were overwhelmed in work? Rosh Hashanah is the perfect time to make changes in your routine and reflect on last year. For example, last year my locker was very messy, and I could never find anything which occasionally affected my classes. This year, I reflected on how that affected me, and I decided that I would not let my locker get messy, which has already helped improve the beginning of my year so much. Another thing that a lot of tweens can improve on is temper.

Whether it’s getting less annoyed with your friends, understanding your teachers more when they give you homework, or trying to see eye to eye with your parents, reflecting and changing your temper as much as possible is a perfect way to stay calmer and happier. The machzor talks about how the letters in the word shofar, can make the words refesh (mud), and shefer (beauty) when you rearrange them. It also says that we blow the shofar from the narrow end of it and that the noise comes out of the larger end of it. What this means, is that each person is like the shofar. One side of us can be closed minded and cowardly, and one side of us can be open minded and brave. By blowing the shofar and doing teshuva, or repentance, we move from being closed minded and cowardly, to being open minded and brave. We also move from being like mud, which is low and dirty, to being the children of God, who are holy, and just like sound of the shofar, we rise upward.


Now, I would like to go back to the third symbol from Saadia Gaon, when the Jewish people said “We will do and we will listen” when they heard the shofar, and accepted the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is how we communicate with G-d. “We will do” means that we will follow a Jewish life through our actions, and “We will listen” is one of the most important things to do as Jewish people, especially on Rosh Hashanah. Listening is not always easy, but it helps us understand. When we listen to the shofar, we are listening to G-d’s kingship, and we are listening to his commandments in the torah. This is the most beautiful awakening call all year because it means we are marking the new year with an open heart and an open mind, so that we can listen fully. Shanah Tovah.

Thu, 23 May 2024 15 Iyar 5784