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Why do we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah?

by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles

  

Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Shofar | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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There are many meanings to the Shofar-blowing. In fact, the leading Jewish sage in the tenth century CE, Saddia Gaon, listed ten major ones, each with a scriptural basis. Rabbi Saddia explained that the sound of the shofar should call to mind: 1) the creation of the world; 2) the beginning of the new year; 3) the Mt. Sinai experience; 4) the inspiring words of the prophets; 5) the destruction of the Holy Temples; and 6) the Binding of Isaac, when his father was prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. It should also arouse and increase in us 7) fear and awe of G-d Al-mighty; 8) fear and awe of the Day of Judgment; 9) belief in the future ingathering of the exiles and ultimate redemption through Moshiach, and inspire our yearning for it; and 10) belief in the future Resurrection of the Dead. (Click here for the list and attendant verses.)

Maimonidies explains that it is a call for Teshuvah, awaking us from our spiritual slumber and reminding us to return to G-d's ways. Another common explanation is that the Shofar-blowing is symbolic of a coronation, and on Rosh Hashanah we invoke G-d's desire to be our King again for the new year.

Keep in mind that while all of these are true and excellent interpretations, and are good to have in mind before or during the actual moments of the shofar-blowing, we cannot single out one of them or even all of them collectively as the real reason why the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah. The ultimate reason is quite simple; G-d instructed in the Torah that the shofar should be blown “on the first day of the seventh month.” The essence of the Divine Will is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals.

And yet we were entrusted to carry it out. That is the most beautiful aspect of all.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Moshiach
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.