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Why do we blow the Shofar during the Month of Elul?

by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort

  

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Hey “Moses,” I have got an important question for you! Why is it that starting from the month of Elul we begin blowing the Shofar?

Indeed, that is an important question. Now let me explain the reasons behind this beautiful custom…

Once we have entered the Hebrew month of Elul we know that the High Holiday season is right around the corner. As such it is time for the spiritual preparations to begin. Just as one would never consider going to a court case without being thoroughly prepared, so too one should never enter the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) without extensive preparations.

What kind of spiritual preparations are entailed? Self-examination tops the list. Elul is regarded as the appropriate time for analyzing the past year. This means we seek out our own frailties and confront them. By so doing we are able to enter the New Year ready for improvement, which manifests itself with an enhanced spiritual performance, as well as an increased yearning for spirituality.

Each day that the Shofar is sounded, the prosecuting angel becomes disoriented and confused. The holy sound of Jews crying to return to G-d confounds the prosecutor's plans and derails his train of thought and strategy
But how did Elul come to reside in such an illustrious position of importance? Is it only because of its proximity to the High Holy Days, or perhaps is there something inherent in the month itself that gives it prominence? Our Sages answer by telling us that the name of the month itself is indicative of its great significance. The name Elul (Babylonian in origin) can be viewed as an acronym for the Hebrew words "Ani Lidodi, vi'Dodi Li," (I am to my Beloved, and my Beloved is to me). These words describe our ongoing relationship with the Almighty. As the Song of Songs attests, we have an ongoing love affair with our Creator. He reciprocates our love as well. In fact we find that through our demonstrative love of G-d during Elul, G-d's love reverberates back to us during the critical High Holy Day period immediately following.

Alas however, there is a major challenge that we face each year. We "forget" about this special relationship. We become so immersed in our daily mundane existence that we allow our special relationship to become stale as it slips into the farther reaches of our consciousness instead of occupying the prominent position it deserves. This spiritual slumber is a terrible malady for the Jew, as spiritual indifference and laziness, represent the fast-track to the notion of becoming spiritually adrift. We clearly recognize that anything that compromises our bond with G-d is detrimental to our well-being (both spiritual and physical).

The name Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew words "I am to my Beloved, and my Beloved is to me." We have an ongoing love affair with our Creator, and through our demonstrative love of G-d during Elul, G-d's love reverberates back to us during the critical High Holy Day period immediately following
It is for this reason that once Elul commences we mark each day (other than Shabbat and the Eve of Rosh Hashanah itself) with a clarion call to the Jewish people to wake up! This call comes by way of the Shofar (ram's horn). A series of blasts are sounded that emulate the sound of crying. We cry bitter tears over our past failures and shortcomings. We arouse ourselves to renew and reinvigorate our divine service. We feel the urge to discover and experience the King, who may be found in our midst if we just open our eyes to see.

Each day that the Shofar is sounded the evil inclination, the angel that uses our own sins to prosecute us On High, becomes disoriented and confused. The holy sound of Jews crying to return to G-d confounds the prosecutor's plans and derails his train of thought and strategy. When this opponent is swept aside all that remains is the Jew and G-d staring at each other face to face with unfettered love and absolute mutual commitment. Now we are ready for the High Holidays!

TAGS: Shofar

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Miscellaneous » The Jewish Calendar
Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Shofar

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
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.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
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.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
Song of Songs
One of the 24 books of the Bible, authored by King Solomon. This book, which ostensibly is a love poem, is an analogy meant to depict the love between G-d and His bride, the Jewish Nation.
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.