The Challenge of Shofar by Rabbi Yosef Adler



            The focal point of the holiday of Rosh Hashana is the Mitzvah of blowing the shofar.  The פייטנים, מדרשים, and בעלי הלכות all highlight the significance of this Mitzvah.  During the חזרת השץ of Shacharit, we state בשופר תנו, I will successfully seduce Hashem via the medium of the shofar.  The Midrash states אמרו לפני מלכויות כדי שתמליכוני עליכם אמרו לפני זכרונות כדו שתעלה זכרונותיכם אלי ובמה? בשופר.  Declare the kingdom of Hashem, recite Zichronot to enable God to remember us favorably.  And how is this ultimately accomplished?  By sounding the shofar.  The Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashana comments ולמה תוקעין בשופר של איל  כדי שתזכר אילו של יצחק.  We sound the ram's horn to invoke the merit of Yitzchak's sacrifice at the Akeidah.  We all recall the famous Rambam, in Hilchot Teshuva אע"פ שתקעית שופר גזירת הכתוב רמז יש בדבר כלומר עורו ישנים משינתכם - Despite the fact that one observes the Mitzvah of blowing shofar to simply honor God's command, one can not ignore the powerful cal to awaken us from our slumber.  Shofar, apparently, is no plain ordinary Mitzvah (as if there were such a thing).  Its symbolism and meaning is rooted in the very essence of the Rosh Hashana experience.  This year, as the first day of Rosh Hashana coincides with Shabbat, the Rabbanan have declared that we do not sound the shofar גזירא שמה יעבירנו ארבע אמות ברשות הרבים - lest one forget and carry the shofar in the public domain and consequently desecrate the Shabbat.  But why do we listen to the Chachamim?  How can we achieve our victory (with a shofar I will seduce Him), if we will not sound the shofar on this day?  Wouldn't our profound understanding of the shofar override the Rabbinic conclusion? 

            In reality, Avraham faced this very dilemma at Har Hamoria.  Hashem himself had instructed him to offer Yitzchak as a korban - והעלהו שם לעולה.  Yet, the commands not to slaughter Yitzchak - אל תשלח ידך אל הנער ואל תעש לו מאומה - did not come from God, but rather from an angel.  It was far more difficult for Avraham not to offer Yitzchak as a Korban, seemingly in defiance of the divine command.  Yet this is precisely what he does.  It is then most fitting and appropriate that we too follow the directive of God's emissaries - the Rabbis of each generation not to sound the shofar even in face of the direct command of God to sound the shofar.  Let us hope that our fulfillment of this ניסיון will merit us ועקידת יצחק לזרעו היום ברחמים תזכור - that Hashem grants a year of life and peace to all of Klal Yisrael.

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