The Meaning of Shofar by Meir Dashevsky


The source for the Mitzva of Shofar is the phrase “Yom Teruah” in Bemidbar (29:1).  The Rambam states that this Mitzva is a Chok (a Mitzva that we do not understand) because the Torah does not provide a reason for blowing Shofar, but he imparts that there is an allusion in the Torah to the reason for Shofar, which suggests that the Shofar’s message is: “Awake, sleepers, from your sleep!  Arise, slumberers, from your slumber!  Scrutinize your deeds!  Repent with contrition!  Remember your Creator!  Peer into your souls; improve your ways and your deeds...” (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4).

Children are taught that blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana serves as a reminder to repent and beg forgiveness from Hashem.  What is the source of this idea?  Where does the Torah allude to this explanation of Shofar?

One place to look is the portion of the Torah read on Rosh Hashana.  The reading of the second day is Bereishit chapter 22, which discusses Akeidat Yitzchak.  After Avraham was told that he should not sacrifice his son, he sacrificed a ram in place of Yitzchak.  Our custom is to use the ram’s horn as the Shofar, one of the connections between Rosh Hashana and this Torah reading.  Just as Hashem accepted Avraham’s sacrifice, so too we hope He will accept our prayers.  While we do not have the ability to offer sacrifices anymore, our sincere prayers will be accepted through the Shofar.

A second source of Shofar is in Shemot, where the Torah writes, “The sound of the Shofar grew continually stronger” (19:19). This Pasuk is taken from the Parsha where Bnai Yisrael received the Torah.  Therefore, the blowing of the Shofar reminds us of that event and reminds us to return to Hashem as if we have just received the Torah.

Yet another source can be found in Yechezkel, where the Navi writes, “When I bring the sword of war upon the land...He blows the Shofar and warns the people” (33:2-3). In this example, a direct correlation can be found between the Shofar and awakening the people to do Teshuva.  Hashem brings war to the land, and the way to save oneself is to hear the wake-up call, the Shofar, to heed that warning, and to take appropriate action.

A fourth source is in Yeshayahu, where the Navi records, “And it will be on that day that a great Shofar will be blown, and then...they shall prostrate themselves to Hashem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem” (27:13). This points out the connection between Shofar and redemption, and it alludes to our hope that blowing the Shofar will hasten the coming of Mashiach.

The Shofar is blown, but many are failing to heed its call.  Throughout the world, many Jews are reaching a low in relationships between one another, often due to religious or political differences.  This Rosh Hashana we will listen to the Shofar, but there is another Shofar one can hear if he listens carefully.  We can not afford to fight and squabble amongst ourselves.  When all Jews can put away their differences for good and unite as one, the Shofar of Yeshayahu will sound and all will awaken and listen.  לשנה טובה תכתבו ותחתמו.

The Power of Prayer by Dani Gross

Forgiveness as a Deed by Rabbi Hershel Solnica zt”l