The Simple Shofar by Avi Levinson


The Gemara in Rosh Hashanah (26a) poses the following question: why are all Shofarot Kesheirim to be used for the Mitzvah except that of a cow?  One of the answers given is that “a prosecutor cannot become a defense attorney.”  Since cows are associated with the Cheit HaEigel, the sin of the golden calf, we do not want to “remind” Hashem of this sin on Rosh Hashanah.  The Gemara then asks why the clothes the Kohen Gadol wears on Yom Kippur are made out of gold; shouldn’t that also “remind” Hashem of the Cheit HaEigel?  The Gemara answers that only the Avodah which was performed inside the Kodesh HaKodashim in the Beit Hamikdash has to deal with the problem of “a prosecutor can not become a defense attorney.”  However, the Shofar is not blown in the Kodesh HaKodashim, so why should this problem be relevant?  The Gemara explains that because Shofar-blowing is done for Zikaron, remembrance, it is as if it is in the Kodesh HaKodashim.  Shofar is as close to Hashem as we can get on Rosh Hashanah; it is as if we enter the Kodesh HaKodashim itself.  What gives Shofar this immense power to connect us to Hashem?  What is the meaning of Shofar-blowing?

Perhaps these questions can be answered based on the Netivot Shalom on Parshat Ki Tavo.  Dealing with the statement that Bnei Yisrael “cried out” (Devarim 26:7) to Hashem when they were enslaved in Mitzrayim, he asks: why we did not express ourselves to Hashem the usual way, with words of prayer?  Alternatively, why did we “scream?”  He answers that the requests of Bnei Yisrael in Egypt were not expressible in words.  The pain was so intense that they were unable to articulate any requests; they simply “cried out” to Hashem.  

The same is true of Shofar.  The Shofar is a simple sound, much like screaming.  Shofar represents all of our requests, which come from so deep inside our hearts that they cannot be expressed in words.  That is the incredible power of Shofar.  The Shofar carries for us all those things that we need so much but simply can’t explain to Hashem.  [Editor’s note:  This concept has also been dealt with extensively in the writings of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik ZT”L.]


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