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Rosh Hashana: The Day The Silent Soul Blares

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Rosh Hashana is celebrated with a variety of beautiful customs and rituals, but the central mitzvah of the day is listening to the sound of the shofar. The shofar is so focal to the holiday that in Torah itself, the day is referred to only as “a remembrance of the shofar blast, a holy occasion” (Leviticus 23:24), and “a day of shofar sounding for you” (Numbers 29:1). The name Rosh Hashana was only applied to the holiday in the Talmudic period 1500 years after the Torah was given. Until that time, the day was referred to simply as “Yom Teruah/the day of shofar sounding.” In order to understand Rosh Hashana, we must therefore explore the meaning of the shofar.

The shofar, as known, is a ram’s horn that has been hollowed to create a rudimentary instrument that emits a trumpet-like blare. It is sounded over one hundred times throughout the holiday’s prayer service, and the sages provide a variety of explanations for this practice. Historically, the shofar recalls one of the most striking and pivotal moments in the biblical narrative – the binding of Isaac. In a test of his faith and obedience, Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his beloved son. Without hesitation, Abraham binds Isaac on the altar and raises the knife to slay him. At the last moment, God calls to him and tells him not to harm his child. Instead he offers a ram that has become caught in the thicket behind him. Ever since, the ram’s horn has been a symbol of complete devotion and self-sacrifice.

The sages have provided a number of additional interpretations for symbolism of the shofar, including the coronation of the king, the cry of anguish over our mistakes throughout the past year, the bugle call of reveille urging us to awaken for the year ahead. On the mystic level, we can identify another symbolism that will help us to approach the most profound depths of this extraordinarily holy and powerful........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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