The Sound of the Season: Notes about the Shofar

August 30, 2023

The Sound of the Season: Notes about the Shofar

The Sound of the Season: Notes about the Shofar

by Rabbi Judith Beiner, Community Chaplain

During the High Holy days, we hear the shofar (rams horn), which is sounded numerous times during our worship services. The shofar was one of the instruments used in the ancient temple, and was used to announce the New Moon or the Coronation of the King, to rally the troops for battle, and it was sounded to herald the the giving of the 10 commandments on mount Sinai.

On Rosh Hashannah, the blast of the shofar announces the New Year, calling us to the task of repentance. The first century Rabbi Saadia Gaon said that when we hear the call of the shofar, we are to ‘awaken from our slumber, examine our actions and return sincerely to G-d, and remember our Creator.'”

When the shofar is blown, there are three specific notes or patterns sounded, each with its own significance in connection to repentance: 1) Tekia – one long blast telling us to WAKE UP 2) Shevarim – three medium length blasts that invoke the sound of weeping, and 3) Teruah – 9 staccato blasts that have an alarming urgency. Each time we hear the shofar, we are invited to listen to our conscience, face the truths about our shortcomings, and commit to improving our lives in the coming year.

The shape of the shofar contains a message as well. It is bent or curved, symbolizing a humble posture or attitude of humility that we are to adopt during the penitential season. If we are sincere in our intention to do serious soul searching, and in our efforts to change, we do well in turning away from ego or arrogance towards humility.

May we all hear and heed the call of the shofar. L’shana tova u’metukah. May you be blessed with a happy and sweet New Year.