OU Torah Insights
Rosh Hashana - 1st Day
September 30, 2000
ASHREI HA'AM... Happy (fortunate) is the nation that knows the
shofar sounds. The shofar produces simple elemental sounds. Yet there is a
wealth of significance and deep meaning to the shofar sounds. Many commentaries discuss the different thoughts that one should have while
listening to the sound of the shofar on Rosh
Hashana. Here is a composite of these kavanot.
G-D'S KINGSHIP - Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the sixth day of creation, the day that G-d's subjects (human beings) were created.
Consequently, Rosh Hashana is the coronation day of the Supreme King. To herald that event, we sound the royal trumpet - the shofar. The tekiya (the
long, monotonic, unbroken sound) is specifically associated with this aspect of Rosh
Hashana. The tekiya is a happy and proud sound. Although other emotions claim our attention, one should be happy and proud on
Rosh Hashana as we affirm our loyalty to the King of kings.
CALL TO REPENTANCE - The Shofar is the alarm that (hopefully) wakes people up to their task of doing teshuva and beseeching G-d for
forgiveness. This is why the shofar has been sounded throughout Elul, and
this is one of the major functions of the shofar on Rosh Hashana. It is the broken sounds of the shvarim and teruah that most fit with this aspect of
RELIVING SINAI - The Torah describes the events of matan Torah as being accompanied by an ever-increasing sound of the shofar. When we hear the
shofar, we should be moved to dedicate ourselves to Torah and mitzvot.
Accepting the yoke of Torah is both part of the teshuva process and a very significant incentive to "do serious
THE WORDS OF THE PROPHETS are likened to the sound of the shofar. This reminder inspires greater commitment to faithful observance of
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE BEIT HAMIKDASH should also be kept in mind while hearing the shofar. The Prophets mention the shofar in their description of the
churban. One should think of the "ups and downs" of
Jewish history and their relationship to the Rosh Hashana challenge we all face.
AKEIDAT YITZCHAK - Perhaps the most prominent element of Rosh Hashana is the binding of Isaac and its ramifications for the people of
Israel. The choice of a ram's horn as shofar, the Torah reading for the second day, the main focus of the zichronot bracha of the Musaf, and
tashlich all point to the akeida as a major theme of the day. When we stand in judgment before G-d, we must be acutely aware of the real answer to the question, "Who is a Jew?" We are the heirs of the patriarchs and matriarchs whose commitment to G-d is exemplified by the akeida. The Chafetz Chaim points out that most of the promises of blessings in the Torah are conditioned upon our "good behavior." The notable exception to that is G-d's promise to Avraham Avinu at the akeida, which was unconditional. We therefore set the akeida as our focus on Rosh
INSTILLS FEAR - "If a Shofar sounds in the city, will not the people tremble?"
THE GREAT JUDGMENT DAY is associated with the sounding of the shofar. One should think of that to help keep things in perspective on Rosh Hashana, the annual judgment day.
THE INGATHERING OF THE EXILES is described by the prophet Yishayahu as being accompanied by the sounding of the great shofar. We are witness to the beginning of that process in our own time, with Jews from the former Soviet Union and the Jews of Ethiopia immigrating to Israel in such great numbers. Over the past 50 years, entire Jewish communities have been transplanted to Israel from their Diaspora homes. May we be privileged to see that continue.
T'CHIYAT HAMEITIM (resurrection of the dead) is also associated with the Shofar.
Note that the verse that makes up the title of this piece does not say, "the person who blows the shofar," or "the person who hears the shofar sounds." It is not enough to hear the sounds; we must know what they mean. We must hear their message and we must become better people because of the sounds. Then we will be truly happy and fortunate.
Adapted from Torah
Written by Phil Chernofsky, Director of Education OU/NCSY Center in