Each week we discuss one familiar halakhic practice and try to show its beauty and meaning. The columns are based on Rabbi Meir's Meaning in Mitzvot on Kitzur Shulchan Arukh
The Great Shofar
In the musaf prayer of Rosh HaShana (as well as in the regular weekday amida), we ask HaShem to blow the great shofar of redemption. What is the special significance of the great shofar of redemption? Is there a shofar of redemption which is not great?
Rav Kook explains that there are indeed different types of shofar of redemption, corresponding to the different types of shofar distinguished in the halacha. The Shulchan Arukh explains that there are three different levels of fitness for a shofar:
1. Whenever possible we should use a
shofar which comes from a ram.
Rav Kook explains that just as there are three different kinds of shofar calls on Rosh HaShana, there are three different kinds of calls to redemption - three different "shofars of redemption".
1. Ideally, the redemption and the ingathering of the exiles will take place because the Jewish people are alert to the great call of holiness, the desire to fully fulfill our destiny as a holy people which can only be done in the holy Land of Israel. This corresponds to the shofar of a ram. (Presumably because the ram recalls the binding of Yitzchak and therefore connects us to the heritage of the Avot and the covenant that their offspring will be G-d's people in the Land of Israel.) This is the great shofar, the ideal redemption which we pray for.
2. If we are not attentive to this call,
then there is another call to the ingathering of the exiles: a person with
ordinary, natural and healthy human nature longs to live with his or her own
people in a free and orderly state in a national homeland. This is not the
redemption we pray for, but it is a perfectly kosher redemption and worthy
of blessing if this happens to be our national circumstance. This corre-
sponds to an ordinary shofar, which has no particular disqualification and
is used with a blessing if the need arises.
One who did not hear the first call of holiness, and whose ears were sealed even to the second call, will be compelled to hear the call of the defiled and unfit shofar. Furthermore, even if he comes to Eretz Yisrael because of this shofar he has fulfilled his obligation; but we do not pray for this kind of redemption and we don't even make a blessing on it.
Our prayer is that we shouldn't have to be driven to the land of Israel by the wrath of tyrants, nor even attracted to it by lukewarm secular nationalistic sentiments. We pray to be inspired to Eretz Yisrael by the great shofar of redemption, the call which comes from the depths of holiness of the Jewish soul.
(Rav Kook's drasha was given seventy years ago on Rosh HaShana 5694, only a few months after Hitler ym"s rose to power in Germany and has not lost a bit of relevance.)
“Meaning in Mitzvot” is undergoing intensive editing; which will be followed IYH by printing. With the help of loyal supporters, we hope to have the book on the shelves by Rosh HaShana. If you would be interested in helping with publication, please contact Rabbi Meir about making a dedication or subscription (advance purchase): E-mail email@example.com, fax 02-642-3141.
Rabbi Meir authors a popular weekly on-line Q&A column, "The Jewish Ethicist", which gives Jewish guidance on everyday ethical dilemmas in the workplace. The column is a joint project of the JCT Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology - Machon Lev; and Aish HaTorah. You can see the Jewish Ethicist, and submit your own Qs — www.jewishethicist.com or www.aish.com.