What is a Shofar?
A Shofar is a horn of a Kosher animal (one that chews it’s cud and has split hooves). In ancient times it was used by the Jewish people to announce the beginning of the new Hebrew month. It was also used to call the people to war, to gather them together and to signal a sacrifice and to announce the Jubilee year. Nowadays, it is used most commonly on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah during prayers.
Why is the Shofar blown specifically on Rosh Hashanah?
Rav Saadia Gaon, a renowned sage from the tenth century compiled a list of ten reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah:
- Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world in Judaism, the day the Jewish people accept G-d as the Ruler of the world. In the same way that trumpets are blown at coronations, the Jewish people blow Shofarot to “re-coronate” G-d.
- The Shofar is traditionally a ram’s horn. This reminds the Jewish people of the binding of Isaac and the way G-d had compassion on Abraham. We strive, through hearing the Shofar, to attain the level of faith in G-d that Abraham had.
- The Shofar sounds like a cry, reminding us that we are still in exile without the Temple and inspiring us to pray for the ultimate redemption.
- The Shofar sounds like someone crying out. In the same way that the prophets of old would cry out and tell us to return from our bad ways, we should remember to act in the name of justice and mercy, in the ways of G-d, as the prophets advised us to.
- The Shofar was blown at Mount Sinai when we first received the Torah. We remember to study and cherish the treasure we have been given.
- The call of the Shofar is meant to arouse us to return from our misguided ways and to repent before Yom Kippur, the ultimate Day of Judgment. Rosh Hashanah is the first of a ten-day-count-down to Yom Kippur.
- We are meant to be humbled by the Shofar’s powerful cry and then to remember the mightiness of G-d.
- On the Final Day of Judgment a Shofar will be blown announcing G-d’s Oneness- it is blown now to remind us that we should be preparing for that day constantly.
- The blowing of the Shofar foreshadows the times of true peace and freedom that will come upon us at the end of times with the arrival of the Messiah- we are reminded to have unwavering belief in G-d’s ability to redeem us at any given time.
- At the time of the Messiah the call of the Shofar will proclaim redemption for the entire world when all people on earth will recognize G-d’s Oneness.