The Meaning of the Shofar

shofar_blogThe blowing of the shofar is the highlight of the Rosh Hashanah service, stemming from a verse in Leviticus 25:9: “Then you shall sound the horn loud; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, the Day of Atonement, you shall have the horn sounded throughout your land.” But why? The Torah does not give us a reason. Nevertheless, the great 10th century sage, R. Saadia Gaon, compiled a list of ten interpretations as to what the shofar represents and why we blow it on Rosh Hashanah:

1) Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of God’s Kingship over the world. The shofar recalls the trumpets that were once used to coronate earthly kings.

2) Rosh Hashana begins the ten days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur. The primal sound of the shofar stirs our souls, arousing us to examine our actions and renew our relationship with G-d.

3) To simulate the shofar as it was blown when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai.

4) The shofar reminds us of the words of the prophets whose voices are analogous to a shofar.

5) There are three different sounds that are blown with the shofar. Each one sounds like a different type of cry which represents our desire for personal redemption.

6) The shofar, being a ram’s horn, reminds us of the binding of Isaac, which took actually place on Rosh Hashanah.

7) The powerful sound of the shofar instills in us a sense of humility before the presence of God, who is everywhere at all times.

8) The shofar is a reminder of the Day of the Final Judgment, when G-d will examine the deeds of all peoples and nations.

9) The shofar foreshadows the day when all the Jewish people will finally return to Israel from all over the world.

10) Finally, the shofar foreshadows the one that will be blown in Messianic times to announce the redemption of the entire world.