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The   Hidden Thunder of the Shofar

08/30/2022 04:20:44 PM


Rabbi Moshe Rudin



The Torah itself never explains what a Shofar is, let alone the meaning of its blasts beyond as a signal for assembling and moving the Israelite encampment forward during our journeys in the desert.   The Shofar appears first at Sinai: It came to pass in the morning that the Call of the Shofar grew louder and louder.  No clue who was blowing the Shofar or what it signified. 

The Book of Psalms features the Shofar: Praise G-d in the Shofar Blast....Sound the Shofar at the  New Month, when the moon is covered over at our festival.  But again, no reason given.  The Prophets of Israel refer to a Shofar a few times: Raise your voice like a Shofar... The Shofar is heard in the city, who will not fear?

It gets to the point that the medieval Rabbis are so frustrated with the lack of explanation that they simply explode with interpretations encompassing creation (the Shofar represents G-d's coronation at the Creation of the world), to revelation (the Shofar call summons the heavenly hosts and the Children of Israel at the giving of the Torah) to salvation (on that day, a Shofar shall sound) and everything in between.  So much. meaning as to be almost meaningless.

But listen to the Shofar for a moment.  The Hasidic pioneers, trying to consider Judaism in the light of early modernity and simple faith heard something else: the sound of weeping.  

Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah.  Not simple weeping but an explosion of pre-articulated pre-vocal vocalization, raised beyond what any voice an achieve.  Shrink it down from cosmic to human proportions and the  meaning of the sound of the Shofar is obvious.  It is a baby's birth cry.  

Why is that so hard to figure out?  Perhaps because the baby's cry is so small, so intimate, so very human- quintessentially human.  How can this sound be connected to the cosmic call of the Shofar?  

But if the Torah teaches us one thing it is that everyone matters and every moment matters. 

Sometimes people come to synagogue on Rosh HaShana, dutifully put in their time in prayers and leave without ever feeling a sense of illumination.  Now, during the month of Elul, is the time to hear the cosmic cry in the apparent smallness of everyday; in our interactions with our loved ones, in the ways that we spend our precious time, in the giving and receiving, what seem to us to be the mundane moments- as a handful of seeds can become a forest, a single meeting of eyes become a lifetime of love, a word raise up or tear down, the majesty of the Shofar is concealed in each experience.  Can we train ourselves in time to hear its call?


Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784