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The Shofar Ten - Part II - Rabbi Saadya Gaon’s Final Five Reasons for Sounding the Shofar

08/30/2023 06:49:33 AM


Rabbi Rudin

The sound of the Shofar is powerful, evocative, moving - but why exactly? To try to explain, Rabbi Saadya Gaon, Rosh Yeshiva of the Harvard of Yeshivas, Sura back in tenth century Babylonia, near modern day Baghdad assigned not one but ten Jewish historical moments that the Shofar activates in the Jewish collective consciousness. Last week we outlined the first five: the Creation of the World, the Revelation on Sinai, the message of the Prophets, to call us to self-examination and repentance (Teshuva) and to remind us of the Destruction of the Temple, which fell due to our moral failings. Here are the last five:
6. The Binding of Isaac. This moment, when Abraham was prepared to surrender all that he had hoped for, when he, the man of compassion, had to surrender even his compassion to hear G-d’s voice, is imprinted forever. The remembrance of the Akeida, the binding of Isaac, will forever awaken the forces of forgiveness and mercy.
7. What alarm sirens are to us now is what the Shofar call was in ancient times: Awaken! Emergency! The Shofar shakes us from spiritual slumber and demands that we ask ourselves the tough questions about our lives. This is real, this is now and this matters!
8. Rosh HaShana is also known as Yom HaDin - the Day of Judgment. If the day is going to really help us to examine ourselves and to grow and improve, it must be accompanied by a sense of urgency and even alarm. The image of the scales of justice - the astrological sign of Tishrei, the month of Rosh HaShana, is Libra the scales - reminds us in stark terms that we stand before the only one true Judge of the World.
9. Isaiah’s Prophecy: on that day I will sound a great Shofar and My people will be gathered back to their Land, is a reminder that just as we have the power to mar, we also have the power to mend. Human action can create a restored world if we each do our part.
10. Judaism assures us that death is not the end. The Torah tells us that in some way that we cannot yet understand, the repair of the world is a restoration to us of all whom we have lost. This spiritual reawakening and restoration is called T’chiat HaMetim, the Resurrection of the Dead - however we understand this mysterious teaching, the Shofar’s call is a reminder that in the struggle between the forces of love, compassion and life against apathy, despair and death, life will triumph.
May the sounds of the Shofar truly renew us and renew the year ahead for good, for health, healing, compassion, hope and blessing - Amen!

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784