The Sounds of the Shofar: God’s Spiritual Wake-up Call for Us
Did you know that God has an alarm clock for our souls? Beginning a month before the start of the High Holy Days, the sounds of the shofar, the biblically mandated trumpet, can be heard throughout synagogues across the world, calling people to reflect, repent and return to God. On this podcast, Yael continues exploring the significance and meaning of the Jewish High Holy Days, focusing on one of the primary rituals of this holiest time on the Jewish calendar: the sounding of the shofar. Yael explores why the Jewish people use a shofar to prepare themselves for the new year, and how its many sounds are a call to self-improvement, to repentance, and to return to God during these holy days. Join Yael as she explains the symbolism and messages of the shofar, and how its sounds should be reverberating in our daily lives.
Every morning after prayer services during the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) all the synagogues in Jerusalem, indeed, throughout Israel and the world, blow the shofar – the ritual trumpet made from a ram’s horn – to remind everyone that God is our King, that we need fixing, and we must all wake up.
This symphony of sounds is a prelude to the sounds of the shofar that Jewish people will hear in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which mark the beginning and the end, respectively, of the High Holy Days. The shofar is sounded in combinations of three different types of blasts, each one with a specific purpose to help the Jewish people prepare for the upcoming holidays. These three brilliant blasts are of different lengths, and have a Hebrew name meant to reflect their true purpose.
The first type, as Yael Eckstein explains in the podcast, is called Tekiah, which means a “strike” in biblical Hebrew, and is one long blow of the horn. This type of blow is often called the heralding blast and is used for royalty and during a coronation. The second type is Shevarim, which means “broken.” It is made up of three short blasts and literally sounds like crying. It represents our brokenness and how we must cry out to the Lord to help us fix ourselves. The last, called Teruah (meaning “warning”), is nine short blasts, blown in rapid succession. It’s meant to wake us up to what we have to accomplish. It’s also called “God’s alarm clock” for our soul.
In the Exodus chapter 19, when the Israelites were preparing themselves to receive the Torah from God, the Bible tells us, “On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain … As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.”
“Our relationship with God is the most important relationship in our lives,” Yael comments. “In this verse we see a compacted example of the key lessons we need to learn from the shofar in maintaining, repairing, and flourishing from this relationship … Take time to reflect on where you are right now. What do you need God’s help with? Remember that the shofar reminds us he is accessible for us to ask Him for help. He is there listening to us. So, cry out to Him and ask God for that help, even in little everyday ways.”