Connecting to the Mitzvah of Shofar
In the Gemara, Shabbat 16a, Rabbi Yitzchak asks why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and the Gemara answers that we blow it because God told us to. As it says in Tehillim 81:4-5:
“תִּקְעוּ בַחֹדֶשׁ שׁוֹפָר; בַּכֵּסֶה, לְיוֹם חַגֵּנוּ. כִּי חֹק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא; מִשְׁפָּט, לֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב.”
“Blow the shofar on the new moon, on the full moon for our feast day.”
In other words, it is a Biblical Mitzvah to listen to the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and that is why we do it.
The Rambam (Hilkhot Teshuva 3:4) explains that the blast is symbolic, waking us up to return to God.
According to Rav Saadia Gaon, the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah for 10 reasons: We coronate God as King, the sound of the shofar is the final warning that we must do Teshuva (repent), it reminds us of Maamad Har Sinai, the sound of the shofar can be compared to the sharp words of the prophets reminding the Jewish people to repent, it reminds us of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash which was destroyed while the enemies played their trumpets. The shofar also reminds us of Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac and the ram that saved the day. When we hear the shofar, we tremble and humble ourselves. The shofar reminds us of the ultimate Day of Judgment and inspires us with hope for Kibbutz Galuyot, the ultimate ingathering of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel as well as the ultimate resurrection of the dead who will be brought in with the sounding of the shofar.
I would like to take a closer look at one of the reasons above which I especially connect to, the shofar that is blown for Kibbutz Galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles.
Three times a day we recite the following paragraph, the tenth bracha of the Shemoneh Esrei:
“תְּקַע בְּשׁוֹפָר גָּדוֹל לְחֵרוּתֵֽנוּ וְשָׂא נֵס לְקַבֵּץ גָּלֻיּוֹתֵֽינוּ וְקַבְּ֒צֵֽנוּ יַֽחַד מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת הָאָֽרֶץ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל”
Sound the great shofar for our liberty, and raise a banner to gather our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, HaShem, Gatherer of the dispersed of His people Israel.
In the ultimate redemption, the shofar will be blown. Right now, we are living in the stage of ראשית צמיחת גאולתינו, the first flowerings of our redemption.
When I made aliya 18 years ago on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, as soon as we got off of the plane there were shofarot being blown and we felt that we were part of the ingathering of the exiles.
Slowly we are fulfilling the prophecy of bringing the Jewish people back to Israel with flights in the past few months from Ukraine, Ethiopia the United States, Canada and beyond.
The Rambam (Hilkhot Melachim 11:3) states that the Mashiach will gather the dispersed of Israel as well as build the Beit HaMikdash.
Rabbi Zev Leff quotes the Netziv (Ha’Amek Davar, Bamidbar 20:5) who explains that before God brings a new era of divine providence, He will precede it with a sample to ready the Jewish people for the new circumstances, a sort of dry run.
Rabbi Leff explains that the Ponevezher Rav used to say that the footsteps of Mashiach can already be detected. Perhaps the influx of a significant number of Jews from diverse countries can be looked at as the dry run and we are being tested to see how we can handle this sample kibbutz galuyot.
As we listen to the shofar, let’s think about how we can help strengthen the kibbutz galuyot which has already begun. We can help new immigrants get adjusted as well as work on promoting and encouraging Jews around the world to consider making aliya.
Even though we observe the mitzvah of shofar because it is an obligation (which women have also taken on), we can connect while listening to the kolot (sounds) if we have kavana and focus our thoughts on the possible reasons for the mitzvah which speak to us.
May the shofar wake us up and remind us to complete the Teshuva process and start the new year on the right foot.
Wishing you a Ktiva v’Chatima Tova!