Guide to Jewish Holidays: Rosh Hashanah’s Shofar Call
The sound of the Shofar is central to Rosh Hashanah and speaks to the Lord’s coming judgment, and redemption
In this series, we highlight the Jewish Holidays, their prophetic and practical significance for today.
As Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year approaches, let us contemplate the Shofar blast inaugurating the Fall Festivals and the coming redemption for Israel and the world.
For those who have not heard it, the sound of the Shofar is not easy to describe. Primal, raw, unsettling only begins to describe the stirrings in the Jewish soul listening silently to its voice.
This year as we listen, the Shofar does not comfort. Its call from realms beyond will demand our attention, for as in days of old, it is a call to arms, an alarm alerting to imminent danger. In synagogues around the world the Shofar will solemnly declare, “Arise, for there are shakings in the earth. Shall the Shofar be blown in a city and the people not tremble?” (Amos 3:6)
Reserved for sacred assemblies, listening to the Shofar this year will once again stir memories of Sinai where the people trembled, and the mountain shook. It recalls the mighty walls of Jericho crumbling into dust at its blast.
“The great Day of the Lord is a day of the Shofar and alarm,” warns the prophet (Zephaniah 1:14,16). With its cry the Shofar stirs us to consider the judgments of the Lord even now coming on the earth. The prophet Isaiah warns of a Great Shofar heralding the Day of the Lord (Isa. 27:13). Listening, we are shaken as we lift up our voices and pray, “O Lord our God, God of our fathers, grants us that grace and truth will be known once again in our land.”
The Shofar is fashioned of the horns of animals fit for sacrifice. For it calls forth the blood-sprinkled Mercy Seat at the conclusion of the Ten Days of Awe on the Day of Atonement, its sound awakening repentance, drawing us back to God.
And when we have passed from this small earth, we shall once more hear the Shofar at our resurrection (1 Thess. 4:16, 1 Cor. 15:52). This is to say, “Awake from your slumber, you who have fallen asleep in life, and reflect on your deeds. Remember your creator. Be not of those who miss reality in the pursuit of shadows and waste their lives in seeking after vain things which neither profit nor save. Look well to your souls and improve your character. Forsake each of you his evil ways and return unto the Lord” (Rabbi Maimonides).
This year the Shofar will be heard at sundown on Erev Shabbat, Friday evening, September 18, the beginning of the Hebrew Year 5781. May its cry call forth the beginning of a season of renewal and rebirth from above for the people of Israel, and may it be a time of reflection and restoration for all those who love the God of Israel.
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