Who Can Hear and Not Listen?

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, contemplate what the blast of the Shofar means as an element of God’s redemptive plans

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For those who have not heard, the sound of the Shofar is not easy to describe. Primal, raw, unsettling can only begin to describe the stirrings in a Jewish soul contemplating its blast.

This year as we listen, the Shofar will not comfort. Its shout 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 mountains shook. It will recall 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 will stir us to consider the judgments of God 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 plead, “O Lord, let Grace and Truth be known once again in our land.”

The Shofar is fashioned of the horns of animals fit for sacrifice. For it will call forth the sprinkled Mercy Seat at the conclusion of the Day of Atonement, its animal sound awakening repentance, drawing us back to God.

And when we have passed from this small earth, we shall once more hear the sound of 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.” (Maimonides)

This year the Shofar will be heard at sundown Sunday, September 13, the beginning of the Hebrew New Year 5776. May its cry call forth the beginning of a season of renewal and even rebirth from above for the people of Israel, and may it be a time of reflection and re-commitment to God for all those who love the God of Israel.


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