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11 Reasons Why We Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

11 Reasons Why We Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

An artistic presentation of images and text


We’re familiar with the sights, tastes, and sounds of Rosh Hashanah—the sweet sensation of honey on our tongues, the rhythmic swaying of the congregation in prayer, the cry of the shofar piercing the air. But have we ever stopped to think about the messages behind the deeds of the day?

While every commandment is essentially supra-rational—performed solely because it is the will and command of the Creator—our sages have found meaning and messages behind the commandments we fulfill. Let’s take a look at 11 reasons given for blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

1. The Return of the King

Image Source: LOC/Flickr
Image Source: LOC/Flickr

On Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of creation, G‑d renews the creative energy that sustains our world. Once more, He is crowned as King of the universe. Just as trumpets are sounded at a coronation, the shofar announces G‑d’s continued kingship.

2. The Great Alarm Clock

Image Source: Chagall
Image Source: Chagall

On Rosh Hashanah, the first of the Ten Days of Repentance, we awake from our spiritual slumber. The shofar is like an alarm that calls on us to examine our deeds and correct our ways, as we return to G‑d.

3. The Reminder

Image Source: Departing(YYZ)/flickr
Image Source: Departing(YYZ)/flickr

The shofar was blown at Mt. Sinai when the Torah was given. On Rosh Hashanah, we blow the shofar to remind us to rededicate ourselves to Torah study—and to remind G‑d of our original commitment and sincerity.

4. The Voice

Image Source: Zalman Kleiman
Image Source: Zalman Kleiman

The shofar reminds us of the voice of the prophets, who like the blast of the shofar called upon us to correct our ways, follow G‑d’s commandments, and act properly with others.

5. The Tears

Image Source: David Roberts/Wikicommons
Image Source: David Roberts/Wikicommons

The shofar’s cry reminds us of the cries and tears shed for the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, galvanizing us to bring Moshiach and hasten the rebuilding of the Temple.

6. The Sacrifice

The shofar, made of a ram’s horn, reminds us of the binding of Isaac and the ram G‑d provided as a sacrifice in his place. By blowing the shofar, we remember the faith of the Patriarchs and our own capacity for self-sacrifice.

7. The Awesome

Image Source: NASA/Wikimedia
Image Source: NASA/Wikimedia

The shofar fills us with awe and humility as we contemplate the true infinitude of G‑d, how He fills all space and time.

8. The Introspection

Image Source: WeHeartIt/Tumblr
Image Source: WeHeartIt/Tumblr

The shofar will be blown on the Day of Judgment when Moshiach comes. We thus blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us to examine our deeds and contemplate how we can improve them.

9. The Celebration

Image Source: Baruch Nachson
Image Source: Baruch Nachson

The shofar blast will signal the return of the Jewish people when Moshiach comes. We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us of G‑d’s salvation in our own lives.

10. The Unity

Image Source: Michel Schwartz
Image Source: Michel Schwartz

The shofar blast when Moshiach comes will herald a time of universal understanding and recognition of G‑d’s unity. We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us of G‑d’s unity.

11. The Scream

Image Source: Lucas Vieira Moreira
Image Source: Lucas Vieira Moreira

The call of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah reminds us of the primordial scream, the eternal voiceless call of the soul expressing its desire to return to its Creator.

Sources: This list is largely compiled from the writings of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon. Reason number 11 is derived from a parable taught by the Baal Shem Tov.

Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone is a rabbi by training, but a blogger by choice. He is passionate about using new media to further Jewish identity and community building. Mordechai currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and four sons, where he happily tweets between sips of espresso.
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Discussion (15)
October 1, 2016
Christian Comment
As a Christian, I find this illuminating and helpful.
MJ Martin
Cheltenham, Glos, England
September 29, 2016
What about because Hashem tells us too?
Harris Rosenberg
January 22, 2016
Stop with the pc G-d stuff!
September 16, 2015
Very poignant description and artwork....and it bespeaks of the universality of Jewish moral conscience, considering how many thousands of years this has been done.
Lee Kushner
Los Angeles
March 4, 2015
Sounds from the Heavens
Today, NASA is confounded as to the sounds bombarding the earth from space. It sounds like the shofar, or voices to me. Also a very high pitch ringing or static squeal It has been documented in Europe, USA, as well as around the earth. It may be tied to CME`s and the Suns magnetic pulses. NASA launched a rocket W/ 10 Probes aboard to record these unusual sounds. God Bless Israel and her people .I will hide her,I will defend her, I will love her
Hubert Jess Kaylor
September 27, 2014
Love the list of specific reasons and LOVE the art work! L'Shana Tova!
September 24, 2014
love it
lin saulsexton
September 6, 2013
So much rich knowledge and gleanings! I want to share this site with everyone interested in understanding Jewish history and the Jewish roots of our faith! Thank you for allowing us this treasure.
Linda Moffitt
6228 melvin ave Dayon Oh 45417
September 4, 2013
just wanted to add these illustrations and photos are beautiful.
ruth housman
marshfield, ma
September 4, 2013
This is beautiful. Loved it.
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