In the Musaf Amidah (Shemoneh Esreih) there are three berachot known as Malchiyot — verses of kingship, Zichronot — verses of remembrance, and Shofrot — verses referring to the shofar. In each section there is a compilation of pesukim discussing its respective subject, and at the end of each is a concluding berachah. The last sentence before the recital of the berachah for shofrot is somewhat strange. In it we declare the greatness of Hashem, “Ki Atah shomei’a shofar uma’azin teruah ve’ein domeh lach” — “For You hear the sound of the shofar and listen to the teruah and there is none who can be compared to You.”

Why for shofar do we use the expression“shomei’a” — “hear” and for teruah the term “ma’azin” — “listen”?

Rabbi Yosef Tumim in his commentary Pri Megadim on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim offers the following explanation in the name of Rabbi Chaim HaKohen Rappaport, chief Rabbi of (Lvov) Lemberg and a senior disciple of the Ba’al Shem Tov.

Regarding the blowing of the shofar, the Torah uses the term “teruah” (Bamidbar 29:1), and our Sages have taught that there must also be a tekiah preceding it and following it (see Rosh Hashanah 34a). The tekiah is a simple, straightforward blast. The teruah is the voice of one who is sobbing and moaning bitterly. Thus, it may be said that the tekiah represents thetzaddikim — righteous — who have a clean record and have lived according to the Torah all their years. The teruah, on the other hand, represents the ba’al teshuvah, who unfortunately spent part of his life not in accordance with Torah, and who at a certain stage of his life decided to change his ways and return to the fold. He, like the teruah, sobs and moans bitterly, full of remorse for the lifestyle he led until he saw the light and made his return.

In Parshat Ha’azinu Moshe says, “Ha’azinu hashamayim va’adabeirah vetishma ha’aretz imrei pi” — “Give ear O Heavens and I will speak and may the earth hear the words of my mouth” (Devarim, 31:1). Commentaries ask, why did Moshe say “ha’azinu” — “give ear” to shamayim — and “tishma” — “hear” — to aretz — while Isaiah said the reverse, “Shimu shamayim veha’azinu aretz” — “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth” (Isaiah 1:2)?

The term “ha’azinu” applies to hearing something close by, and the term shema is to hear from a distance. Moshe who achieved unparalleled heights in the comprehension of Divinity was closer to heaven than to earth therefore said “ha’azinu” to earth and “tishma” to aretz. Isaiah, however, was closer to earth than to heaven, and said “shimu” to heaven and “ha’azinu” to earth (see ibid., Rashi).

Hashem has a special love for the ba’al teshuvahteruah — and He is very close to him, much more than to the originally righteous, as our Sages have told us, “In the place where the ba’al teshuvah stands even tzaddikim gemurim — the greatest of the righteous — cannot stand” (Berachot 34b). Therefore, when we speak of the teruahba’al teshuvah — as opposed to the kol shofar (Tekiah)tzaddik —the term “ma’azin” is used for the teruah to emphasize Hashem’s closeness to the ba’al teshuvah.

The concluding words “Ve’ein domeh lach” — “And there is none who can be compared to You” — superficially are enigmatic. One does not have to be Divine to be able to hear the sounding of the shofar. Anyone whose hearing is not impaired can hear it. If so, what uniqueness does Hashem possess that makes us declare, “And there is none who can be compared to You”?

Hashem does not resemble mortal kings, who usually do not like to use vessels which are broken or tarnished. The ba’al teshuvah is a repaired vessel, and only Hashem, King of Kings, has special love for this particular vessel.

(עי' פרי מגדים סי' תקצ"ב:א)

Perhaps another explanation to “Ve’ein domeh lach” — “And there is none who can be compared to You” — may be the following: The Jerusalem Talmud (Makot 2:6) relates that a question was posed: What penalty is appropriate for the sinning soul? Prophecy (nevu’ah) answered that the soul who sins should be put to death. Wisdom (chochmah) answered that the sinning soul should be punished with suffering. Torah responded, “He should bring a sacrifice and be forgiven.” Hashem Himself said, “The sinner should repent and he will be pardoned.”

Hence, teshuvah is something which was prescribed only by Hashem, therefore we say “Ve’ein domeh lach” — “And there is none who can be compared to You.”

King David says, “Ashrei ha’am yode’ei teruah” — “Happy is the people that know the sound of the teruah” (Psalms 89:16). The Midrash Rabbah (Vayikra 29:4) asks, “But do not the nations of the world know how to sound the blast? What a host of horns they have! It can only mean that [the Jewish people] know how to win over their Creator with the blast, so that He rises from the Throne of Judgment and goes over to the Throne of Mercy; He is filled with compassion towards them and changes for them the Attribute of Justice to the Attribute of Mercy. When? In the seventh month [Tishrei].”

Teruah represents the person who is doing teshuvah, which is a most powerful Divine gift to the Jewish people. Therefore, King David says, “Ashrei ha’am” — “Happy is the people” — “yode’ei teruah” — “who know of the concept and power ofteruah [i.e. teshuvah].” Through it they win Hashem over, and He is filled with compassion for them.

May we all be inspired on this auspicious day to sound the teruah — do teshuvah — and undoubtedly, He will reciprocate and with mercy bestow upon us the best of everything.