The uniqueness of Rosh Hashanah lies in the blowing of the shofar, which is not blown on any other holiday.

Why is the shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah? The Sages of the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 16b) consider this question, and suggest a peculiar answer:> The shofar is blown so as to confuse Satan. Rosh Hashanah is Judgment Day, and Satan on that day acts as accuser. Having seduced man to sin, he then returns to accuse him of the very sins which he incited. But when he hears the sounds of the shofar, he becomes so confused that he loses track of the proceedings and is unable to prosecute effectively.

The obvious question, however, is what could there possibly be in the shofar that has such a devastating effect upon Satan? He who all year round is full of fire and fury, fearing no one, suddenly trembles on Rosh Hashanah — just on account of a few blasts from the shofar?

Our Sages explain that his confusion is caused by the numerous sounds produced by the shofar. In addition to the smooth and long blast known as tekiah, there is a broken-up blast ofshevarim, followed by a tremulous sound of the teruah. That confuses him!

But even that is hard to understand. How could it be that the perennially old and forever-the-same clever Satan who induces man to sin, could not by now have learned about the shofar what any thirteen-year-old boy knows very well?

The shofar sounds on Rosh Hashanah represent different types of Jews. First comes the tekiah, a simple, straight and even sound, comparable in nature to the tzaddik, who is righteous, uncomplicated, and honest.

Shevarim means “broken” and represents the rasha — evil-doer — who is not satisfied with his own evil ways, but, being crooked himself, wants to see all that is whole broken and all that is straight made crooked.

The teruah, which means “torn-apart,” represents the tormented soul of the ba’al teshuvah, who bemoans his past and is now struggling to become Jewishly aware. He is no evil-doer; he does not seek to break; he just knows very little about being a Jew. His soul is torn because of its past, and yearns to enter into a better and refined Torah way of life.

Finally there comes a shevarim-teruah, which is a mixture of the two. Not fully committed to one way of life, this Jew wavers and fluctuates from one extreme to the other.

Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment for all. Satan realizes that it is in his interest to overlook the “tekiah Jew.” He agrees to rest his case against him but anticipates destroying the Jews represented by the shevarim, teruah, and shevarim-teruah. They, unfortunately, have provided him with enough ammunition to prosecute and destroy them.

Therefore, our great Sages have devised an ingenious legal procedure to follow on Judgment Day, which even that crafty prosecutor, Satan himself, cannot overcome. His whole system of prosecution becomes so disrupted and disorganized that he finds himself unable to proceed.

And what is this procedure? Quite simply this: They have established a rule that a shevarim, or a teruah, or the shevarim-teruah is never blown alone; each shevarim and each teruah is preceded by a tekiah and followed by a tekiah. Thus, we never see the evil-doer, the rent soul, or the wavering Jew step up alone before the Court-on-High. They know very well that, were they to be judged alone, they would not come off very well. They are fortunate in having two companions, the tekiot, one on each side, and they all step up before the Court-on-High and say: “We wish to be judged together. We are brothers, inseparably attached and responsible for one another!”

And so, what is there left for Satan to do? How can he produce a valid case against all three, particularly when two of them are righteous, even though the third is not quite so ‘kosher’? If he accuses the shevarim of a certain “break-up,” it is quickly covered up by the evenness and straightness of the tekiot. The same happens in the case of the teruah, and shevarim-teruah. All come up to the tribunal flanked with the tekiot supporting them on each side, and Satan loses.

Therefore, it is understandable why Jews flock to shul on Rosh Hashanah more than all year round. Even those who are deeply immersed in sins and even those who never come to shul all year round are present. Jews feel innately that only together do they stand a chance. Against all of them standing together, even the crafty Satan cannot prevail. They come to pray together with the great community of Israel and are confident that in their merit, they too will be blessed with a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

(הרב יצחק חיים שי' אביגדור)