The Significance of Yom Teruah - The Shofar

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VIII. The Shofar;

(from the "Gateway to Judaism")
 The Shofar: This ancient wind instrument is traditionally blown on Yom Teruah except when the holiday falls on the Shabbat. It is to remind the worshippers of HaShem's providence, of the ram that was substituted for the sacrifice of Isaac, and of HaShem's revelation at Sinai. During the month of Elul, the shofar is sounded every day except the Shabbat, after the morning service, as a reminder of the coming days of judgment. Since this festival lasts for two days, the shofar will always be sounded!

The Rosh Hashanah Machzor (prayer book) has a VERY interesting reading that is part of the shofar service. We have just sounded TEKIAH SHEVARIM-TERUAH TEKIAH, three times, then a prayer that is inserted by some congregations is read. That prayer says:

“May it be Your will that the tekiah-shevarim-Teruah-tekiah blasts that we sound be embroidered into the [heavenly] curtain by the appointed angel , just as You accepted prayers through Elijah, who is remembered for good; Yeshua (the Kohen Gadol), minister of the inner Chamber, and the ministering angel; and may You be filled with mercy upon us. Blessed are You, Master of Mercies.”[31]

The shofar has played a major role in several biblical events:

1. When the Torah was given:

Shemot (Exodus) 19:16-19 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud shofar blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because HaShem descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, And the sound of the shofar grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

2. When the walls of Jericho fell:

Yahoshua (Joshua) 6:20 When the shofarot sounded, the people Teruah’d, and at the sound of the shofar, when the people gave a Teruah gadol, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

3. When Mashiach returns:

Zechariah 9:13-15 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior's sword. Then HaShem will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign HaShem will sound the shofar; he will march in the storms of the south, And HaShem Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones. They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Yeshua died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Yeshua those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the shofar call of God, and the dead in Mashiach will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

4. To gather the outcast of Israel:

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 27:12-13 In that day HaShem will thresh from the flowing Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt, and you, O Israelites, will be gathered up one by one. And in that day a great shofar will sound. Those who were perishing in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come and worship HaShem on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.

Traditionally, one hundred notes are sounded during the Rosh HaShana service. There are two main series of shofar blasts, each consisting of a number of sets. The shofar is blown during the Musaf (additional) service on Rosh Hashanah. The first series (30 blasts) is blown before the Musaf silent prayer (Amidah). The second series (30 blasts) is blown during the repetition of Musaf, integrated into narratives describing HaShem's kingship (Malkiyot), remembrance of our ancestor's merit (Zichronot), and hopes for the messianic era (Shofarot). For Ashkenazim, the remaining blasts fall at the end of the service; for Sephardim, they are split between the silent Musaf and the end of the service.

Laws of Shofar Blowing

The commandment to hear the shofar blowing requires conscious intent to fulfill the mitzva. Because this is a legal action, it must take place during daylight hours, from sun up till sun down. Thos who hurry to fulfill the mitzva are praise worthy.

The shofar blower recites two blessings; the community must listen to the blessings and respond, "Amen"; to each one. One should stand during the recitation of the blessings and for all of the shofar blasts. It is forbidden to speak from the beginning of the first blessing until after the final shofar blast (at the end of Mussaf).

There are four different sounds associated with the blowing of the shofar during the Yom Teruah service. These sounds are interpreted as follows:

1. TEKIAH - A pure unbroken sound that calls man to search his heart, forsake his wrong ways, and seek forgiveness through repentance.

2. SHEBARIM - A broken, staccato, trembling sound. It typifies the sorrow that comes to man when he realizes his misconduct and desires to change his ways.

3. TERUAH - A wave-like sound of alarm calling upon man to stand by the banner of HaShem.

4. TEKIAH GEDOLAH - The prolonged, unbroken sound typifying a final appeal to sincere repentance and atonement.

In Bamidbar (Numbers) 10:7, two notes are specifically differentiated. There it says:

Bamidbar (Numbers) 10:7 But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm.

by which tekuah is differentiated from hariah. Tekiah is accordingly a different note to teruah and they have different meanings for the purpose of giving signals. Tekiah is the signal for gathering about Moses, Teruah, the signal to strike camp. It nevertheless, in verses 5 and 6 the order for the signal to strike camp does not run: ירעו h[wrt תרועה תרועה והרעותם, but: יתקעו תרועה, תרועה ותקעתם, the breaking up signal is described as a combination of teruah and tekiah, the teruah is to be introduced by a tekiah, (תרועה והרעותם), and concluded by one (יתקעו תרועה). There by the assembling signal is differentiated from the breaking up signal by תריעו ולא תתקעו that the tekiah is blown without a following teruah[32]. The word תקע means to bring something energetically into something else: to ram home, to thrust into, to sink, to plunge into. Hence also the term used for the symbolic binding by a handshake as a sign of assurance and emphasis on the transaction to be made. By it, the one party thrusts his hand to remain (symbolically) permanently in the hand of the other. Here, at a wind instrument it designates the sustained unbroken note produced by a prolonged blowing of air into the shofar. It is the calling note, calling your attention and holding you.

The word teruah from רעע, רוע, to break, designates the broken note interrupted by shorter or longer quavers (shevarim or teruah). It is the note for bustling, speeded activity, the signal for breaking up. The combined notes of tekiah and teruah as a signal for decampment and moving on worked as follows: the tekiah called the people to attention to Moses. If no teruah were to follow, they had to hurry to him to receive his orders. But the teruah following immediately, informed them at once that it was a signal for striking tents and breaking up camp. And then the final tekiah after packing up, called them forward thither to where HaShem had indicated their new resting place. Quite in this way, with every teruah consisting of the threefold note introduced by, and concluding with, a tekiah does tradition teach the procedure for blowing the prescribed teruah on the shofar on Yom Teruah and יובל.... The preparatory tekiah would be the summons in general to listen to HaShem, to receive from Him the orders for the day. Then the teruah would then give His order to be breaking off and away from every attachment that estranges us from HaShem, and from consciousness of having the power of moral freedom of will, and leaving everything worthless behind, in short in giving up everything in our present mode of life which is displeasing to HaShem. The tekiah which then follows, calls one to the new standpoint, to the new attitude to life, to faithfully giving oneself up to following the road set out by HaShem, which alone is the path of freedom, and which is blessed by the favor of HaShem.[33]

Before the shofar is sounded, the Baal Tokea (the shofar blower) prepares himself for his task of blowing the shofar for the congregation and says:

"I am prepared to fulfill HaShem's commandment to blow the shofar, as it is prescribed in the Torah, 'a day of blowing unto you.'"
The Baal Tokea then recites the following blessing:
Baruch ata HaShem Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu bemitzvotav vetzvivanu leshemoa kol shofar.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with your commandments and has instructed us to hear the shofar.

Baruch ata HaShem Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidishanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
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Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:25And all the nations of the land will see that the name of HaShem is called on you (Ki Shem HaShem Nekrah) and they will fear you”.

During the prayers on each day of Rosh Hashanah we blow 100 Tekiyot. These 100 Tekiyot contain 300 different sounds. The Tekiah is 1, the Shevarim is 3, and the Teruah is 9. There are ten different sets of Tekiyot.

Each set contains the following:

4 Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, Tekiah
3 Tekiah, Shevarim, Tekiah
3 Tekiah, Teruah, Tekiah

Ten Tekiyot

There are ten of these sets throughout the prayers. Each of these sets contains:

6 Tekiyot
6 Shevarim
18 Teruot
30 sounds in total. x 10 sets = 300 sounds throughout the day.

The verse says: Ki Shem HaShem Nekrah. The Roshei Teivot (first letter of each word) of the words Shem HaShem Nekra are Shin, Yud, Nun which spells the word Shin, whose gematria is 300, a remez to the 300 sounds. The last letters of the same words are Mem, Hey, Alef, which spell the word Meah, whose gematria is 100, a remez to the 100 Tekiyot.

There are several differences between Ashkenazim and Sepharadim in the sound, content and blowing of the Shofar, and even in the Shofar itself. Sepharadim blow during both the silent 'Amidah and the repetition and blow a total of one hundred and one calls (101 is the Gematria for Mikhael, Israel's guardian angel). The last one being a Teruah Gedolah after 'Aleinu Leshabbeyah’. Ashkenazim blow only one hundred calls and the last one is a Tekiah Gedolah instead.

Shofar Sounds

TEKIAH, SHEBARIM, TERUAH, TEKIAH GEDOLAH, Combinations of one hundred of these sounds are arranged in three sets of blasts:

1. "tashrat"

2. "tashat"

3. "tarat"
(Rosh HaShanah Machzor, Mezorah Publications)

The Talmud[34] explains that the nine blasts are derived from a combination of three separate verses dealing with the shofar (Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:9, 23:24; Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:1). Taking all three verses together, we find the word TERUAH mentioned three times; this accounts for the three TERUOT. The TEKIAH before each TERUAH is derived from the verse: And you shall sound the shofar, a TERUAH... (Vayikra (Leviticus) 25:9). Here we see that preceding the TERUAH there is a simple sounding of the shofar, i.e., extended and unvaried, for it is referred to simply by the word shofar. After the TERUAH we again find that there is to be a simple sounding of the shofar, for the verse continues: You shall sound the shofar. Thus there are nine blasts in all, TEKIAH, TERUAH, TEKIAH, sounded three times. These, then, are the blasts of the scriptural order.

On the Rabbinic level, there are more shofar blasts, the extra ones necessitated by doubt as to the nature of the Biblical TERUAH. One possibility is that when the Torah calls for TERUAH, it means a sound similar to the sound of groaning, the type of blast now called SHEBARIM, literally broken. Another possibility is that the Biblical TERUAH is the sound of whimpering, the intermittent quavering blast that we refer to as TERUAH. A third possibility is that what the Torah meant by TERUAH is a combination of both of these sounds. In order to fulfill all possible meanings, R' Abahu in Caesarea enacted a Rabbinic decree that the blowing should consist as outlined above.


R' Hai Gaon was asked, how it is possible that doubt could arise as to the nature of a mitzva (the Biblical TERUAH) which is performed every year? The gist of his reply is: From earliest times there were two customs in Israel. Some blew light short blasts (those called TERUAH today), and others blew heavy short blasts, that is, SHEBARIM. Either manner of blowing was sufficient to fulfill the obligation. R' Abahu decreed that all Israel should follow a single practice so that there should not be among them anything that might be misconstrued as a division.

Tehillim (Psalms) 89:15 Blessed [is] the people that know the joyful TERUAH: they shall walk, HaShem, in the light of thy countenance.

In the Rosh HaShanah Machzor, on both days, we read the following:

"May it be Your will that the tekiah-shebarim-Teruah-tekiah blasts that we sound be embroidered into the [heavenly] curtain by the appointed angel [טרטיאל], just as You accepted prayers through Elijah, who is remembered for good; Yeshua (the Kohen Gadole), minister of the inner chamber, and the ministering angel [f |fm]; and may You be filled with mercy upon us. Blessed are You Master of Mercies." [35]

Here is the first place I have found, in an orthodox Jewish publication, the name of our High Priest, Yeshua.

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Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:10 And all the nations of the land will see that the name of HaShem is called on you and they will fear you.