Blowing the Shofar: What does it Mean?

In Jewish Questions & Answers, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur by Leave a Comment

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Blowing Shofar
Image by Lilach Daniel

Why do we blow the Shofar in Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur?

What’s the meaning behind it?

What are the different Shofar blasts?

Where do you buy a Shofar?

So many questions…

How about we get some answers?

Significance of the Shofar

The Shofar was first blown when we received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah to remind us of our commitment to God, and God’s commitment to us.

The Shofar marks the beginning of the days of repentance – the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur.

According to Maimonides, during the 10 days of repentance (the high holy days) every person has the ability to influence his own personal balance of sins and merits, as well as the rest of the world.

The Shofar blast serves as a reminder for us to do Teshuva. The Jewish high holy days give us a unique window of opportunities (that lasts 10 days) where doing Teshuva carries significantly more weight than any other time during the year.

Hearing the sound of the Shofar blast is a commandment: every Jewish man is obligated to hear the sound of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (women are not technically required to hear the Shofar, but it’s recommended that they do).

Did You Know?

Rosh Hashanah is also called “Yom Teruah” (the day of the Shofar blast), due to the important part that the Shofar plays in Rosh Hashanah.

Symbolism of the Shofar

Maimonides said that the crying sound of the Shofar represents a cry for God’s call for our spiritual awakening – an alarm clock designed to give our soul a wakeup call. It reminds us to seek repentance, correct our sins and do Teshuva.

The Shofar blast’s soul-penetrating sound is there to remind us NOT to get lost in the pursuit of material possessions and remember the important things in life.

Another reason we blow the Shofar, made of a Ram’s horn, is to remind ourselves of the Ram that God sent to Abraham & Isaac to sacrifice instead of Isaac.

Did you Know?

Shofar in Hebrew is spelled “שופר”, the same letters as the word “שפרו”, which means improve thyself

The Jewish Shofar also carries a special significance for the future: It is said that when the Mashiach comes, he will be welcomed by the sound of the Shofar.

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Blowing the Shofar – Types of Shofar Blasts

Tekiah – One long Shofar blast

On Rosh Hashanah, we acknowledge G-d’s power and crown him as our king – a king that looks after his people. We appreciate what God has given us and that he guides us through the hardships and the blessings.

The solid and consistent sound of the Shofar represents our strong belief and our unshaken trust in God, the creator of the world. We hope to set ourselves straight and align ourselves with the sound of the Tekiah.

Shevarim – 3 medium, crying blasts

The crying Shevarim blast reminds us of our misconducts in the past year, and the sorrow it has caused us. The crying sound is not just a sign of grief. Rather, It’s a cry for hope… our hope to meet fulfill our potential next year, and not repeat our mistakes from the last year.

The Kabbalah says that the three wailing blasts represent the sobbing cry of a Jewish heart. A heart that yearns to grow, correct his sins and connect to his creator.

Teruah – 9 short blasts

The Teruah consists of 9 small blasts played one after the other. This unique sound resembles an alarm clock designed to give us a spiritual wake-up call… a wake-up call reminding us to atone for our sins and do Teshuva.

Tekiah Gedolah – the final (longer) Tekiah

The Tekiah Gedolah is longer than the earlier Tekiah. The extended Tekiah blast symbolizes our final cry for atonement and forgiveness for our sins. It’s the sound that concludes each set of Shofar blasts.

Where do You buy a Shofar?

You can get a Shofar in most Judaica stores, both online and offline. We actually wrote a Shofar buying guide with the best Shofars (Yemenite and Ram’s horn) you can buy online.

Conclusion

The Shofar carries a lot of meaning in Judaism. It’s alarming sound is reserved for special occasions in Jewish tradition, history, and future.

Hearing the Shofar blast is a commandment every Jewish person needs to follow during the high holy days, particularly Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur. It’s crying sound reminds us to evaluate the important things in life, and give us a spiritual wake-up call to return to our correct ways.

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