The story of the Shofar goes back thousands of years. It was the voice of the Shofar which rang from the thick cloud upon Mt. Sinai; the walls of Jericho fell at the Shofar’s sound; the sound of the Shofar echoed through the country of Ephraim the day Ehud slew the thousands of Moab; We know that throughout biblical times the Shofar resounded on the festival of the new moon and on the first day of the month of Tishrei. In times of danger, flood or siege, the Shofar even acted as a present day alarm system.
We learn in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, that in the 7th month, we are to sound the Shofar loud throughout the land, and that this sacred day is commemorated with loud blasts. The mention of blowing a Shofar appears in many other places in the Tanakh as well. In 5th century Babylonia, the Shofar was sounded to announce a death in the community. During the Middle Ages, it was also blown on fasts, at excommunications, and at funerals.
On Friday afternoon, six blasts were sounded at various intervals. At the first teki’ah, workers in the fields ceased their work. At the second, shops were closed and city workers ceased to work. The third signalled that it was time to kindle the Shabbat candles. And the fourth, fifth, and sixth were a teki’ah, teru’ah and teki’ah in succession, formally ushering in Shabbat.
The sounds of the Shofar are jarring. The intent is to arouse us….perhaps arouse our heart and soul. Being taken from a living thing, every Shofar sound is different, like every listener is different, and every community is different.
The sounds of the Shofar summon us to remember the Exodus from Egypt, that we were slaves, and now we are free, so that we know how it feels to be a stranger. The sound of the Shofar must awaken our spirit and our conscience, so that we are able to look within ourselves, and see and hear the needs of others.
May the call of the Shofar inspire each of us to respond with our unique abilities, as we rise to the challenge that is set before us.