Guest Columnist: Two shofarot

1 of the 3 main components of the awe-inspiring Musaf service is that of shofarot – verses of the Bible that refer to the sounding of the shofar.

One of the main aspects of Rosh Hashana is the sounding of the shofar. This ceremony is the main commandment of the day, and Rosh Hashana in the liturgy and in the Torah is called a “day of teru’a – of sounding the shofar.” In the prayer itself one of the three main components of the awe-inspiring Musaf service is that of shofarot – verses of the Bible that refer to the sounding of the shofar.
The sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashana, as all other Jewish rituals, is intended to touch our collective memory and to stir our souls to a closer relationship with eternity and our creator. The sound of the shofar is not meant to be an isolated incident. Rather its true and overriding purpose is to remind us of the two great shofarot that essentially can be considered the bookends of Jewish thought, belief and history.
These two shofarot are described in the Bible as being the great shofar that was sounded at Mount Sinai – the sound of that shofar became exceedingly stronger, unlike a human shofar sound that eventually must waver and weaken – and the shofar of the final redemption of Israel – the shofar of the messiah – that will signal the coming of the great era at the end of days. Our shofar sound on Rosh Hashana therefore comes to complement these eternal sounds – the shofar of Sinai and the shofar of redemption.
The shofar of Sinai is that of the granting of the Torah. This shofar’s sound is ongoing. In fact it gains strength throughout Jewish history. Its sound gains volume as time passes. There is no record of any type of scholarship in human history or society that equals the scholarship devoted to Torah study and interpretation by the Jewish people over the ages.
One of the saddest aspects of the overriding Jewish experience in the current day is abysmal ignorance of Torah scholarship and its importance in the Jewish story of survival and accomplishment.
The sound of the shofar of Sinai is muted except for a certain section of Jewish society that continues to insist that Torah is and should be the main component of Jewish education and life.
But without the shofar of Sinai being heard and its echo constantly reverberating within the Jewish world, we are doomed.
Assimilation today is not so much born out of malice or ideology – the old time apikorsim are long since gone from the Jewish scene, victims of their desertion of Jewish tradition and practice – as it is a product of ignorance of everything Jewish. Non-Jewish values have been adapted to be the new Jewish religion, adorned with fancy slogans such as tikkun olam.
But if the shofar of Sinai is not heard then all of these innovations, attractive as they may seem, are soon to be consigned to the dustbin of Jewish history as so many other “good progressive” ideas of times past have been. A concerted effort to hear the shofar of Sinai is certainly one that should be high on our list of intentions for the good new year coming upon us.
The shofar of redemption sounds initially very softly – one has to strain to hear it. But it also eventually becomes stronger and more vibrant. The land and State of Israel continue to grow and in many ways prosper no matter what the military, political, diplomatic and economic obstacles. It contains within it the prospect of great accomplishments for the Jewish people and the world generally.
Just as there are Torah and Sinai deniers, there are Israel and redemption deniers. The sound of that shofar is not heard either in large sections of Jewish society. It is fashionable in many Jewish circles to support Israel’s enemies with money and media attention.
Somehow certain groups of Jews hear the siren song of exile and belonging in non-Jewish societies and are deaf to the sound of the shofar of redemption. In the height of hypocrisy, they campaign against Israel and Jewish values while stating piously that everything they do is really for the benefit of the Jewish people and the State of Israel itself.
One needs a clear mind and perceptive ears to hear the two shofarot of Jewish life. They can be heard on this Rosh Hashana if we only listen carefully and internalize their meaning and message.