To be open to the voices

The shofar isn't a musical instrument, and that's what sets it apart from all other musical instruments and makes us open our hearts.

Tags: Shofar
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Sounding shofar adjacent to Temple Mount
Sounding shofar adjacent to Temple Mount
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The blowing of the shofar has accompanied us since the beginning of the month of Elul, but will reach its peak on Rosh Hashanah when it becomes the mitzvah of the day.

Shofar blasts have two main purposes. The first purpose is directed towards ourselves. The shofar comes to awaken us, to shake us from the routines of life, and to make us think of how to become better people. It is no coincidence that the word "שופר" is the same letters of the word "שיפור – improvement”. The shofar calls us to improve our actions and mend our ways.

The second purpose of the shofar is directed towards the Creator of the world. The shofar is a musical instrument through which we proclaim that G-d is our king. In this way we remind ourselves that there is a leader to the world, and that gives us a feeling of confidence in G-d.

But why specifically the shofar? Aren’t there other musical instruments which are even more suitable? Have we ever seen the shofar played at an event or concert? Even in the daily avoda of the Temple five instruments were played: Harp, violin, bell, flute, and trumpet. The shofar was not one of them. So why is the shofar chosen as the instrument of choice on Rosh Hashanah? And in general: Is it even possible to define the shofar as a musical instrument?

What sets the shofar apart from all other musical instruments is its naturalness. All other musical instruments are made and processed by humans. The shofar, on the other hand, is completely natural. It is the actual horn of a ram from which only the bone has been removed.

On one hand, the fact that the shofar is unprocessed is to its disadvantage, as the sound of the shofar is not beautiful in the simplest sense of the word. Therefore, all year round, the shofar is not the instrument of choice, but a man-made instrument is chosen instead.

One might think that a man-made musical instrument is more elaborate, but it is precisely the naturalness of the shofar that is its greatness. The sound of the shofar has the ability to penetrate the inner chambers of our souls. The natural shofar calls us to return to our inner nature; the true and good nature that we know that we have, because G-d created us with a good heart and a pure soul.

Therefore, on Rosh Hashanah when we are called on to shake off all the masks and outer layers that cover us and anoint G-d as our king, there is no instrument more suitable than the shofar. It may not be a musical instrument in the classical sense of the word, but it is a tool that knows how to play the melody of the soul.

May we be privileged to hear the sound of the shofar, both in the ear and in the heart, and may we have a healthy and happy new year.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Rabbinical Organization and the rabbi of the Shaarei Yonah Menachem congregation in Modi'in.