Why The Shofar?

Shalom Aleichem!

The zenith of Rosh Hashana is the blowing of the Shofar. The Talmud states that we blow the Shofar in order to crown G-d as the King (Rosh Hashana 16a) .

What does blowing a shofar have to do with G-d’s coronation?

Rabbi Saadia Gaon (882-942) explains that trumpets are sounded at the coronation of a human king, in order to make it known to all that the new reign has begun. So too, we sound the shofar at the beginning of each new year, thereby crowning G-d the King.

Yet how does the shofar accomplish this? Does the King of kings need our shofar blasts?

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev explains with a parable:

There was once a king who went hunting in a large forest. He became so engrossed in the activity, that he lost his way and ended up deep in the forest, unsure which direction would lead him home. He met some villagers in the forest, and asked them if they knew the way to the palace. They did not recognize that they were speaking to the king, and told him that they had no idea where the palace was.

After some time, the king met someone else in the forest, and asked for directions. The person was very wise; sensing that this was the king himself, he stepped back with reverence, became subservient to him, and accompanied him all the way back to the palace.

The king provided a handsome reward to the man who came to his aid in the forest, and gave him a high position in his government. He outfitted him with bespoke clothing, and ordered his old, tattered clothing to be put in storage.

Time passed, and the man violated one of the king’s laws. The king was livid, and commanded his ministers to bring the man for judgment. The man was embittered, for he knew that he caused such distress to the king.

He implored the king to have compassion, and pleaded with him that before judgment would be passed, he had one request.

“Please permit me to wear my old, tattered clothing — remember the ones I was wearing when I found you in the forest? And can your majesty also wear the same clothes you were wearing at that time?”

The king granted the request.

When the king saw the man in the shabby clothing, he remembered how the man had rescued him from deep in the forest, and accompanied him back to the palace. The king’s compassion was awakened, he pardoned the transgression, and returned the man to his lofty position.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak continues:

“Before G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He offered it to all other nations, who refused to accept it. We, the Jewish people, accepted Your Torah — with simcha! In fact, we accepted it joyously without even knowing what was written in it!

“It is true, we may have sinned. On the awesome day of Rosh Hashana, we are concerned for our judgment. We are therefore blowing the shofar, which was likewise sounded at Mt. Sinai when we received the Torah, in order that You should remember us for our merits, forgive our transgressions, and inscribe us immediately for long and good life, amen!”

G-d is waiting for us to connect; waiting for us to reach out and say, “remember the shofar at Sinai? We do, too!”

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At this auspicious time, it is traditional to give extra tzedakah (charity). May I humbly request that you allot some of your charitable giving to Chabad On Campus of Queens? Click here to make a tax-deductible donation. On behalf of the hundreds of students and alumni who enjoy and benefit from our vibrant offerings, thank you!

Shabbat Shalom, and may you all be blessed with a sweet and happy new year!

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