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Saudia Gaon’s 10 Reasons for Sounding the Shofar

Saadia Gaon, born in Egypt in the late 900’s CE, was a prominent rabbi and Jewish philosopher and is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. He writes that the sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah contains ten symbolic elements:

 

  1. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Creation, the day when God created the world and   became its Sovereign. As it is customary to sound trumpets to glorify a king and proclaim one’s   subservience to him, similarly do we show our acceptance of God’s dominion by sounding the   shofar.

 

  1. Rosh Hashanah marks the first day of the Ten Days of Repentance. We therefore sound the   shofar as a means of announcing and warning that this period has begun. It is as if we announce:   Those who choose to repent should do so now, and if they choose not to do so, let them not   come later and complain about their fate. This too is the manner in which kings exercise their   dominion, announcing their decrees to the accompaniment of trumpet blasts.

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar served as a reminder of the revelation at Mount Sinai, which was   also accompanied by shofar blasts. Thus, by listening to the shofar and remembering that event,   we once again accept upon ourselves that which our fathers accepted upon themselves when they   heard the shofar blasts.

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the remonstrations of our Prophets which   are compared to the sounding of the shofar, as the verses state: And if the listener shall hear   the sound of the shofar and not be careful, then the sword shall come and take him. And if he   shall be careful, then his soul has escaped” (Yechezkel 33:4-5).

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the destruction of the Temple and the   trumpet calls of the armies of our enemies. Thus when we hear the shofar, we should pray for   the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves as a reminder of the shofar of the ram at the binding of   Yitzchak, who offered his life to God, but in whose place the ram was sacrificed instead. We too   should stand ready to make our lives a sanctification of His Name and we pray that this serve as   a source of merit for us.

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar instills a sense of trepidation and fear that leads us to humble   ourselves before G-d, as the verse states: “If the shofar is sounded in the city, will people not   tremble?” (Amos 3:8).

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the forthcoming great Day of judgment, as   the verses state: “The great day of G-d is near, close and quick [to come].. . is the day of [the   sounding of] the shofar and the teruah” (Tzefania 1:14,16).

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves as a reminder of the future ingathering of the dispersed   exiles of Israel and to awaken our yearning for it, of which the verse states: “And it shall be on   that day, the great shofar shall be sounded and those who have been lost among Ashur shall   come [back]” (Yeshayahu 27:13).

 

  1. The sounding of the shofar serves to remind us of the resurrection of the dead, as the verse   states: “All those inhabitants of the world and those who dwell in the earth, when a   sign is lifted upon the mountains you shall see and when the shofar is sounded you shall hear” (ibid. 18:3).

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