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The Three Shofar Blasts: Inner meaning based on the Zohar

by Simcha Shmuel Treister

The following excerpt is from Tikkunei Zohar, Tikun 21 p. 42a.

One of the central commandments related to Rosh Hashanah is to hear the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn. On the simple level, we are declaring G-d to be King, and this coronation ceremony is accompanied by trumpet blasts. The following Zohar translation deals with the inner meaning of the different types of shofar blasts and their purpose.

There are three main “notes” blown on the shofar: Terua, consisting of nine short blasts; Shevarim, three short blasts, each one taking the same length of time as three blasts of the Terua; and Tekia a single blast that is the length of the Terua and Shevarim combined when those blasts are sounded one after the other.

Terua: You shall break them [in Hebrew, “tero’aim“] with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. (Psalms 2:9) The Terua blasts are in the sefira of tiferet and break the power of the negative spiritual energies, the Sitra Achra, breaking them with powerful shattering blasts. These blasts act like an iron rod shattering pottery, and this is why King David chose the word teroaim, which shares the same root as teru’a, to describe a shattering action.

Tekia: Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them up in broad daylight [in Hebrew, “neged hashemesh, literally “opposite the sun”, so that the fierce anger of G-d may be turned away from Israel (Numbers 25:3). The teki’a blast is rooted in the sefira of chessed. After the people sinned with the Midianite women, who enticed them into idolatry, Moses was instructed to placate the anger of G-d by executing them and hanging them up on a poll. Note the similarity between the word for hanging up, “hoka“, and the English word “hook.”

The teki’a blast is rooted in the sefira of chesed. Here the verse is interpreted to mean that the blast takes the Sitra Achra and hangs him up “opposite the sun.” “The sun” is a code for Zeir Anpin, the loving and active influencing power of the Divine. Acts of kindness (chessed) avert even fierce anger. And the shofar is the [simple] voice. From her issues the voice [from which come the blasts of] Tekia, Shevarim and Terua. The feminine gender of the word “shofar” hints at the sefira of bina, which is the root of the sound that issues from it. She is the root of chessedgevura and tiferet, which are the three sefirot represented by the different types of blasts made with the “voice” which issues from the shofar.

Tekia comes from the brain. The sefira above chesed in the diagram of the sefirot is chochma. This is the state of chesed in elevated consciousness.

Shevarim comes from the heart. This is reflected in the verse, The contrite [in Hebrew, “nishbar“] spirit is a sacrifice [in Hebrew, “zevach“] to G-d; O G-d, You will not despise a contrite and broken [“nishbar“] heart” (Psalms 51:19). When the heart is broken, as opposed to being full of itself, the light of the Divine can enter.

The word “shevarim” means “broken” and is related to the sefira of gevura since it takes strength, i.e. gevura, to break something. In the quoted verse, the same root word, shever, describes the contrite and broken heart. The higher source of the sefira of gevura is bina. This is reflected in the diagram of the sefirot where bina is above gevura, hinting that gevura, when elevated in conscious, becomes bina. Bina in turn relates to the heart. When the heart is broken, as opposed to being full of itself, the light of the Divine can enter.

The Shevarim blasts of the shofar represent the breaking of pride in the heart that diminishes bina consciousness. This also [represents] the broken, i.e. contrite, spirit that is the sacrifice to G-d. The harsh judgments are “slaughtered” (from the word “zevach“, meaning to “slaughter” above) by a broken and contrite spirit. The harsh judgments have hold over a person in a state of egotism. As soon as this state is renounced for true humility, these forces have no source to grasp onto and automatically fall away. It requires true gevura – strength – to conquer egotistical desires, but once this is done a person can receive binaconsciousness and truly see reality.

The sound of the Terua is from the wings of the lungs [the source of the sound], and the lungs and the windpipe contain it completely. They make the simple sound and the mouth makes the speech. The Neshama and Ruach and Nefesh of a person are also represented by the sounds of Tekia, Terua and Shevarim.

The nine blasts of the Terua require a deep breath. This involves the two wings of the lungs that represent tiferet, a sefira that is the combination of two others. The wind generated and carried through the throat represents bina consciousness and the sound completes the rectification of Zeir Anpin.

The mouth and specifically the lips make the “speech” of the shofar, namely the three types of blasts. Speech always represents the sefira of malchut and so in the very act of blowing the shofar we have a representation of the unification of the Divine. In addition to this, the Neshama and Ruach and Nefesh of a person are also represented by the sounds of Tekia, Terua and Shevarim.

The Nefesh is in the heart, and that is represented by the Shevarim as is derived from the [above] verse “a broken and contrite heart.” The Nefesh is the raw life force and is represented by the blood. The heart distributes the blood and so it represents the Nefesh.

The name Elo-him is mentioned 32 times in the description of Creation in the opening chapter of the book of Genesis. In Hebrew the number 32 is represented by the letters lamed (=30) plus beit (=2). These two letters also spell the word lev, meaning “heart”. In the constricted state of consciousness, the heart is controlled by these 32 names of Elo-him. In expanded consciousness the name Elo-him is replaced by the name Havayah, so that a person sees the mercy of G-d in every aspect of reality instead of feeling his own constricted essence.

The Neshama is in the brain, and that is the Tekia (elevated from chessed to chochma, as explained above).

The Ruach is in the two wings of the lungs that cool the heart, which is like a burning fire. If it were not so, the heat of the heart would burn the whole body. The secret of this is revealed in the verse “You shall shine like the wings of a dove covered with silver” (Psalms 68:14). [Silver represents chessed and the word “wings” hints also at the wings of the lungs]. The Ruach also includes fire and water chessed and gevura, and because of this, the Ruach is represented by Terua [which is in tiferet, which combines chessed and gevura]. Concerning this, it is written: “Happy is the people who know [in Hebrew, yodei] the Terua blast; they shall walk in the light of Your countenance G-d” (Psalms 89:16).

The nine Terua blasts are in tiferet. That sefira is below daat in the sefira diagram, hence the word yodei, derived from the same root as daat, is used to describe the state of mind of those who are made happy by hearing these blasts. Because they understand the spiritual source of these sounds and internalize their message, they merit to walk in G-d’s light.

Translated by Simcha Shmuel Treister and posted with permission from http://kabbalaonline.org.

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Shofar meaning: The Dubna Maggid’s parable

The Maggid of Dubno, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz (ca. 1740-1804), was a legendary Torah scholar and speaker, famous for his astute use of parables from everyday life to bring out deep concepts. The following parable hints at the meaning of the shofar and the type of preparation required for the shofar to have the proper effect on the listener.

A destitute farmer had a rich uncle who lived in the city, and who once invited him for a visit. Thrilled by the invitation the farmer wasted no time setting out for his rich uncle’s home. Upon arrival he was greeted warmly and led into a large dining hall with a long table.

As they spoke and shared stories about the family, the uncle picked up a brass bell and clanged it. Immediately, a troop of servants emerged from side doors with trays of appetizers. The farmer had never seen such enticing food in his life. The servants returned to the kitchen quarters and the two relatives continued the conversation. Shortly thereafter, the uncle clanged the bell again and the servants reappeared, taking away the old trays and bringing out new ones with the first course. The farmer’s eyes bulged. He had never seen such enormous quantities of food and such dedicated service.

This pattern continued throughout the evening. Every time the uncle rang the bell an entourage of servants answered his call, removing the old food and replacing it with the new. And with each clang the poor farmer was more dumbstruck.

Before taking his leave, the farmer thanked his uncle heartily. On the way home he made a stop at a local store.

When he came home he woke up his wife and excitedly told her. “You’ll never believe what I did!”

“What?”

“I spent our last penny!”

“You did what!!?”

“Don’t worry. I spent it on something you will thank me a million times for buying. Here, look.” And he took out of his pouch a brass bell just like his uncle’s. “This,” the farmer said, “is a magic bell.”

His wife looked at him as if he was crazy. Undaunted, the man proceeded to explain. “You’ll see, all I have to do is ring it and, immediately servants will come forth and serve us the most exquisite food, which we can eat to our hearts content.”

Likewise, sometimes people are prone to simply listen and find the shofar imbued with tremendous meaning.

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Shofar Meaning: The Sound of Heaven

by Esther Jungreis

From early childhood, I remember standing beside my mother in synagogue as the shofar was blown. A sense of awe and trepidation descended on the congregation as the call of the shofar reverberated within its walls. Time stood still, nobody moved. Though I was young, I was struck by the sanctity of it all.

Overnight, our fate changed. Our synagogue became a wistful memory as the suffocating darkness of the Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, enveloped us. But even in that hell on earth, as Rosh Hashana of 1944 drew near, we yearned to hear the ancient sound of the shofar and were ready to make every sacrifice to see our dream fulfilled.

Through heroic efforts and at great risk and sacrifice, we managed to collect 200 cigarettes, which we bartered for a shofar.

Adjacent to our Hungarian compound was a Polish camp, and they somehow got wind of our treasure. When Rosh Hashana came and we sounded the shofar, our brethren in the Polish camp crept close to the barbed-wire fence separating us so that they too might hear its piercing cry. The Nazis came running and beat all of us mercilessly, but even as the truncheons fell on our heads, we cried out, “Baruch atoh Hashem Elokeynu Melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvosov vitsivanu l’shmoa kol shofar.” “Blessed art Thou L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to hear the sound of the shofar.”

Many years later, I was lecturing in Israel in Nevel Aliza, a village in Samaria. It was late summer, just before the High Holy Days, and I related the story of the shofar of Bergen-Belsen. When I finished, a woman in the audience stood up. She had a strong, handsome face and appeared to be a bit older than I was.

“That shofar that you spoke of,” she said, “I know exactly what you are talking about because, you see, my father was the rabbi in the Polish camp. You may not know this, but the shofar was smuggled into our camp, and my father blew it there.”

I looked at her, dumbfounded. My eyes filled with tears. There were no words to express the awe that filled my heart.

“I have that shofar in my home,” she went on to say, and then dashed off to her house and returned with it moments later. We wept, hugged, reminisced, all the time clutching the shofar in our hands.

shofar meaning in Holocaust
Shofar brought into Theresienstadt ghetto by Avraham Hellman

The miracle of that shofar left us breathless. The entire world had declared us dead. Hitler’s “Final Solution” had taken its toll. Millions of our people were gassed and burned in the crematoria, but the shofar triumphed over the flames. And as if in vindication of that triumph, G-d granted me the privilege of rediscovering it in Eretz Yisrael, in the ancient hills of Samaria. Who would ever have believed it? The shofar from Bergen-Belsen was now in our Holy Land held by two women who were young children in the camps, and who, by every law of logic should have perished in the gas chambers. After almost 2000 years of wandering, oppression, torture and Holocaust, we returned to our land and the shofar accompanied us. Indeed, who would have believed it?

What is it about the shofar that makes it so special? Why is it incumbent upon every Jew to hear its call? What is the shofar meaning behind those hauntingly primitive sounds? What gives them the power to enter our innermost souls? And why does the Torah designate these sacred days as Yom Teruah, the “Day of Blowing,” rather than Rosh Hashana, the New Year?

Continue reading at https://www.hineni.org/rebbetzin/rebbetzins-column/little-shofar-bergen-belsen

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Shofar Meaning & Kabbalah

by L. Rappaport

The shofar is a widely recognized symbol of Jewish life, often sounded to rally the Jewish nation or to convey a sense of Jewish unity, particularly in the face of adversity. The shofar is most frequently associated, however, with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, when Jews are expected to reflect and renew their dedication to observance and to their own spiritual development.

Shofar Meaning & Rosh Hashana Service

Jewish mysticism, known as Kabbalah, discusses the meaning of the shofar and its importance in the rejuvenation of the Jewish soul during the Rosh Hashana contemplations. One such link can be seen during the shofar blowing service held on Rosh Hashana after the Torah reading. During this service the congregation reads Psalm 47: “All nations should clap their hands and call to God with a joyous voice because God is the highest and the most mighty… God ascends with the teruah with the voice of the shofar…”. According to the Lurianic kabbalists, scholars who studied and taught Kabbalah in Tzfat in the 1500s, this Psalm is to be recited seven times because it embodies the two main themes of Rosh Hashanah: the shofar and God’s coronation.

Renewal of the Covenant

An additional Kabbalistic discussion about the shofar relates to the “Tikun HaBrit,” the renewal of the Covenant between God and the Jewish people. This renewal is particularly important in our day, kabbalists teach, because we are living in the sixth millennium, a time which is connected to the “sefirah” — Divine Radiance — of the “Yesod” — foundation — of the Covenant. Through the Yesod God channels blessings and illumination into the world. The Yesod can become blocked due to man’s transgressions, which can cause an estrangement from God.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the renowned kabbalistic master, wrote that the the sound of the shofar rises to transcendental spiritual worlds via angels. During Rosh Hashana Jews attempt to reopen the channels between the Jewish People and God in order to receive His Divine blessings. The shofar has the power to unite the Jewish People with God by activating the sefirah of Yesod to bring Divine blessings down onto the Jewish nation and to the entire world.