Shofar As Tefillah – Malchuyot
From an unedited transcript: The first mode of worship of G-d represented by the Shofar is tefilah, prayer, let me prove to you why I am convinced that a shofar is literally a form of prayer. Number one, in the berachos
that we say on musaf on Rosh Hashanah we say the following sentence: ki atah shomea kol shofar baruch atah hashem shomea kol teruat amo yisrael berachamim (for you listen to the voice of shofar blessed are you oh G-d who hears the voice of the blasting of his nation with compassion).
Does this sound familiar to you? It is shema koleinu (the 16th blessing of the weekday silent prayer), ki atah shomea tefilat amcha yisrael berachamim (because you hear the prayer of Jews berachamim) baruch atah hashem shomea tefilah – usually the Sages are very careful to ensure that each blessing is unique, so that you understand that there is an entirely different principle about this blessing or represented by this blessing. There are only two blessings that exist that are so similar, and that is shofar and tefilah.
That is one proof, I would agree that it is not one hundred percent. But according to Rashi, this is a Rashi in Vayikra 23:241, the fact that you have to blow shofar during the musaf of Rosh Hashanah is mandated min hatorah (it is a Biblical mandate) because when the verse in the Torah says zichron terauh (you must remember the blasting) Rashi says obviously that means when you blow the shofar you have to recite the verses of malchios zichronos and shofros. The Ramban does not agree with Rashi that it is Biblically mandated that you have to recite the blessing of malchios zichronos and shofros together with the sounding of the shofar, but the Ramban says that even though it is not Biblically mandated it is rabbinically mandated – you must blow the shofar. And in fact that Ramban says that originally they did not blow the shofar the way we do, which is before Shemone Esrei and then after Shemone Esrei, they did all the hundred blasts of the shofar in the middle of the Shemone Esrei, because it only makes sense to blow the shofar when you are davening. So I think that is a very powerful argument that the Torah is mandating that there has to be a merger of the shofar with the tefilah of Rosh Hashanah. So that is another indication that one of the roles of shofar is closely related to tefilah.
There is a Gemara in Rosh Hashanah that says as follows, one opinion is shofar shel rosh Hashanah shar yael pashut (the shofar of Rosh Hashanah must be of a female gazelle, it must be straight, no curves) amar rebbe levi ( rebbe Levi disagrees) and he says mitzvah bekitvut (no, you must blow the shofar with a curved shofar) the way we do it. So the Gemara says bemai kamifligi (what are you guys arguing about?) what difference does it make, if there’s a mitzvah to blow the shofar what difference does it make if we blow with one that is straight or one that is curved? So the Gemara answers as follows: that the first opinion, the one who says that the shofar has to be straight, holds that the best way to serve G-d, to pray to G-d, is to be simple – straight, and to reach up, so when you reach up – reach straight up so therefore he says that the shofar has to be like the horn of a gazelle that is straight. So he would take the shofar and he would blast it pointing straight up. The other one says no, kamah dekayif inish tefei tefay mealyah (the best way to serve G-d is to be bent over in humility). Rashi says, they are both referring to the way we pray, velekach (therefore) on Rosh Hashanah deletefillah (the purpose of the shofar is to pray) ulehazkir akedat Yitzchak (and to remember the binding of Isaac) babeinan kefufim (therefore you either have to serve G-d bent, the same way you would pray, or you have to serve G-d pointing straight up – the same way you would pray). Again you see that shofar is tefillah. It is a form of prayer. This is so true that the Gemara in Yevamos takes this machlokes (this debate) about the shape of the shofar to debate how you are supposed to stand during Shemone Esrei, one opinion says you are supposed to stand looking up, the other opinion says that you are supposed to stand bent over – and the problem is that you have two versus, cause in one verse it says vehayu einai belibi sham kol hayamim (that my eyes and my heart will be here, crouched in front of you all the days) meaning in humility, and another verse says nesa levaveinu al capayim ( we will lift our hearts in the direction of our palms) and our palms are reaching up. So the same two versus that are used to determine the shape of the shofar are used to tell us what position you are supposed to assume when you pray, until the Gemara concludes that you are supposed to pray with your head bent but your heart going straight up. Which is a difficult thing to learn.
It seems pretty clear that shofar and tefillah are almost the same. Another thing, the Gemara says like this: we do not know whether you have to have kavanah (clear intention) to fulfill a mitzvah when you do a mitzvah, it is a debate. In other words when I am eating matzah, must I have in my kavanah that I am eating matzah in order to fulfill the mitzah of eating matzah or not, it is a machlokes – it is not a clear halachah it is a major debate in halacha. There are only two mitzsvos about which there is no debate, and everyone agrees that you must have kavanah, you must concentrate, and if you do not you have not fulfilled the mitzvah. One of them is tefillah, because the whole point of tefillah is to serve G-d, if you are not concentrating on what you are doing you are not fulfilling your obligation. The other mitzvah is, shofar.
I am suggesting that shofar is literally a form of prayer, halachically, midrashically, metaphorically a form of prayer. If tefillah, prayer, could only be expressed through speech then the rest of creation would never be able to join man in prayer. Only man would be able to engage in tefillah and the rest of creation would not. If it has to be speech, words, then it could only be man, and yet we know from numerous versus throughout Psalms and Tanach, that all of creation joins in tefillah. Now there is a difference between the tefillah of a human and the tefillah of an animal, which we will develope. But the fact is, that we find that animals join us, the heavens join us, hashamayim mesaprim kevod el (the heavens tell over the glory of G-d) now does that mean that they actually give a speech, that is ridiculous. It means that they are serving their functions as part of prayer.
Most of kabalat Shabbat, those six chapters that we read before lecha dodi speak about this – about the rivers praising G-d, about all of creation praying to G-d. The fact that shofar is a form of tefillah means you do not have to say words to pray. You do not have to speak in order to be engaged in tefillah. Tefillah of speech is the highest form of prayer, the highest, the best, the most effective, and we will talk about it. But you do not necessarily have to be engaged in speech to be engaged in tefillah.
Another proof, the Rambam (Hil. Ta’aniot) in the laws of fast days, (fast days does not refer to the days that we generally fast, rather it refers to days when there was a drought and a fast was declared) says as follows miztvat aseh lizok ulehariah (it is a mitzvat aseh to cry out, which is a form of tefillah) and blow a trumpet any time you are in trouble. So again you see that the two merge together – tefillah and shofar.
So we have established that shofar is a form of prayer, now what is incredible is that I am not blowing the shofar – I am listening to the shofar. If you would tell me that I’m blowing the shofar and that is a form of prayer that in itself I think would be a very powerful concept that it is part of my prayer. But how is it possible that simply listening to something could be a prayer? What does prayer mean? To think and reflect – because it makes you think of G-d, when I hear the shofar and it causes me to think and reflect – then my shofar becomes a form of prayer. If the shofar jars me, any level of awareness at all, then my shofar has become a form of prayer. The one blowing the shofar has to be fully aware that that is what he is doing when he blows the shofar, that is why somebody calls out tekiah shevarim teruah – why does someone call out? The blower could follow along in the siddur, it is not only so that he not become confused, it is his way of being reminded that he is an agent of the entire Jewish people, he’s praying for everyone in the same way the Chazzan is praying for everyone. It is an unusual opportunity that we have to pray passively; however, there is a concept in halachah, that let’s say at the Shabbos table one person makes hamotzei and you answer amen, you have fulfilled the obligation of making a berachah – you do not have to make your own hamotzei – shomea ke’ohneh (if you hear something and you want it to be yours then it is as if you have actually said it). So when hearing the shofar, if one says I want that sound to be mine – to be an expression of my prayer as well, then it actually becomes yours.