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Three Voices of The Shofar: Introduction

From an unedited transcript: There are three sounds to the shofar. Not the three sounds of the title of the class, but three sounds: tekiah – straight sounds, shevarim – broken into three, teruah which is the staccato.


In the words of the Sages, you have different representations, for example tekiah is the sound of an army going into battle, where do we know this from?  From the battle at Jericho, from Gidon, and in fact how do we know that you have to hold the shofar in your right hand when you go into battle? Because when Gidon went into battle everyone held their shofar in their right hand, and remember I think that we spoke about what that has to do with the story of Rosh Hashanah.

Then you have the sound of a baby crying, ahh ahh ahh, shevarim. A teruah is an elderly person moaning and groaning, or crying uhh uhh uhh uhh uhh…like that. So different types of representations.

The Shelah HaKadosh, says as follows: he says that in the same way that the body has health, illness, and death so too the soul has health, illness, and death. A healthy soul, is a soul in which the person is keeping the Torah, and Mitzvos and has good middos (good personal attributes), and the illnesses are those things that develop from either the absence of Torah, mitzvos, and good middos or by doing the opposite  of what the Torah tells you to do, that causes illness. Now in the same way that there are cures for  physical ailments, there are also cures for spiritual ailments. The cure for the spiritual ailments is teshuva. And so the more teshuva you do the more chance there is of healing from these illness.

If someone is ill, and they refuse and medication they get sicker and sicker and eventually they can die, so in the same way someone that sins and refuses to do teshuva can continue to become more and more ill, to sin and sin and sin, until that person experiences what is called a spiritual death.

You may have heard that the Talmud says in Berachot: “reshaim bechayeihem keruim metimI” (that reshaim when they are alive are called dead), even for certain halachic considerations they have the status of a dead person. They are considered tameh, ritually impure, why because they have the status of a dead person.

This is what is means. Basically there soul is gone, they are brain dead.  That is why you blow tekiah shevarim teruah. The tekiah – the straight sound is the symbol of the fact that the human being is created straight, and it is only that a human being corrupts him or her self with the things that he or she does or by not doing certain things, therefore the first tekiah is straight, it is a straight sound and then afterwards there’s a shevarim – a broken sound which is a symbol of the way we make ourselves ill – we break ourselves by doing aveiros or by not doing everything we are supposed to do, by not striving the way we are supposed to strive, by not working on our midos.

Then the teruah – da da da – is the sound of people crying over the death of something, meaning again a representation to the person who is so ill who is doing all these aveiros…didn’t do teshuva, and so experiences a spiritual death.

The final tekiah at the end is a symbol  of someone who has done teshuva and restored his soul to being yashar – straight the way it was created by G-d. So you see that there are all sorts of different symbolisms to the sound of the shofar, I’ve just given you a few of them.

According to the Ramban, Nachmanidies, in his talmudic commentary, it is not in any of his philosophical writings, all he mentions is as follows: that there was an ancient custom that they would blow the shofar differently after malchius, differently after  zichronos, and differently after shofar, each one was a different way of blowing the shofar. After malchius they would blow, tekiah shevarim teruah tekiah, after zichronos,  tekiah shevarim tekiah, and after shofar, tekiah teruah tekiah.

Now what’s so important about this? Because my thesis for tonight is that the shofar represents three very different forms of worship of G-d. And that each one of them malchios zichronos and shofros – the shofar has a primary role, and one of those three roles of the shofar is primary in each one.  You will find each one of the three in each representations of the shofar, meaning each part of the three symbols of ways to serve G-d in each of them – malchios zichronos and shofors, however there will be one role of shofar that is primary in each one.

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