The Call of the Shofar

Made from a ram’s horn, the shofar is one of the world’s oldest wind instruments and has long played an important role as a ritual object in Jewish history. Its curved, bent shape symbolizes our humility as we stand before God to assess and consider our actions and behaviors during the past year. The shofar is sounded throughout the Days of Awe, beginning during the month of Elul as a reminder of the upcoming High Holidays, and ending when its blast marks the conclusion of the final service on Yom Kippur.

Maimonides writes in his Laws of Repentance, 3:4:

“Although the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of the Torah [a law issued without an accompanying reason], there is a hint [of meaning] within it, as if it were saying, ‘awake, sleeping ones, from your slumber, and those napping arise from your naps, examine your actions and return sincerely to G-d, and remember your Creator.’”

There are eleven reasons given by our sages for blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Acccording to Abraham Geiger, the ram’s horn was chosen to be blown on Rosh Hashanah since a ram became the substitute sacrifice in place of Isaac in the biblical account. Its sound is intended to awaken the soul and kick start the spiritual accounting that happens throughout the month of Elul and the Hight Holidays.

It is a call to action: Without individual action, the call accomplishes nothing.