So what is a shofar anyway? A shofar is an instrument made from a ram’s horn. The shofar has been a part of the Jewish tradition throughout history and is mentioned many times in the Torah. Let’s look at a few descriptions of the shofar and when and why it’s blown.
In the Hebrew month of Elul, there is a custom to blow the shofar every day until Rosh Hashanah. The sages tell us that this is a reminder of the sound of the shofar during the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. This blast can serve as a reminder of what it means to be a Jew and have received the Torah.
Medieval Torah scholar Rambam tells us the shofar is meant to be a wake-up call of sorts. While some translate the word “teshuvah” as repentance, it more accurately means “return.” The shofar is a call to return to yourself and to God. It is also a call to reflect on what patterns or behaviors aren’t benefiting you or the world, who you may have hurt and what you want to take with you into the new year.
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is blown to remember the binding of Isaac because Abraham sacrificed a ram in place of his son. But in contrast to the sources above, this quote from the Talmud seems to be saying that it is not a reminder for us, rather a reminder to God. To blow the shofar is to pray for mercy.
The shofar is meant to inspire us and to help us remember. What inspires you during the season of repentance?