#ElulZman Shofar
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.
(טז) וַיְהִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֜י בִּֽהְיֹ֣ת הַבֹּ֗קֶר וַיְהִי֩ קֹלֹ֨ת וּבְרָקִ֜ים וְעָנָ֤ן כָּבֵד֙ עַל־הָהָ֔ר וְקֹ֥ל שֹׁפָ֖ר חָזָ֣ק מְאֹ֑ד וַיֶּחֱרַ֥ד כָּל־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּֽמַּחֲנֶֽה׃
(16) On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.
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.
הַכָּתוּב רֶמֶז יֵשׁ בּוֹ כְּלוֹמַר עוּרוּ יְשֵׁנִים מִשְּׁנַתְכֶם וְנִרְדָּמִים הָקִיצוּ מִתַּרְדֵּמַתְכֶם וְחַפְּשׂוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂיכֶם וְחִזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה וְזִכְרוּ בּוֹרַאֲכֶם.
Its blast is symbolic as if saying: "Ye that sleep, bestir yourselves from your sleep, and ye slumbering, emerge from your slumber, examine your conduct, turn in repentance, and remember your Creator!
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.
אמר רבי אבהו למה תוקעין בשופר של איל אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא תקעו לפני בשופר של איל כדי שאזכור לכם עקידת יצחק בן אברהם ומעלה אני עליכם כאילו עקדתם עצמכם לפני
Why does one sound a blast with a shofar made from a ram’s horn on Rosh HaShana? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Sound a blast before Me with a shofar made from a ram’s horn, so that I will remember for you the binding of Isaac, son of Abraham, in whose stead a ram was sacrificed, and I will ascribe it to you as if you had bound yourselves before Me.
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?

Ready to go a little deeper? Check out this sheet created by the National Library of Israel!