Why do we blow the shofar? When is the shofar blown?
On the anniversary of the day on which the first human being possessing a Divine soul was created, we blow the shofar, which mirrors the cry of that soul—our soul. On this day G-d breathed the soul of life into man. And now every Rosh Hashana man blows his breath—the breath that G-d breathed into him—through a ram’s horn in order to hear the sound of his soul reverberate.
The ram, a male sheep (the animal that Abraham offered in sacrifice in place of his son Isaac), is the most gentle and innocent of creatures, untainted by the aggressive nature of other animals. The ram reminds us that our soul is that part of ourselves that is gentle and innocent, untainted by the aggressive, manipulative world we inhabit. And the ram’s horn is the simplest of instruments—not carved, molded or strung like other instruments which testify to the ingenuity of man—and it produces the haunting, resonating, piercing cry that most closely approximates the pure sound of the soul.
The prayer that we recite before the blowing of the shofar further unlocks its secret: “From my narrow place, from my depths and constraints, I call to You, and You respond to me from Your expansive place.” The pressures and challenges of life that force us into a “narrow place”—a place of difficulty, pain, frustration, regret, or sorrow—are meant to be catalysts that compel us to cry out to G-d for something more than our earthbound materialistic reality.
This prayer assures us that when we cry from our “narrow place,” the response flows from G-d’s most expansive generosity. In fact, the shape of the shofar—narrow at one end and wide at the other—mirrors this experience. The purest cry that is emitted from the constraints of our lives reaches the purest place in heaven and opens up the channel of all blessings.
This is an excerpt from 60 Days: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays. Enliven your high holidays experience with a special package: A genuine shofar horn and a copy of 60 Days.