The Shofar is a horn of an animal, usually a ram or a mountain goat, which is used in religious ceremonies by the Jewish people. This horn is blown on particular Jewish Holidays, as our G-d has commanded.
The Shofar is an unusual musical instrument; it’s played by a combination of longer and shorter blasts, which create some sort of a melody.
In Biblical times, the Shofar was used in different ways. First of all, by sounding the Shofar, people pronounced the beginning of the Shabbath and Holidays. It was also used for the convening of the community, to announce the beginning of the war, and so on.
Today, the Shofar is blown in the synagogues during the whole month of Elul – to encourage the Jews to repent on the Yom Kippur (the Judgment Day).
However, it’s not blown on the eve of the Rosh HaShannah, in order to separate the blowing that we must do from the blowing that we have a right to do.
There are several different interpretations regarding the sounding of the Shofar on the Rosh HaShannah. Rambam (a most respected Jewish Rabbi and philosopher from 12th century) writes in the Laws of teshuva that sounding Shofar fulfills the commandment of the Almighty, written in the Torah; therefore this commandment doesn’t need any rational explanation.
Others say, that the sound of the Shofar proclaims – “Wake up those who are sleeping! Examine your deeds, go back to the path of truth, remember your Creator! In a hectic existence, you have forgotten the meaning of life. You have spent the whole year in the hustling and persuading of trivia, which do not add happiness and neither do save you. Take a look at your soul, change your behavior. Each of you should leave the path that leads to suffering and frustration. Give up this vicious way of thinking, in which there is no good, no good!”
The voice of the Shofar reminds us of the day when our ancestors stood at Sinai, where they heard “a very strong sound of the Shofar”. It also reminds us of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans, accompanied by the sound of the military trumpets. The voice of the Shofar is summoning us for the forthcoming Judgment Day.