Rosh Hashanah Dvar Torah: Hearing the sound of the Shofar
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Based on Likutey Moharan I, 250
“Know that any type of pain and suffering is only due to lack of daat (awareness). For anyone who has daat and knows that everything happens according to God’s plan has no suffering and feels no pain, ‘for the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’ (Job 1:21). And even though there is suffering that must be felt… nonetheless, the tribulations are very light and easier to accept when one is clearly aware that everything happens according to Hashem’s plan.”
“If one hears the shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah from a God-fearing religious person, he will not be afraid of thunder all year long.”
(Likutey Moharan II, 5)
The mitzvah of hearing the voice of the shofar, like all mitzvot, has innumerable reasons. Even the bottom line of each mitzvah is “God said it, we do it,” God does want us to learn the right lessons from each so that are hearts will be open to feeling His presence. Neither God nor we gain by our ignorance of Torah, written or oral, legal or homiletic. It is a disservice and a disgrace, to ourselves and to Judaism, to observe the mitzvot blindly, without considering their lessons. (Of course we have to do them, just not unthinkingly.) But I digress.
The voice of the shofar is many voices. It is crying and it is thunder. It is the voice of the tzaddik, the voice of his teachings. Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of mankind’s creation, is a day we have to respond to the angels’ protest: “What is man that You think of him?!” (Psalms 8:5). They argued against our creation by saying that we would sin, we would be argumentative. Again we must answer their challenge, their attempt to deny us life.
The thunder of the shofar is meant to remove the crookedness of our heart, the deceit with which we fool others and ourselves. The crying of the shofar is our tears of regret for having turned our backs on God, His Torah and His people for too long. The crying of the shofar is our tears of appreciation for being Jewish; our Jewish breath, our Jewish heartbeat, our Jewish hands; that we eat, breath and think Jewish.
The voice of the shofar is the voice of daat, the voice of the tzaddik’s teachings. The purpose of Creation, the Zohar teaches, is l’ishtamudan lei, to be aware of Him. Each and every teaching and lesson of the tzaddik, of any tzaddik, in the Torah or in the Prophets; in Talmud, Midrash or Zohar; or in post-Talmudic works till today, is meant to instill in us the trepidation and exhilaration that comes with being aware of God, with having daat.
This is the daat that precludes and eases suffering. But only the voice of the shofar sounded by one who is “a God-fearing religious person” can bring us this awareness. If the sound of the shofar comes from one who lacks these criteria, then we will lack the awareness we were meant to have, the awareness that rebuts the charge of the angels, the awareness that eases our suffering.
The voice of the shofar enables us to understand that God has a plan, that what happens to us, as individuals, as a community, as a nation, is not, God forbid, random. The “thunder” of bombs or personal tragedy, may God spare us, will not frighten us away from our spiritual goals. Au contraire! If such things God forbid occur, they will remind us of the daat of the shofar and remove the crookedness of our hearts and move us to tears. We will acknowledge and submit to God’s plan, to His authority and ruler-ship, as we do on Rosh Hashanah.
With thanks to Rav. Nissim Mordechai Makor
As heard and adapted from my Torah Masters