We hear the sounds, and we look down, trying to concentrate. But what should we be thinking about during tekias shofar?
By Shiffy Friedman
The children are busy with their snacks and the baby has thankfully drifted off. As the shuffle on the men’s side quiets down and the ba’al tokeiah readies himself to blow the shofar, the Jewish woman’s mind is racing. She wants to be present, attentive to the shofar’s blast, but what is she supposed to be thinking now? With the lessons of high school light years away, how does she pin her mind down so it doesn’t wander off to the food on the blech? Here are some thoughts to ponder when we hear the shofar’s call.
Although there’s a plethora of symbolic reasons for the shofar’s blast, we should be cognizant that we’re fulfilling Hashem’s command just by listening to its call. Really, that’s enough. As you hear the sound, just have in mind that you’re being mekayeim the mitzvah of lishmoa kol shofar because you’re here to do His will. (This is true for every mitzvah.)
Be aroused with fear
In bygone times, the shofar was used to inform the people of an impending war. Thus, its blasts aroused an anxious mix of fear and intense preparation. As our Sages remark, “hayitoka shofar gadol ba’ir vaha’am lo yecheradu?” “How can one not grow anxious at the sound?” Today, when we hear that same call, it’s meant to arouse us, to inform us of our impending judgment. There’s no way we won’t be doing something to prepare for it.
In the merit of our forefathers.
According to Chazal, each set of shofar blasts corresponds to one of our Avos. So, when we hear the first set of tekios, we should beg Hashem to sweeten his judgment for us in the merit of Avrohom Avinu. The second set corresponds to Yitzchak and the third to Yaakov. And, between the tekios, we should silently verbalize the sins for which we’re repenting.
Then there’s the women’s stuff. Even if you don’t feel the intensity of our impending judgment and thus can’t relate to the above (because feelings can’t be forced), it’s rare to find the woman who doesn’t come to Rosh Hashana with a yearning for something. The fragmented sounds that the shofar emits are symbolic of our brokenness. We’re meant to arrive to tekias shofar feeling a void in our hearts, aching for what’s missing in our lives. And as we hear those piercing blasts, we can beg Hashem to fill that emptiness. The Ben Ish Chai notes that the letters that precede the lettters of shofar in the Alef Bais are akara, a barren woman. Every woman is an akara in her own right. You may be yearning for a child, for a shidduch for your daughter, for a happier marriage, for more nachas. Now, at tekias shofar, when you hear the cries that resemble your please, is your opportunity to express that yearning. Just like the hollow horn of the ram comes to life when the ba’al tokeya blows his breath into it, so too may the emptiness in your heart be filled with Hashem’s blessings and may all your dreams for the new year come to life. Ksiva v’chasima tova!
Shiffy Friedman is a kollel wife and mother of four kids. Whenever she’s not busy with drop-off or pickup (no carpools in Yerushalayim!) she works as a writer, editor (at The Wellspring) and therapist.