This year (5784/2023) is one of those years when the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat. We don’t blow Shofar when it falls on Shabbat. In such calendar schedules Shofar is only blown on the second day of the holiday – on Sunday.
But Shofar is the central Mitzvah of the holiday! What’s Rosh Hashanah without Shofar!?
This question is asked so often & quite prominently in Chabad Chassidus. It’s the opening question to many a Chassidic discourse, indeed entire series of great classic discourses. It’s (seems to be) a disproportionate Chassidic Rosh Hashanah theme!
(To be sure, there are technical reasons in the Talmud for this. Shofar is “cancelled” due to concern of possible Shabbos violations by those less knowledgeable. But while recognizing the Talmud’s practical reasons, Chassidus insists there must be more to it, because otherwise how could they cancel a biblical commandment due to a limited rabbinic concern…)
The Chassidic answer (& there are several) titled “Binyan HaMalchus” (the building of Malchus) requires some prior Kabbalah/Chassidic knowledge, mostly regarding the lowest of the 10 Sefirot called Malchut (which is also rooted deeper & higher than all of them). How Malchut is deficient by design, how it serves as a step-down transformer, transmitter and connector, how it is the great communicator and enabler, Malchut is the connector cornerstone of the/our world(s).
In plain English though, “Binyan HaMalchus” is about renewing interest, re-investment, re-energizing. And the stimulating catalyst for G-d’s renewed, energized, invested interest in our world (i.e. in Malchus) is our act of Shofar, the innermost wordless primitive & primordial cry/call from our core and essence that reaches, touches, elicits & reveals the Divine Essence. Each year, each Rosh Hashanah, in a new revelation, a new light, that has never shown quite this way in the world ever before.
So while Shabbos (rabbinically) overrides Shofar, to some degree (& in a different way) it also fulfills some of Shofar’s role by similarly building-up & refilling Malchut, expressing inner Divine Essence into our world. So while not quite like Shofar (which we miss, and mention it “Zichron Teruah” on Rosh Hashanah that’s on Shabbat), Shabbat is not unlike what Shofar mystically accomplishes. Shabbos refreshes and reinvigorates, allows inner light to shine through, to infuse and suffuse all of existence with inner meaning and purpose.
Thus a Shabbos Rosh Hashanah isn’t really totally Shofar-less after all. There’s a Zichron Teruah, there are traces & reflections of it in Shabbos itself.
The above is a cosmic picture. A macro spiritual lens. Same is true on a personal level, in micro scale.
While the mitzvah of Shofar is to hear its sounds with our ears, the purpose and intent of Shofar is to internalize its call, to stimulate that which is deep within, to hear its wordless call/cry reverberate in the deepest recesses of our hearts and at the core of our Jewishness. Hearing the Shofar hopefully triggers and awakens and opens up a soulful wellspring within that will pour forth, overflow, to water and irrigate and enliven every aspect of our lives.
The new year (literally, the head of the year) in Chassidic thoight is about revealing a new light, a core revelation, that opens up and goes forth into every day of our lives.
And this also teaches us something wondrous about weekly Shabbat, that we might take for granted, and may not realize the cosmic and personal effect that is renewed and refreshed, refilled and rebuilt each and every Shabbos!