Classic Jewish texts speak a lot about the Shofar’s meaning and messages. It’s said to remind us of the ram at the Binding of Isaac or the Shofar sounded at Sinai. The call of the Shofar is likened to an alarm clock, to a primordial wordless inner cry from within the depths of one’s heart, or trumpets at a royal coronation. See Chabad.org for their illustrated list of 11 classic Shofar messages.
Here are a few more ideas, all rooted in tradition but cloaked in modern twists, parables and analogies – in no particular order:
(1) PINGING THE SERVER: Pinging is a computer tech method to test the connection between computers and the server. The ping sends out a small data packet with a header and footer (visualize that as the Shofar’s sets of sounds starting off with a Tekiah – Shevarim – Teruah – and back to Tekiah) and evaluates the connection. Indeed, the Shofar calls between us to G-d and G-d to us in return (see Boomerang below) is an indicator of our bond and connection, that transcends detailed words or fancy programming, it speaks to the core connection itself!
(2) WHOLE & BROKEN SOUNDS: Notice that we never blow broken (Shevarim, Teruah) Shofar sounds alone. They are always accompanied by a strong bold Tekiah blast before and after every broken Shofar sound. Like the broken Matzah on Passover, it is psychologically significant that the Seder’s middle broken Matzah is surrounded and supported by the whole Matzahs above and below her. Same with the Shofar sounds, the whole sound that always precedes and follows it symbolizes the strengths in our life that ought to support, encourage and uplift, sandwiching the broken aspects in between. We all have whole and broken parts of our lives, so this uplifting yet validating support sandwich perspective is important.
(3) RISING FROM THE BROWN PAPER BAGS: A heartfelt vivid emotional memory of the Rebbe’s Shofar blowing. I wrote it up on a different post, you can read it here. This idea is connected to the Shofar’s shape (as symbolized by the first verse recited before Shofar): it’s narrow, tight mouthpiece that widens into its much broader opening. It speaks to the blessing in Rosh Hashanah’s Amidah that concludes with: “G-d who hears the Shofar cry of his people Israel with compassion/empathy!”
(4) INSTA’S BOOMERANG: Instagram has this popular feature where you can capture a movement in a series of still shots which are stitched together and turned into a moving GIF that goes forwards and backwards in a continuous loop. This may not improve anyone’s life or do anything significant but since its popular we might as well find some connection and learn some lesson. Let’s think of it in terms of Shofar: a series of (100) sounds stitched together and it goes both forward and backward: the Shofar is both our call out to G-d and G-d’s call back to us. And it keeps looping, forwards and backwards, to and fro, from us to G-d and from G-d to us… all day long.
(5) KID (2X) ACROSS THE PODIUM: We were tabling before Rosh Hashanah at the Small Fountain with its constant noisy rushing water. Raizy wanted me to blow the Shofar to get the table some attention and I mused whether people could hear the Shofar over the din of the fountain. But I did. And just then a kid came running from the other side of the podium! He had heard the call of the Shofar and just earlier his father had called to remind him to find out about Rosh Hashanah services on campus. And then he heard our Shofar! We blew again, and a face of another student popped out from behind the shades of one of the campus offices behind us and smiled. So yes, you can hear the Shofar above the din and noise, it cuts through all that! It is a Jewish wake-up call! Speaking of a kid, it reminds me of the time we saw a goat nudging the latch of his enclosure with his horns. I told my (own) kids: This goat has the right idea! A Shofar breaks through boundaries, it opens closed doors…
(6) CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Remember the old Verizon commercial? The guy sloshing through a stream in the woods, or popping out of a manhole cover, or some other bizarre or strange scenario, each time asking the same question into his cell-phone: “Can You Hear Me Now?…. Good!” The message is that despite the physical distance or barriers, you got service and the call comes through. Same with Shofar! It reaches us everywhere, no matter our physical or spiritual or emotional distance – the Rebbe’s holiday letters would be addressed “to the sons and daughters of Israel, wherever they may be!” – we can call and reach G-d and G-d can reach us. It’s a local call! (for those who remember that type of thing).
(7) THE DIAL-UP MODEM’S SCREECH! Do you remember the screeching sounds of old dial-up modems trying, striving, yearning to connect? Very Shofar-esque! And that screeching crazy cry is because sometimes normal words just don’t cut it. The soul’s deepest core expression transcends all the words of the Machzor. Over the years we’ve been blessed to witness many heartfelt and soulful “Cockadoodledoo” (see the classic Baal Shem Tov story) moments, when students (sometimes whom you’d least expect) express such innermost soulful feelings or connections, in ways that are above and beyond and totally different than their usual expression and style. Shofar comes straight from the heart – it bares the soul.
(8) THE FLAT 5: This piece about Lazer Llyod (a Jewish blues/jazz musician) and the “Flat 5” expresses a lot about the mixed feelings Jews have around the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And it says something about the Shofar being both a mournful cry as well as a bold strong sound – at the same time.
(9) OUR PLACE IN HISTORY: Jews have been listening to the Shofar every Rosh Hashanah in every generation, in every ciecumstance, for many centuries, from antiquity to this day. There are many stories of Jews doing this at great sacrifice & personal peril. Shofars blown during the Spanish Inquistion, in the wastelands of Siberia labor camps, the recently displayed Shofar blown at Aushwitz, it was blown at the Kotel despite the odd prohibition during the British Mandate. We who live in unprecedented freedom ought to live up to their example and hear the Shofar no matter the circumstance!
(10) TROUBLE-SHOOTING: I saw this great line/meme just before Rosh Hashanah: “I signed up for a gym six months ago but didn’t lose any weight. I’m going to go in there tomorrow in person to find out what’s wrong.” This line is a great update to old parables (poor man eyeing rich man’s service bell, or villager eager to get big city’s fire alarm without even thinking about a firefighting system) about Shofar’s effect… Yes! It is a great and important Mitzvah just to hear the Shofar! No doubt about that. But then we ought to internalize and apply its call to our lives, it ought to have a transformative personal effect through our efforts… What happens on Rosh Hashanah should NOT stay in Rosh Hashanah.
But more than all the reasons, symbolism and meanings… the most important thing is to actually fulfill the biblical Mitzvah: hear the Shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah Day!