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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Evidence of Shofar Usage in the Holy Temple

Evidence of Shofar Usage in the Holy Temple


Arthur L. Finkle


In the Mishnah, Arakhin, 2:3 provides evidence that the shofar was sounded never less than 21 blasts nor more than 48 blasts each day.

1)      There are never less than twenty-one blasts in the Temple and never more than forty-eight.

There was a minimum of 21 daily trumpet blasts in the Temple and a maximum of 48.
The explanation of this section can be found in the Mishnah, Sukkah 5:5. The shofar sounded:

·       one blast in the Temple
·       three at the opening of the gates
·       nine at the morning daily burnt offering
·       nine at the evening daily burnt offering.

At the additional offerings, they added another nine.

At the eve of the Sabbath they added six more; three to cause the people to lay down their work and three to mark the distinction between the sacred and the profane.

If the eve of a Sabbath were within the Festival of Tabernacles (Succot), there were forty eight:

·       three at the opening of the gates
·       three at the upper gate
·       three at the lower gate; three at the drawing of water
·       three at the Altar
·       nine at the morning daily burnt offering
·       nine at the evening daily burnt offering
·       nine at the additional offerings, three to make the people cease work, and three to differentiate between the sacred and the profane.

On Rosh HaShanah, the shofar was sounded at the additional sacrificial service for the New Year. Rosh HaShanah 28a

Sounds of the Shofar

The Bible refers to two kinds trumpet sounds: teki'ah and teru'ah (Num. 10:5–8). The Mishnah (RH 4:9) describes the teki'ah as a long blast and the teru'ah as three yevavot, a wavering crying blast. It prescribes three sets of shofar sounds since the word teru'ah is mentioned in the Bible three times (Lev. 23:24, 25:9 and Num. 29:1), each set to consist of a teki'ah, a teru'ah and teki'ah thrice repeated (RH 33bf.).

In the talmudic period, doubt arose as to the exact nature of the teru'ah. Some held that it was a moaning sound (genuhei genah) and others that it was an outcry (yelulei yelal). According to the first opinion the sound was shevarim (broken sounds), while in the second view it was teru'ah—a tremolo of nine staccato notes. Rabbi Abbahu reconciled the difference by deciding that the first set of sounds should include both shevarim and teru'ah, i.e., teki'ah, shevarim—teru'ah tekiah, while the other two sets were to be composed as follows: teki'ah, shevarim, teki'ah; and teki'ah, teru'ah, teki'ah (ibid.). The teki'ah (blowing) is a glissando which begins on a lower note and swells into a higher. The teru'ah (alarm) is a series of staccato blasts upon the lower note. The shevarim (tremolo) is an alternation of higher and lower notes. The concluding note of each of the two series is a teki'ah gedolah (great blast); this is a long drawn-out note explained as a sign of the removal of the Divine Presence, hermeneutically deduced from Exodus 19:13: "When the ram's horn soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount.

On Yom Kippur, the shofar heralded the beginning of the Jubilee Year (wherein debts are forgiven, slaves freed, lands returned, etc)

Leviticus 25:8 provides that every 50th year is the Jubilee Year. The Jubilee Year provides for 

1 No work land
2 All slaves go free
3 All land goes to original people

The Mishna Berurah provides in Section 623:12, Neilah Service,

 One should blow the Shofar the sounds tekiah, shevarim teruah, tekiah, although there are authorities who say that one should blow one tekiah counts.  The Shofar should be sounded after the community prayer has said the kaddish following the Neilah prayer.  Some localities have adopted the practice of having the Shofar sounded after the kaddish prayer.

The sounding of the shofar on Yom Kippur refers back to the days of the Holy Temple when every 50 years, a shofar would sound announcing the Jubilee year. During the Jubilee (Yovel) years, all will return to their land, Jewish salves will be manumitted (freed). The shofar is blown at the end of the Neilah service on Yom Kippur.

The Sefer HaChinuch (#342) suggests that part of the purpose behind the mitzvah of blowing a shofar during the Yovel ceremony is to strengthen the spirit of the slave owners. These men have to endure economic hardship when they release their slaves. As well, the blast of the shofar is also a call to the slaves to prepare them to leave the homes that they had with their previous owners. Expanding upon this, the Chinuch concludes by explaining that, at the end of the day, the shofar is a call to everyone to return to God. The shofar is meant to shake the foundations of an individual and remind him of where he comes from and to where his is going.

There also is a striking similarity between the shofar sounds  of the Jubliee Year and Rosh Hashanah, in terms of their reminders to persons of ownership and people in general to shake their lethargy and  on Rosh HaShanah—to remind one of their sins and repentance in order to return to God for salvation. (Rosh HaShanah, 3:5.)

Another thought is to associated the Yovel with the year of freedom, equality, and justice. one commentary links ‘Teruah’ with’Re’ut,’ or friendship, implying the Jubilee Year institutes the new beginning of quality Among humankind forgiving debts and freeing Jewish slaves. As well as for “all its inhabitantas.”

Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof,’ derived from Lev 25:10in explaining the Jubilee year and is also the inscription on the liberty bell.

Freedom was proclaimed for servant and master alike (“all of its inhabitants”), reminding us that we can be enslaved by our possessions, and true freedom requires putting material desires into the context of an ethical and compassionate life. The Yovel communicates light of God upon us in order to Return to God (no longer encumbered with mundane affairs). It also retuns land returns to its  source, providing for a new wholeness.
Accordingly both Yovel and Rosh Hashanah encourage the opportunity to connect – for all humankind.

Accordingly, the linking of Teruah- a primal shofar sounding- and Re’ut, friendship- is so profound. It reminds us that what sets us free is focusing on people, not on objects. Indeed,  we can never be fully free to become loving friends if we are oriented more towards ownership of things than service to others. Accessed October, 2009.

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