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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Mystical Meaning of Shofar

The Mystical Meaning of Shofar 

Arthur L. Finkle

Several articles address the religious, social, political, cultural and philosophical meaning of Shofar. No articles currently in circulation address the mystical tradition of Shofar. Jewish mysticism is rich in tradition, citing Shimon Bar Yochai as a founder. In 1176, the Bahir was published by the Provence (Southern France) School of Kabbalists). However, it is ascribed to R. Nechuniah ben HaKana, a disciple of bar Yochai. It is mentioned by the Ravaad, the Ramban and the Zohar. Then xx’ Moses De Leon in the 13th century claims to have found the Zohar, a masterly mystical treatise. Then mystics flourished in Spain during its Jewish Golden Age (Ramban, Abulafia, R. Moshe Cordevero, etc.). Primary Jewish Mystical Texts Sefer Yetzirah ("book of creation") was the first historically recorded book on Kabbalah. Meaningless to those not schooled in mysticism, student could understand it only with a competent mentor. The second of the important Jewish mystical works is the Bahir ("the illumination"), also known as "The Midrash of Rabbi Nechuniah ben haKana". It is some 12,000 words long. First published in Provence in 1176, many Orthodox Jews believe that the author was Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana, a Talmudic sage of the first century. Historians have shown that the book was likely written not long before it was published. The Zohar (זהר "the radiance") is arguably the most important book written on Jewish mysticism. Attributed to Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, a 2nd century Talmudic commentator, it is generally assigned to a 13th century Spanish Jew, Moshe de Leon. There are those (mostly non-religious) who doubt that the Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Moshe de Leon was in possession of the manuscript and claimed it was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s work. Other sages authenticated this (possibly Abulafia, or Rabbi Levi ben Gershon aka Ralbag). The Zohar contains and elaborates upon much of the material found in Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer Bahir, and without question is the Kabbalistic work par excellance. Kabbalistic Teachings about the Human Soul The Zohar posits that the human soul has three elements, the nefesh, ru'ah, and neshamah. The nefesh is found in all humans, and enters the physical body at birth. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but are slowly created over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually. A common way of explaining the five parts of the soul is as follows: • Nefesh (נפש) - the lower part, or animal part, of the soul. Is linked to instincts and bodily cravings. • Ruach (רוח) - the middle soul, the spirit. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil. • Neshamah (נשמה) - the higher soul, or super-soul. This separates man from all other lifeforms. It is related to the intellect, and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This part of the soul is provided both to Jew and non-Jew alike at birth. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God. • Ha’tah – Higher spiritual plane • Yichuda – unite with HaKOM In addition, there are five “realms” through which the “soul” travels. From lowest to highest: • Asiyah (World of Activity, Making or Physical Manifestation). • Yetzirah (World of Formation), and • B'riyah (World of Creation), • Atziluth (World of Emanation), • Atziluth is also called the "Supernal World." • It is rooted in the Sefirah Crown/Above and correlates with the letter Yod in the Name YHVH. In Atziluth, the twenty-two Hebrew letters are yet unmanifest, In the sixteenth century, R. Isaac Luria (Arizal) (1534-72) and his fellow mystics of Safed concerned themselves Messianic Redemption consequent to the Spanish expulsion (and its mass conversions). He overturned the Talmudic restriction that before studying mysticism one had to attain the age of thirty-nine, leading to the spread of Jewish mysticism. His fast-traveling doctrines included Tzimtzum (contraction); the breaking of the vessels: and Tikkun: (restoration and repair). Simply put, Luria ingeniously fashioned a metaphor of God’s contracting the universe to create the world, among other things. The shofar is metaphor in Lurianic mysticism. The Shofar service begins with Ps. 47, which recites God’s name seven times. And the the Psalm, itself, is repeated seven times in traditional settings. Seven is mystical number often used is Lurianic mysticism. The psalm is followed by seven verses, six if which form an acrostic, ("destroy Satan"), also a Lurianic theme. Rabbi Isaac Luria Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) revolutionized the study of Jewish mysticism through Kabbalah. He married, had an family and, for seven years, meditated on the Zohar. Luria believed that deceased teachers of the past spoke to him and that he had frequent interviews with Elijah the prophet. He made mysticism available to those who were inclined the meaning of existence and one’s [lace in it.. See Shira Schoenberg , Rabbi Isaac Ben Solomon Luria, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Luria.html The Lurianic Kabbalah is an extremely complex system of thought . Like Maimonides, it speaks between the lines (occult and hidden).See M. Idel, Messianic Mystics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 170 Number “7” Ancient Egyptian civilization interpreded the number “7” a representation of God. Number seven appears in the Tanach. To cites a few examples: Seven Days of Creation (Genesis 1) Anyone who dares to kill Cain 'will suffer vengeance seven times over (Genesis 4:15) Lamech in his "Song of the Sword" claims that 'if Cain shall be avenged sevenfold', he himself shall be 'seventy-sevenfold' (Genesis 4:24) Seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in Pharaoh's dream (Genesis 41) In regards to the sin sacrifice, the anointed priest was to sprinkle the bullock's blood seven times before the lord (Leviticus 4:6) Seven days of the feast of Passover (Exodus 13:3–10) Creation of the seven day week and the pattern concerning distribution and use of manna (Exodus 16) The Menorah crafts as a seven-branched candelabrum, occupying a hold p[lace in the Temple. (Exodus 25) Seven year cycle around the years of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) Jericho's walls fall on the seventh day after seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times (Joshua 6:8) Seven things that are detestable to the LORD (Proverbs 6:16–19) Seven Pillars of the House of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1) Arthur I. Miller posits that there are seven planets and that Moses heard seven voices on Mou4int Sinai (as he received the Ten Commandments). Deciphering the Cosmic Number: See Arthur I. Miller, The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli, . WW Norton Maimonides provides “seven causes that should account for the contradictory and contrary statements to be found in any book or compilation.” Regarding the last of the seven, he writes: The seventh cause. In speaking about very obscure matters, it is necessary to conceal some parts and disclose others. Sometimes in the case of certain dicta this necessity requires that the discussion proceed on the basis of a certain premise, whereas in another. M. D. Chenu, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century, p. 103; Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, trans. H. E. Butler London, 1953), vol. 8, sec. 23. Tradition holds that God created seven before the world (Pes 54): Torah, resentence, paradise, gehinnah, throne of glory, name of God and name of messiah. In Lurianic Mysticism, the lower seven sefirot (Wisdom and Understanding) begat an offspring :Tiferet . Tiferet connotes mercy or non-rational action. In other words, the shofar not only oeeierces the façade of knowledge and understanding of the human, but it also resonates with the emotional or religious soul. See Lawrence Fine, Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Language As The Vehicle Of Creation The idea that language as the vehicle of creation is present in the earliest Kabbalistic text, Sefer ha-Bahir. It proclaims the world was created through divine speech in the Primordial Ether (Avir Kadmon). Could this be the shofar? www.newkabbalah.com ©Sanford L. Drob, 2003. Sound of the Shofar The Rebbe, (Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, (t’l) posited that the sound of the shofar represents a burst of emotion beyond words There are things that are important that shake us to the core. The very core of our souls crying, "Father! Father!" http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/315559/jewish/Shofar.htm Renewal Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev taught that the central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing of the shofar. The sound of the shofar, heard on the first day of Tishrei, represented the re-cycling of a new year. In Hassidic terns, a this recycling is a continuation of the act of creation that the world needs this cosmic energy in order to continue. God’s Voice The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (z’l) made another analogy that the High holy Days are based on coronation, repentance and Shofar. Coronation refers to the Kingship that humankind establishes with God, both reaching up and its reaching down to embrace humankind. Repentance (tshuvah) is a major part of the High Holy Days. Indeed, during these ten days, Jews are obligated to atone for their sins and to purify their souls. There is also an obligation (mitzvah) for sounding the Shofar. The mitzvah of the day is the sounding of the shofar."( Rosh HaShanah 27a.)] That is to say, not only does Rosh HaShanah contain characteristics that are exclusive to the theme and conception of Rosh HaShanah alone, and not only does Rosh HaShanah include shared features common to all the Ten Days of Repentance, but it also possesses its own "mitzvah of the day" - sounding the shofar. http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/chassidic-dimension-festivals-1/03.htm. ACCESSED July 5, 2009. Basically, he equates the sound of the Shofar with God’s voice, on a mystical level! Such a voice is awesome is bespeaks the solemnity and grandiosity of the High Holidays in the lives of the Jewish People. He then resolves the lulav and etrog paradox on the Sabbath by indicating that Sukkot does not require the Godliness of “delight,” which is only reserved for the Sabbath, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the announcement of the Messiah! Moreover, the voice of God is mentioned in the Bible as God’s voice and as God’s voice cessation [In Sedra Yitro, Gen. 18:1-18], The sound of the shofar grew increasingly stronger; Moses would speak and God would answer him with a voice. יט. וַיְהִי קוֹל הַשּׁוֹפָר הוֹלֵךְ וְחָזֵק מְאֹד מֹשֶׁה יְדַבֵּר וְהָאֱ־לֹהִים יַעֲנֶנּוּ בְקוֹל: grew increasingly stronger:
Rabbi Larry Freedman http://www.templesinaipgh.org/Door-columns/sermons/HH2005/RH1-LF.pdf

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