From the Holy Ari of Safed
The master disclosed that if one doesn't shed
at least a few tears during the High Holy Days, it is evidence that his
soul is flawed. He added that when one finds oneself suddenly aroused to
tears on the High Holy Days, it is a sign that at that moment, one's soul
is being judged in the Heavenly Court above. In anticipation and trepidation
of the judgment, one is overwhelmed by tears.
(Shulchan Aruch of the Arizal, Hilchos Rosh HaShanah)
From the Rebbes of Chabad
The sound of the shofar is called a "teruah"
(as in the scriptural statement "a day of teruah will be for you").
Teruah has two interpretations. The first is "pounding and
shattering," as in "break them ('tero'eim') with a rod
of iron." In spiritual service this represents shattering and nullifying
the ego and sense of self, i.e., repentance from the depths of the heart.
The second is "affection and friendship," as in "and the
friendship (veteruot) of the King is with him." The commandment
to blow the shofar, whose theme is repentance, expresses G-d's great affection
for us. For repentance provides a correction for even a person who consciously
sinned, unheedful of the consequences. In this G-d shows His essential
love for the Jewish people, like a father whose essential bond with an
estranged son will lead him to search intensely for stratagems to recreate
the former closeness between them. The wording of the commandment, "to
hear the sound of the shofar," indicates that blowing alone is not
sufficient. One must hear--i.e., hearken to--these two spiritual concepts.
(From Sefer Ham'amarim Kuntreisim, vol. 1, p. 124 - as printed in
"Days of Awe, Days of Joy".)
From the Zohar (p.226b)
THE HEAD OF THE KING
On Rosh Hashanah the whole world passes in front of Him and each person
is judged according to his actions. We have learnt that Rosh Hashanah
is the New Year for the king, and who is the king associated with New
Year? It is Yitzchak (Gevurah) who is call "Head" because
he is one of the heads of the King - in the place called Year.
(Yitzchak on the left side of the tree of the sephirot, represents
the sphira-attribute of gevura or "fear/awe", and is
elevated from the lower level of Zeir Anpin - the emotions - to
consciousness as Binah/ understanding. The other "head"
of the seven emotional attributes, on the right side of the tree, Chesed
is elevated to consciousness as the sphira of Chochma - wisdom.
The elevation of awe to understanding the implications of being before
the King in judgement takes place at the time specifically appropriate
for that, namely New Year).
Because judgement, which is from the side of Yitzchak, reigns at Rosh
Hashanah, it is the time when all people are judged. Each receives their
deserved portion (thus setting the pattern for the whole year to come
because the interactions over the course of the year will result in each
receiving reward or punishment as has been decided on Rosh Hashanah).
On the festival of Succoth the world is judged in regard to water (associated
with the sphira of Chesed). This is the beginning of the expression
of the right side of the King, and is the reason why the joy of blessing
of water is felt by all who have been judged favorably. At the time when
the water offering was made on the altar in the Temple this joy was pervasive
because water symbolizes chesed, the kindness of being forgiven.
There are four specific times the world is judged. Rabbi Yossi said that
when you think about these times they could all be summed up in the symbolism
associated with the names Avraham, Yitzchak, Jacob and King David. These
represent the four times people receive judgement, on the days when the
four sephirot represented by those names (Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet
and Malchut) reign in the world - namely Succoth, Rosh Hashanah,
Pesach and Shavuoth. Every single day the books are open and all of the
deeds of mankind are recorded but no one is conscious of this and none
bend their inner ear to listen to the lessons each day brings. The Torah
gives evidence every day and her voice calls out strongly, "Whoever
is susceptible to temptation let him study me, whoever is lacking the
ability to meditate in his heart about reward and punishment, Torah and
mitzvot, study me!" (Prov. 9:3). But no one is aware enough to pay
attention to the voice of the announcer.
(Translated by Simcha Triester, Ascent of Safed)
Some Laws and Customs
HEARING THE SHOFAR
The Torah mentions the word 'tru'ah' (a shofar sound) three
times with reference to blowing the shofar. Each truah is known to be
preceded and followed by a straight sound called teki'ah.
Hence, a person is obligated to hear on Rosh Hashanah at least nine shofar-sounds:
'tekiah'truah-tekiah, tekiah-truah-tekiah, tekiah-truah-tekiah.'
Our sages have ruled that after long years of exile, we can no longer
be certain how the truah is sounded: whether it is a staccato sobbing
sound or a burst of groans; or is it a combination of both groaning and
sobbing tones which is called truah. Therefore, we sound all of these
shofar tones, and call the sobbing sound 'truah' and the groaning
Therefore, the order of the shofar-sounding is: The man who sounds the
shofar utters the blessing and sounds a tekiah, then a shvarim-truah and
finally a tekiah. He repeats the same order 3 times, thereby sounding
12 sounds: 3 times shvarim-truah - hence 6 sounds, 3 tekiot preceding
the shvarim-truah sounds and 3 tekiot following - a total of 12 sounds.
He then sounds tekiah-shvarim-tekiah 3 times - a total of 9 sounds. He
concludes with the sounding of tekiah-truah-tekiah 3 times, also a total
of 9 sounds.
The total number of shofar sounds (thus far) are 30 - with all the doubts
concerning the three possible definitions of truah resolved. These thirty
shofar notes are first sounded after the Torah-Reading and before the
Musaf prayer. They are called tekiot-meyushav. It is customary,
but not obligatory, for all to stand. Hearing these 30 sounds fulfills
one's obligation to hear the shofar on Rosh HaShanah.
Later, when the congregation stands during the Musaf prayer, another
30 notes are sounded - 10 after each of the 3 central blessings of the
silent Musaf prayer: mal-chuyot, zichronot and shofrot.
These blasts are called tekiot-meumad, since the entire congregation
is then obliged to stand.
Then, during the cantor's repetition of the Musaf prayer, yet another
30 notes are sounded - 10 after each of the 3 central blessings. During
kaddish after Musaf, before the phrase beginning titkabel,
another 10 sounds are blown. The grand total is thus 100 sounds of the
(Many Sephardic communities add another long tekiah blast in order to
total 101 sounds: the numerical value of Mikhael, the chief angel;
some Chassidic communities sound an extra cycle of 30 sounds at the conclusion
of the prayers, "To confuse the Accuser.)
"Out with the old year and its curses!
In with the new year and its blessings!"
L'shana Tova tikateiv v'tihateim
MAY YOU BE INSCRIBED AND SEALED
FOR A GOOD AND SWEET YEAR
OF HAPPINESS AND GROWTH!
The ASCENT staff
Last year's Rosh haShanah
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