Rav Kook delivered the following sermon in Jerusalem’s Old City on Rosh Hashanah 1933. It was a time of mixed tidings. On the one hand, ominous news of Hitler’s reign in Germany became more troubling with each passing day. On the other hand, the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael was flourishing. Immigration from central Europe was increasing, bringing educated immigrants with needed skills and financial means. It seemed that the footsteps of redemption could be heard.
We say in our daily prayers, “Sound the great shofar for our freedom, and raise the banner to bring our exiles together.”
What is the significance of this “great shofar”?
There are three types of shofars that may be blown on Rosh Hashanah. The optimal shofar is the horn of a ram. If a ram’s horn is not available, then the horn of any kosher animal other than a cow may be used. And if a kosher shofar is not available, then one may blow on the horn of any animal, even one which is not kosher. When using a horn from a non-kosher animal, however, no blessing is recited.
These three shofars of Rosh Hashanah correspond to three “Shofars of Redemption,” three Divine calls summoning the Jewish people to be redeemed and to redeem their land.
The preferred Shofar of Redemption is the Divine call that awakens and inspires the people with holy motivations, through faith in God and the unique mission of the people of Israel. This elevated awakening corresponds to the ram’s horn, a horn that recalls Abraham’s supreme love of God and dedication in Akeidat Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. It was the call of this shofar, with its holy vision of heavenly Jerusalem united with earthly Jerusalem, that inspired Nachmanides, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevy, Rabbi Ovadia of Bartenura, the students of the Vilna Gaon, and the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov to ascend to Eretz Yisrael. It is for this “great shofar,” an awakening of spiritual greatness and idealism, that we fervently pray.
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