This year, I discovered that the Jewish festivals emphasize the five senses.
Sukkot emphasizes the sense of touch (“And you will take on the first day fruit of a splendorous fruit tree” etc.). Chanukah emphasizes the sense of sight (“We are not permitted to use them but to see them only”). Pesach emphasizes the sense of taste (the four cups, eating Matzah). Shavuot is a festival of fragrance. When the Shekinah (Divine Spirit) came down in fire from Mount Sinai, it did not burn the entire surroundings but revived them and the entire mountain was covered in greenery, grass and flowers (for this reason on this holiday it is customary to decorate the synagogue with flowers on Shavuot).
Purim is the festival of the loss of senses. Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a festival on which we neutralize most of the senses and are comparable to the Ministering angels who do not eat or drink
Rosh Hashanah is the festival that emphasizes hearing. The jewish new year is a festival of sound.
Of all the well-known motifs of Rosh Hashanah the Torah mentions only one: Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Truah (sounding of the shofar).
In the Torah, Rosh Hashanah is not mentioned as the Day of Judgment. We have no pomegranate, no apples and honey and not even New Year (which falls on the seventh month -Nissan- in the Hebrew calendar).
Why, of all the motifs, is the “Truah” the only one mentioned in the Torah?
The early commentators were divided as to the blessings which were to be recited before the blowing of the shofar.
According to the ruling of the Rambam and others, which was accepted as Halachah (Jewish law), the blessing to be recited is “to hear the sound of the shofar”, as the hearing of the shofar is the main essence of the commandment of the shofar.
This is comparable to the commandment (mitzvah) of the sukkah.
There is no commandment to build a sukkah but to sit in one. In order to sit in a sukkah it is necessary to build one, but building a sukkah is only the means to the end of sitting in a sukkah.
This applies to the shofar as well.
According to the method of thinking of the Rambam, the blowing of the shofar is only the means – the end being the hearing of the shofar.
As opposed to the Rambam, Rabenu Tam claims that it is fitting to bless the blowing of the shofar, because the blowing of the shofar is the essential commandment.
The Rambam focuses on the actions of hearing and internalization whereas Rabenu Tam focuses on the actions of blowing and externalization – exhaling from the inside outwards.
According to the Halachah, we recite the blessing on the hearing of the shofar.
Therefore, the end of the blessing of the "Shofarot" in the Mussaf service is surprising: “Blessed are Thou Oh Lord, who hears, wit mercy, the sound of the blowing of His people, Israel” and further on “”Who understands and listens to, sees and pays attention to the sound of our blowing”.
It sounds strange. This commandment is incumbent on us and not on Him!
Why then is it necessary to point out that God hears the voice of the shofar? It is we who are obliged to hear the sound of the shofar – not Him!
The Torah tells us that we were created in the image of God. Man was created 5,780 years ago from today “And He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”. This means that, according to the biblical description, God gave us, by means of “blowing”, the spark of life that throbs within us.
But not only here is the connection made between God and man by means of blowing.
When God revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, He presented himself by means of the blast of a shofar. This is stated clearly in the Musaf service: "By sounds and lightning You revealed yourself to them and by the sound of the shofar you appeared before them”.
Of the six hundred and thirteen commandments, there is only one that can be carried out by blowing: the commandment of the shofar.
It seems that the sound of the shofar is the sound shared between us and the Master of the Universe. It was the first sound he gave us to hear upon becoming a nation. It is the sound we express on The Day Of Judgment. I would say that the shofar is the common language (between God and us).
We are commanded to hear but when we hear, He also hears. On this day, there is absolute symbiosis between our hearing and His.
There is a known phenomenon that occurs in the interaction between a baby and her/his mother. The baby recognizes the voice of the mother from the third month of pregnancy, while the mother can identify the cry of her baby amongst those of tens of babies – even from a distance. The reason for this is that there is a common language between the mother and her baby.
Likewise, on New Year (Rosh Hashanah) we and God speak the same language.
He commanded us to “hear the sound of the shofar” but he also “hears the blowing of his people, Israel, with mercy”.
May this hour will be an hour of mercy and a time of goodwill before him.