A Day for Blowing Trumpets: Why we Blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

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You might have noticed that Rosh Hashanah isn’t mentioned anywhere in scripture. What is mentioned is Yom Teruah – The Day of Shouting (Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 29:1-6). Rosh Hoshanah means Head of the Year, since the 1st of Tishrei is recognized at the beginning of the Jewish civil year. The first month of the Hebrew calendar is Nisan, but Tishrei is the beginning of the year, yet it is still counted as the 7th month…confusing? I know. We’ll get into this year discrepancy in another post, but for now let’s focus on Yom Teruah.

Yom Teruah

Leviticus 23:23-25 describes Yom Teruah as a special sabbath, a day of rest. Other than blowing the shofar, this isn’t a day that is filled with lots of rituals and activity. Tishrei is the seventh month so it is commonly associated with the seventh day of creation and the rest God established as a pattern for us to follow.

Though not specifically stated in scripture, it has long been tradition to sound the shofar 100 times on Yom Teruah. Fortunately you aren’t expected to blow the shofar yourself, as long as you hear it blown. It’s unclear why God commanded this rest begin with shouting and blowing the shofar but the blasts of the shofar itself may give us some clues. There are different types of shofar blasts each with a special meaning:

Types of Shofar Blasts

  • Tekiah – one long note, serves as a call to worship
  • Shevarim – three medium notes, means “to break”, “to fracture”, or “to repent”
  • T’ruah – series of very short notes, like sounding an alarm

When I spent some time with a Messianic congregation, the rabbis often began the service reminding us of the reasons we blow the shofar. According to varying traditions there are many different reasons, but there are three that have stuck with me:

Reasons we Blow the Shofar

  1. To announce the Messiah
  2. To chase away the devil
  3. To wake us from our spiritual slumber

Each of the shofar blasts matches up with these reasons for blowing it. Tekiah with announcing the Messiah (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). Shevarim with chasing away the devil, breaking him off. And T’ruah with waking us up from our spiritual slumber. On Rosh Hashanah/Yom Teruah you’ll often hear all three of these shofar blasts in different combinations, which often end with a longer variation of Tekiah called Tekiah Gadolah.

So what do all these shofar blasts mean for us as Christians? Yom Teruah begins the High Holy Days leading up to Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. In a season focused on righteousness and atonement, God commanded it begin with shouts, the shofar – a joyful noise, and rest. This is a great season to call to remembrance our Messiah, Jesus, and all he has done for us – His righteousness that is now ours, the direct relationship we can have with God because of Jesus’ atonement for our sins on the cross.

Engaging with the Shofar Blasts

As you listen to the Tekkiah shofar blast, call to remembrance our Messiah, what He did when he came, the glorious hope we have in his return. (Galatians 2:20; 1John 3:2; Hebrews 6:19)

As you listen to Shevarim, remember that your sins are forgiven (1 John 1:9), that the battle is already won (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 12:7-12), that we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), picture the devil’s schemes against you breaking, that our righteousness through Christ shatter’s his claims against you (1 John 1:9; Matthew 5:11-12; Revelation 12:10).

As you listen to Teruah, remember The Spirit who dwells within you, envision his breath filling you with each blast (John 20:21-22), waking you from spiritual slumber (Ephesians 5:14).

Listen to the Shofar

Here are some video options for listening to the shofar blasts on Yom Teruah

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