Rosh HaShanah Thoughts

The two most important thoughts concerning the day the Torah calls
“Remembrance of the Sounding (of the Shofar)” are: repentance and
provision. In the book of Joel, chapter 2, twice the prophet says, “sound
the shofar.” In the second occurrance, the primary thought is change. The
Hebrew word “Shofar” is derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to improve.”
Obviously, the context for the improvement has to do with the will of
HaShem. In the 15th verse, there is a command to sound the shofar in Zion.
The word “Zion” has a connection to the word “excellence.” In essence,
Zion, which is often times parallel in Hebrew poetry to “Jerusalem”, has to
do with the redeemed Jerusalem or the Jerusalem in the Messianic Age.
Hence, the prophet is calling Israel to repent and be ready for the coming
kingdom of G-d. How does one do this?

Continuing in the 15th verse, the prophet says, “Sanctify a fast day.” The
main teaching of fasting is bringing the desires of the flesh into
submission to the will of G-d. The verse concludes with a commandment to
call an “atzarah.” This Hebrew word means “a stopping.” The prophet is
telling the people of G-d that there is a call to change (improve) their
behavior according to the excellence of the will of G-d. During Rosh
HaShanah, when one hears the sounding of the shofar, one needs to stop and
take an inventory of one’s behavior. That is, to examine one’s life in
light of the will of G-d. Verse 16 tells us that this message is for the
old and young alike and has an urgency attached to it. The prophet
illustrates this urgency by telling the bride and groom to leave their
places and respond to this call.

In the 17th verse there is an interesting statement concerning the Levitical
priests. Joel speaks of them weeping as they take the offerings given by
the people to the altar. They beseech the L-rd to be merciful to the people
of Israel and do not allow their heritage to be one of disgrace. This verse
also points out that there is an order to the will of G-d. Many places in
the scripture we are told that in the last days G-d will move within the
hearts of the Jewish people and restore the Davidic kingdom and exalt
Jerusalem above all cities. Currently, as we have seen in the recent
military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Jewish State has little
power to determine her own course of actions. However, Rosh HaShanah
reminds us that if “My people which are called by My Name will pray and seek
My Face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from the heavens
and I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land.” II Chronicles
7:14.

It is my hope that during this Rosh HaShanah that many in the land of Israel
will respond properly to the significance of the sounding of the shofar and
a great change will be born in the Land.

Blessings for a good and sweet New Year,

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