Guest Column by Rabbi Avrohom Tkatch / Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael
Every year, as we get ready for the High Holidays, there is one sound that rings in our ears. It is the sound of the shofar. What is so meaningful and deep about the sound of the shofar? How is it relevant to us, and how does that sound help us repent and become closer to G-d?
The shofar is mentioned a few times in the Bible. After Abraham was tested and was willing to sacrifice his only son, he found a ram with its horns, the shofar, stuck in the branches.
When G-d descended on Mount Sinai to give the Torah, there was the sound of the shofar.
On the year of jubilee, when all slaves are freed, there is a commandment to blast the shofar.
We find that the shofar was used in the battle of Jericho as the Jews entered the land of Israel. They circled the city seven times and blew the shofar, and the walls fell down, allowing them to conquer the city.
There is a common thread that runs through all of these shofar appearances. As we see from the battle in Jericho, the sound of the shofar knocked down the wall. It took away the barrier and let us in. The blast of the shofar signifies penetrating through, breaching outer barriers and reaching the inside. When we free slaves, we are removing their barriers and letting them free.
When Abraham was challenged, he was able to remove the personal barriers that would hold him back and reached his inner self to do the will of G-d over his own. When he broke through that wall of personal challenge, what he found near him was a shofar.
When G-d gave us the Torah, the tool to reach into our inner selves and break the external walls of self-indulgence and temptation, the walls of external challenges, there too the shofar was sounded.
We all have strengths, and we all have struggles. We know our own struggles. As we head into the new year, heading toward Judgment Day, we need to make an accounting of our struggles.
If we can overcome our struggles and beat them, we will be stronger and better people. If each individual is stronger, then as a nation we will be stronger.
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, a prominent Italian rabbi, kabbalist and philosopher who lived in the 1700s, said that overcoming a person’s challenges is the way to achieve greatness. If a person can work on what is hard and improve, that person will be great.
The shofar resonates with all of us. We all have the ability to overcome challenges. We are all confronted with challenges, and we all need strength to overcome them. The shofar reminds us to reconnect with our inner goodness and connection with G-d, and there we will find the strength to overcome all of life’s challenges.
May the shofar blast this year give us all the strength to conquer our challenges, become better people, and have a happy and healthy new year.
Rabbi Avrohom Tkatch is the menahel of Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael of Atlanta.