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Tuesday, Elul 26, 5780 / September 15, 2020


Rosh Hashana, the holiday which ushers in the new year 5781 begins this Friday evening.


Q.  Why is the Torah reading on the first day of Rosh Hashana about the miraculous birth of our patriarch Yitzchak (Isaac) and on the second day we read about G-d's testing Abraham, commanding him to bring his beloved son as a sacrifice?


A.  It was on Rosh Hashana that our Matriarch Sarah became pregnant with Yitzchak. She was 90 years old when she gave birth to her only child, Yitzchak. In commemoration of this great miracle, from whom the entire Jewish descended, we read about this great miracle on Rosh Hashana.  


Also, since Rosh Hashana is the day of judgment, we want to recall on this day as many merits for the people of Israel as possible. Therefore, we read about the miraculous birth of Yitzchak when Abraham was 100 years old. Still, when G-d commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son Yitzchak, Abraham didn't hesitate and was immediately ready to do G-d's will. In recalling this story we pray that in the merit of Abraham and Yitzchak’s great trust and dedication to G-d, we, their descendents, will be judged favorably and granted all that we need in the coming year.


Shofar: On Rosh Hashana after the Torah reading and again during the Musaf service the Shofar is blown. This year, as the first day of Rosh Hashana is Shabbat, we do not blow the Shofar.


We make three different sounds with the Shofar -- Tekiah, a long sound; Shevarim, three broken sounds (like sighs); and Teruah, which are sounds that are even more static than the Shevarim (like a wailing sound).  At the end we blow a "Tekiah Gedolah" - a "Long Blow."  This sound is extended longer than the other Tekiah.


The Shofar is made of a ram's horn to remind us that Abraham passed his final and most difficult test, of his ten tests, to bring his son Yitzchak on the altar. At the last moment G-d showed him a ram which he sacrificed instead. The Shofar made of a ram’s horn, recalls the great sacrifices that our forefathers Abraham and Yitzchak were willing to make. We pray that in their merit G-d will inscribe us, their descendants, for a good and sweet year.


Q.  What is the reason for the Tekiah Gedolah (long blow) at the end of the Shofar blowing?


A.  The blowing of the Shofar reminds us of the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai which was accompanied by the sound of the Shofar.  The Giving of the Torah concluded with a long blast (see Exodus 19).  Thus, we conclude the series of blasts of the Shofar with a "long blast."


The Shofar also reminds us of the coming of Moshiach whose arrival will be announced through the Great Shofar. May we indeed merit the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.  Amen.