On the evening of Friday, September 15, Jews begin a month of High Holy Days with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a celebratory day on which it is traditional to gather for festive meals, but it and Yom Kippur are also the two days of the year that draw the most Jews to attend synagogue services. The ten-day period beginning on Rosh Hashanah and ending on Yom Kippur are a time of renewal, reflection and repentance called the Days of Awe.
One of the important parts of the holiday ritual is the blowing of the Shofar, or ram’s horn. Leviticus 23:24-25 reads, “Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts” of the Shofar.
One part of the synagogue service all around the world on this day is dedicated to the blowing of the Shofar. The leader of the service, either Rabbi or Cantor will give the person blowing the Shofar a direction of what note to sound. There are four different calls. The first is Tekiah, a short blast that rises in pitch at the end. This is interpreted as the summons to prayer. Shevarim, the second call, consists of three short blasts that rise in pitch. It might be meant to suggest weeping, in regret for our transgressions. Third, Teruah, 3 triplets or 9 short, staccato blasts, is thought of as an alarm to wake us from our slumber. Finally, the last call is Tekiah Gedolah (literally, “big tekiah“), which is the Tekiah blast held as long as the Shofar blower has breath.
This part of the service is anticipated by worshippers of all ages, giving them a sense of community and belonging, a sense of the continuity of praying in the same manner as our ancestors have for thousands of years, and most importantly, symbolically waking us up to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and make the world a better place.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.