In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!
Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.
Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar; and all the people who were in the camp trembled.” (Exodus 19:16)
ויהי ביום השלישי בהית הבקר ויהי קלת וברקים וענן כבד על ההר וקל שפר חזק מאד ויחרד כל העם אשר במחנה.
“Then you shall sound the shofar loud; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month—the Day of Atonement—you shall have the shofar sounded throughout your land.” (Leviticus 25:9)
והעברת שופר תרועה בחדש השבעי בעשור לחדש ביום הכפרים תעבירו שופר בכל ארצכם.
Shofar, Hebrew for “horn,” refers to the ram’s-horn trumpet used throughout Jewish history in religious ceremonies and as a battle signal. Today, the shofar is primarily blown on Rosh Hashanah, the holiday celebrating the Jewish new year. The Bible refers to Rosh Hashanah as “the day of the shofar blast,” since the blowing of the shofar is the central component and focus of the day. The blowing of the shofar recalls the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac, reminding God of the merits of our holy forefathers.
Shofar is grammatically related to the Hebrew word shipur, meaning “improvement,” for the sound of the shofar can awaken people and inspire them to improve their ways and realign their lives with the word of God. The prophet Amos asked, “When a ram’s horn is sounded in a town do the people not tremble?” (Amos 3:6). When God gave the Bible to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai, the shofar blast shook them to their core: “On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightning, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar; and all the people who were in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16).
The shofar was used in ancient Israel on the day of Yom Kippur during the Jubilee year to proclaim freedom to all slaves and announce the returning of all lands to their original ancestral owners, for the shofar blast signals a new era has arrived. As the prophet Isaiah explains, the shofar will herald the ingathering of the exiles to Jerusalem and the final redemption. “And on that day, a great shofar shall be sounded… and they will come and worship God on the holy mount, in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13).