It's not the blowing
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
We are just two weeks away from Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year. On Rosh Hashanah, the highlight of the service is the blowing of the Shofar. Ten days later at the very end of Yom Kippur, the piercing shrill of the Shofar signals the end of the fast.
The Midrash states that although many nations blow trumpets or bagpipes, there is something different and unique about the sounds of the Shofar. It is only the Shofar that causes G-d to "sit on the throne of mercy" and bless each of us with a good and sweet year. What is the secret of the Shofar?
With the blowing of any instrument the skill lies in the ability to blow. The player is the skilled one who is able to produce musical, loud and beautiful notes. The greater the talent of the musician the more complex and musical are the sounds that he produces. Those that listen sit back, relax and passively enjoy the performance.
The Shofar is very different. The Mitzvah is actually not to blow the Shofar. The Mitzvah is to listen to the sounds that it produces. With the Shofar the skill is not with the one who blows. The real effort and talent are with those that listen, absorb and internalize its message. The notes that we produce don't even have to be beautiful or musical. What is critical to the experience is to listen intently to those sounds, absorbing their power and intense holiness.
Each sound has a story and a message. Every note wakes us up, reminding us of our pure and pristine soul that is the essence of our identity. By listening and absorbing the sounds we are able to peel away our exterior and discover our true self.
So when you hear the last sound of Shofar at the end of this Yom Kippur close your eyes, listen hard and hold on to the experience for the rest of year.