Read the story then click on the links below it to do the exercises.
YAMIM NORAIM - THE HIGH HOLY DAYS
THE MITZVAH OF THE SHOFAR
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and like all Jewish holidays, it begins at sunset. We celebrate Rosh Hashanah for two days. We wear our best clothes, set a pretty table, light candles and eat an especially delicious holiday meal. Instead of the usual braided challah we eat round challah. We dip slices of apple in honey and we wish everyone at the table a good, sweet year. For the same reason we also eat honey cake for dessert.
When we meet friends or relatives on Rosh Hashanah we wish them ‘Shanah Tovah’, which means ‘Have a Good Year’ in Hebrew. People send friends and family Shanah Tovah cards.
In synagogue special holiday prayers are said and we listen to the blowing of the shofar. The curtains of the Ark and the Torah covers are beautiful white ones and some people wear white clothing as well. People pray for peace and happiness for everyone in the world. We also ask that we may be blessed with a healthy, happy year.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SHOFAR
A shofar is made from the curved horn of a ram. It is difficult to blow and has a strong, sharp, unusual sound. The ancient Israelites used a shofar on very important occasions to call the people to attention. Today, thousands of years later, we use it in the same way.
The shofar’s blast turns our thoughts to many important things. First of all, the shofar’s sound is like a trumpet announcing the approach of a king or queen. When we hear it we think of God, the great King over us all.
Second, the sound of the shofar is also like a call to action. It alerts us and reminds us to pay attention to how we live our lives and to try to do better. This is called doing ‘teshuvah’ or repentance.
Third, hearing the shofar also reminds us of another time, long ago, when the shofar was sounded at Mount Sinai.
Finally, the shofar’s sound is also a happy announcement that this is the anniversary of the day the world was created. All of these meanings and more we hear in the strange sound of the shofar.
SOUNDS OF THE SHOFAR
Tekiah: The first call is long and very strong. It is a call to repentance.
Shevarim: The second call, a triple note, is a sobbing sound like someone crying bitterly and trying to catch his or her breath.
Teruah: The third call is a nine-fold note. It is a broken sobbing sound.
Tekiah Gedolah: The final note is an extended tekiah. It is a final, powerful call to the Jewish people to repent.
We do not blow the shofar again until the end of Yom Kippur, as we hope that the days of Rosh Hashanah have brought repentance. Even at that final moment there is still room for teshuvah!