The Shofar and the Patriarchs

On Rosh Hashanah, we ask God to inscribe and seal us for a good year in both physical and spiritual matters. We ask Him for children, life and livelihood—all in plenty. The shofar blowing includes three sounds: tekiah, shevarim, and teruah. The tekiah is a simple shout to God. The shevarim is like a moan, and the teruah is like crying.

The Arizal says that the simplest intention that we should have during the shofar blowing is to awaken the merit of the Patriarchs. The three different sounds correspond to the three Patriarchs, respectively. On the emotive level, the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, correspond to the attributes of lovingkindnesss (chesed), might (gevurah), and beauty (tiferet), respectively. In the source of the emotions in the mind, the Patriarchs correspond to wisdom (chochmah), understanding (binah), and knowledge (da’at).

From the verse, “Happy is the nation that knows the teruah, God, in the light of Your face shall they walk” אשרי העם יודעי תרועה ה’ באור פניך יהלכון,[1] we learn that the teruah is da’at, corresponding to Jacob. While Abraham and Isaac both had non-holy children, Ishmael and Esau, Jacob’s offspring are all holy. Teruah is related to children. A person who prays for children cries, reflected by the sound of the teruah.

The verse says, “Extended life in its right, in its left wealth and honor,”אורך [2]ימים בימינה בשמאלה עושר וכבוד. From this verse we learn that the right goes together with life, while livelihood is related to the left. Abraham is the right and Isaac the left. The time to have in mind one’s life is during the sound of tekiah, the simple sound, corresponding to Abraham.

When we don’t have livelihood, we moan, we are broken. In Hebrew, the word for ‘broken’ is ‘shever,’ the root of the shevarim sound of the shofar. Shever also means ‘livelihood’ as in ‘shever in Egypt,’ the food that Jacob instructed his sons to bring home from Egypt. Thanks to the shevarim of Isaac, we awaken mercy from above and draw down livelihood.

[1]  Psalms 89:16

[2] Poverbs 3:16

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