A King had an only son, the apple of his eye. The King wanted his son to master different fields of knowledge and to experience various cultures, so he sent him to a far-off country, supplied with a generous quantity of silver and gold. Far away from home, the son squandered all the money until he was left completely destitute. In his distress he resolved to return to his father’s house and after much difficulty, he managed to arrive at the gate of the courtyard to his father’s palace.
In the passage of time, he had actually forgotten the language of his native country, and he was unable to identify himself to the guards. In utter despair he began to cry out in a loud voice, and the King, who recognized the voice of his son, went out to him and brought him into the house, kissing him and hugging him.
The two-day festival of Rosh Hashanah is observed on the 1st and 2nd days of Tishrei. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, “Head of the Year,” and as its name indicates, it is the beginning of the Jewish year. The anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, it is the birthday of mankind, highlighting the special relationship between G‑d and humanity.
The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram’s horn. The shofar is sounded on both days of Rosh Hashanah.
On Rosh Hashanah we produce three sounds via the shofar. The first sound is called tekiah, a single whole note. The second is shevarim, three shorter “broken” notes, which sound like three sighs. The third is called teruah, nine staccato notes in rapid succession, which sound like the short sobs. What do they represent? Tekiah reminds us that once we were whole. Each of us was born whole. Shevarim reminds us that in life we are plagued by questions, confusion, and disappointments; we become fragmented, and scattered, causing our existential sighs. Teruah reminds us how many people’s lives have been shattered through various negative experiences into tiny pieces. They are sobbing consciously or unconsciously.
But what we do after each time we blow the sounds of brokenness? We blow the tekiah again. This reminds us that we can be restored to wholeness again.
What is more, following all of the shofar sounds, we reach the tekiah gedolah, three sounds? We reach tekiah gedolah, “the great tekiah”-one note that lasts as long as the shofar-blower has breath, a much longer note than the initial blast which began the cycle. Through surviving brokenness, we can reach an even deeper kind of wholeness than we knew before.The name “Rosh Hashanah” is not used in the Bible to discuss this holiday. The Bible refers to the holiday as Yom Ha-Zikkaron (the day of remembrance) or Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar). The holiday is instituted in Leviticus 23:24-25.
Thank you for reading my articles, “may we all be inscribed in the book of “life” for a sweet year,
L’Shana Tova – Happy Rosh Hashanah, שנה טובה Richard Klempner