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Three Vital Blasts

by | Sep 29, 2008

We are commanded by the Torah to sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Three types of calls must be made in order to fulfill the commandment. Tekiah, the first and last call, consists of one long unbroken blast. Shevarim, the second, has three medium blasts, each lasting two or three seconds. The third, teruah, consists of a minimum of nine short, staccato blasts.

The Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 34a) states that the sounds of shevarim and teruah represent two different kinds of crying. The three medium blasts of shevarim are likened to prolonged moaning, while the nine staccato blasts of teruah are likened to uncontrollable sobbing. The single, unbroken tekiah represents the respite that both precedes and follows the intense weeping of shevarim and teruah.

Based on the Zohar, the Arizal states that the three types of calls also parallel the three Patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham, who embodies the attribute of Divine Kindness, parallels the initial, single, unbroken tekiah. Isaac, who embodies the attribute of Divine Justice, parallels the two types of weeping, shevarim and teruah. Jacob, who embodies Divine Mercy, the perfect blend of love and justice, parallels the final tekiah…

In his work Arvei Nachal (2:108), the Levushei Serad explains the connection between the three Patriarchs and the shofar, in the following parable:

An emperor who ruled over many kingdoms had an only daughter who was perfect in every way and whom he loved with all his soul. When she reached marriageable age, everyone waited for the emperor to choose a prince from a royal house to be her bridegroom. But the emperor thought otherwise.

Since all the kings in his domain were subservient to him, he saw no difference between them and the common folk. He therefore decided to wed his daughter to the son of his beloved and intimate friend who lived in a distant province and who worked tirelessly for the emperor with all his heart and soul…

The emperor had only one concern: His friend’s son was ignorant of court manners and customs, and would not know how to conduct himself with the daughter of an emperor. He therefore had the young man brought to his court for a few years, until he was well-versed in court manners. The wedding took place, and his friend’s son returned home with his new wife.

Even after all this, the emperor’s actions continued to be the subject of much controversy. Numerous antagonists spoke against the commoner who dared to marry the emperor’s daughter. They sent agents out to secretly spy on the new prince and devise ways to expose his shortcomings, returning to the emperor with damaging evidence against his new son-in-law.

Being just and righteous by nature, the emperor could not ignore their accusations. He fixed a date for a hearing, and sent notice to his son-in-law, advising him to be prepared to defend himself against the charges. Over the years, a number of such hearings were held. Occasionally the charges leveled against the son-in-law were extremely grave, and his defense flimsy. Were it not for the emperor’s daughter, who spoke on her husband’s behalf to defend him against his enemies, all would have been lost. But in the face of testimony given by the emperor’s own beloved daughter, the accusers were silenced and their accusations were put to rest.

Things went on like this for some time, until the couple had a serious argument. Being essentially a simple and unlearned man, the prince got angry. Not only did he show no remorse for the suffering he was causing her, but he even threw her out of his house…

A letter was not long in arriving from the emperor. In the letter, the prince was informed that this time extremely serious allegations had been brought against him, and that he was in grave danger. He must plan his defense very carefully and make sure to bring evidence in his favor, because his very life was now hanging in the balance. The emperor added that he was to bring along his wife, for she was his only daughter and it had been some time since he had had the pleasure of seeing her and enjoying her company.

As the prince read the letter, his heart pounded and he began to tremble uncontrollably. He broke into a cold sweat, his knees shook, and his teeth chattered. “Woe is me!” he began to groan. “What have I done! How will I defend myself now? On previous occasions, when lesser charges were leveled against me, I was saved only because my wife spoke up for me… But without her, I cannot appear before him either…”

He immediately went to his father and burst into tears in front of him. “Dear merciful and compassionate father, the time has come when you must save me!” he wept. “I have no one else to stand up for me. You are the emperor’s dear and intimate friend. You have served him selflessly and fought for his honor all the days of your life. Surely if you stand before him and speak in my defense, he will listen to you!”

The father agreed, but when he beheld the emperor’s daughter, he also began to weep. “Woe is me! How dare I come before the emperor and beg him to have mercy on you? Look what you have done to his daughter! The emperor will surely ask me how I can look upon his daughter’s suffering with such indifference. His friendship toward me will be far outweighed by his love for his daughter!”

“Then what shall we do?” the prince cried.

“I will journey to the emperor,” answered his father, “and ask him to postpone the trial for a while. In the meantime, you must placate your wife. Treat her with kindness and thereby win her back. Convert her from an enemy to a friend. She will then accompany you as before, and together we will arouse the emperor’s kindness and shut the mouths of the accusers!”

What is the message of this parable? The emperor is God, the Supreme King, the Holy One, blessed be He, whose greatness and power is infinite and without end, and before whom all Creation is as naught. The emperor’s beloved only daughter is our holy Torah. She is perfect in every way, as it is written, “She is a tree of life for those who grasp Her. Fortunate are those who support Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all Her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17).

The accusers are the angels on high… Every year these angels rise up against us and accuse us before God’s Throne of Judgment: “Your children have sinned!” Out of love for us, God warns us ahead of time about the approaching judgment, as it is written, “He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Yisrael” (Psalms 147:19). He warns us to be prepared for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment. Only by correcting our wrongdoings can we hope to find favor in His eyes and transform the attribute of Divine Justice to Mercy and Kindness.

Even when we are unworthy of finding favor in His eyes, we turn to the Torah, the daughter of the Emperor, beseeching her in our Selichot prayers, “Plead for us!” After the Torah herself speaks in our behalf, the accusers of our people are silenced.

All of this is true, however, only when we honor the Torah as befits her stature as the daughter of the Holy King. When we argue and resist the Torah, mistreat her, cast her away, turn our backs on her, and revile her, what hope do we have?…

The Day of Judgment arrives. Our Father in Heaven warns us to be prepared. He expresses His desire to behold His daughter, the Torah we have learned throughout the year. This Torah learning is His Delight. With it, He sustains heaven and earth…

In previous generations we relied on our righteous tzaddikim who learned the Torah with unremitting self-sacrifice. What shall we do now? Our Torah learning cannot plead our case before the Holy One. It is too sorely lacking. It sits outcast on the rubbish heap. What shall we say? How can we hope to vindicate ourselves before God?

Now, more than ever, we must turn to our holy patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as we say in the Selichot prayers, “Rise up, you who sleep in [the Cave of] Machpelah [in Hebron], and come to my rescue! Cry out to God with me! With your righteous strength, persuade Him in my behalf!”…

This is the connection between the three Patriarchs and the shofar. With the long, unbroken tekiah, we arouse our father Abraham, who embodies the attribute of Divine Kindness. With the three measured blasts of shevarim and the nine staccato blasts of teruah, we arouse our father Isaac, who embodies the attribute of Divine Justice. With the final tekiah, we arouse our father Yaakov, who embodies the attribute of Divine Mercy. And we beseech them to rise and speak in our behalf, for we have no one upon whom we can rely, except them. They are God’s beloved. Surely, He will not turn them away empty-handed!

Reprinted with permission from Innernet:Jewish Cyber Mag