Blowing the Shofar
By Rabbi Dovid E. Eidensohn
“Happy is the nation that knows the teruah [Shofar blast].” This passage in Tehilim 89:16 encourages us the entire month of Elul to blast the Sofar every day. But the problem is, that the Shofar has three types of blasts. One, is TEKIYAH, the long note. Two, is SHEVORIM, the middle note. And three is TERUAH, the stacatto note. Why does the Psalmist praise the TERUAH, the stacatto note, and not the other notes? Why not just say, “Happy is the nation the knows the Shofar blast? If the purpose of the Shofar blast is to arouse people to fear judgment, any note and any kind of blast would be appropriate. Why mention that a nation that knows the TERUAH is happy? Also, why does the Psalmist tell us “happy is the nation that knows the teruah”? Why the nation? Why not anyone who know the teruah for its great spiritual value?
But TERUAH means “breaking,” and it means the broken, stacatto blast of the Shofar. The blast of the shofar is supposed to break down and shatter the barriers in our heart to holiness and HaShem. The mighty evil inclination is shattered into tiny pieces and disappears.
The entire passage is “Happy is the nation that knows the teruah. HaShem, they will walk in the Light of Your Face.” The Shofar is a loud blast of sound. A loud blast is heard far away. The idea is to spread holiness throughout the nation. Only then,when Jews are united to serve HaShem, does the Jewish people merit to walk in the Light of Your Face.” Because “all Jews are responsible for each other,” we each have a responsibility to spread the teachings of the Torah to all Jews. If we can and refuse to do so, we are culpable of the failures of those we don’t help.
The gemora says that when the HaShem decreed on the Temple that it be destroyed, angels argued that many pious Jews deserved to be saved. The Satan responded that these people were also sinners, because although they were perfectly righteous, they did not stop others from sinning by rebuking them. G-d responded that He knew that that would not help, that the wicked would not listen to the pious. But the Satan replied to G-d, “But did the pious Jews know this? Maybe rebuke would help?” The decree went out to destroy the pious as well. Thus, “whoever can rebuke others and does not is saddled with the sins of those people.”
Thus, “ Happy is the nation that hears the Teruah.” Only when everyone hears the Teruah as a call to the entire nation to repent, and applies this thought to his own ability to influence others, do the Jews merit to walk “in the Light of the Face of HaShem.”
We are raised to think “Mind your own business.” But Jews are forbidden to mind their own business. They must worry about other Jews.
The Zohar says that when a Jew influences someone to be religious, HaShem takes a picture of the person who saved another Jew, and puts it on his lap, to stare at it frequently. The gemora says that if somebody makes somebody religious, it is difficult to punish the person who made the other person religious. How can the teacher be in Gehenum and the student in Paradise?
In Jerusalem, a rabbi would deliver a talk about musar and improving in Judaism and Torah every Shabbos. One Shabbo the very hot weather kept everyone home and the rabbi knew that maybe nobody would venture outside to hear his lecture. But he went anyway. He saw that indeed, nobody had come. He thought of leaving, but then resolved to give his lecture as he was committed to do, even though nobody was listening! For an hour or two he hammered away at nobody in the audience speaking about the glory of penitence and the suffering of sin. Then he concluded and prepared to leave. Somebody came out of the upstairs women’s section to the rabbi and thanked him for turning him to the path of penitence. He explained that he had come to the shull to rest because of the terrible heat and when he heard the lecture downstairs he listened to it and finally decided to repent himself!
We never waste our time when we try to do a good deed. And when we think about others, we surely think about ourselves, and we improve everyone.