A Blast Into the Shofar

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sfr006ajj m A Blast Into the ShofarThe shofar’s makes it’s main show is on Rosh Hashanah. It is blown  once a day during the month of Elul, and the blast of the shofar is what concludes the Yom Kippur service. Yet, Rosh Hashanah is the only day of the year where extensive services and ceremonies are geared around the blowing of the shofar.

How Many Times is the Shofar Blown on Rosh Hashanah – and Why?

The majority of Ashkenazi Jews blow the shofar 100 times. The majority of Sephardic Jews blow it 101 times. Yemenite Jews blow the shofar 41 times on the holiday. There are several explinations that expain the reasoning behind the perscribed number of shofar blasts.

The 101 Tears of a Mother

In the book of Devorah, the Jew’s were battling the Assyrians for years. The prophetess Devorah foresaw that the Assyrian general would not die in battle, but by the hands of a woman. Just as she predicted, as the Assyrians were losing the battle against the Jews, Sisera fled to the tent of Yael. Yael craftily orcherstrated Sisera’s death. She fed him salty cheese and wine, which put him to a deep sleep.  Once he was in a drunken slumber, she drove a tent stake through the general’s head, klling him dead. Although, this was a great thing for the Jewish people, saving them from a dangerous enemy, it was still a devastating reality for Siseria’s mother. Siseria’s mother felt anger towards the Jewish people more than anything. It is said that she cried 101 tears when she heard of her son’s death. 100 of those tears were directed from her anger towards the Jews, and 1 of those tears was directed from her pure love for her son.

For this reason, Ashkenazi blow 100 blasts from the shofar. The 100 blasts can counteract Siseria’s mother’s 100 tears of anger towards us. But her one pure tear of love, we cannot counteract with even the longest and most powerful shofar blast. So, Ashkenazi stop at 100, honoring the tear of love. It is a reminder for us that we should make teshuva out of love for G-d, not out of anger or fear.

The Halachic Ashkenazi Reason:

According to the Talmud, a Jew must only hear nine shofar blasts in order to fulfill the requirement for Rosh Hashanah. However, there was a debate as to what the authentic shofar blast truly was.  As we know, there are three different ways the shofar is blown. These three sounds (tekiah, shevarim, teruah) vary in length and style and have different spiritual connotations.  The Rabbis could not decide which form or combination of these blasts was the exact sound of the shofar that we are supposed to hear. Therefore, every combination possible of these three types of blasts is sounded. Each combination is bracketed by one long tekiah sound. The total of combination blasts  makes up 100 shofar blasts.

The Sephardi Mystical Reason:

There is a very kabbalistic reasons why the shofar is blown 101 times in Sephardi communities. The Hebrew letters Samech and Mem represent the name for the most harmful angel. The gematriah, numerical value, of these two letters is 60 (Samech) and 40 (Men).  In order to counteract the energy of this dark angel, the shor blower calls upon the energy of the  good angel, Michael. Michael’s name in Hebrew has the gematriah of 101: (mem=40, Yud = 10, Chaf = 20, Aleph = 1, Lamed = 30)


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