Shaya Cohen -


Creative Conundrums

Rosh Hashanah

Shofar: Re-enacting the Birth of Man?

What is it about the sound of a shofar that is so special?

Might it be connected to the creation of man? After all, G-d blows a living soul into Adam – and from then on, hakol hevel: breath is everything. We use breath when we create using words, just as G-d created the world using words. We use breath when we sing and when we pray. Our breath is the most important tool for building holy relationships. We use breath to express the ideas and ideals that stir in our souls.

And we use our breath to blow the shofar.

It is possible that blowing life into the Shofar, creating a sound, is analogous to G-d breathing life into Adam? Is the act of blowing the shofar an act of homage and connection to the creation of man?

If so, would it make sense to suggest that the birthday of the world connects to the birthday of mankind, a rekindling of the need for each of us to find a renewed spirit and purpose for our existences?

More than this: is blowing breath into what is otherwise an animal very much like how G-d created Adam by blowing a divinely-gifted soul into what is otherwise, ultimately, mere dust of the earth?

If this is true, is blowing the shofar a way to reconnect with our roots and ideal path: following the path G-d has laid out in front of us?

But why breath, instead of words? Aren’t words of prayer enough? Why is the shofar more special than tefillah?

Might it be that words are modified by our bodies, planned by our minds, while the breath itself is the rawest, most basic representative of the breath that G-d used to fill Adam with a soul?

Shofar: Ephemeral Immortality?

Sound is the least physical thing we can perceive with our senses: sounds comes and goes and leaves no trace behind except in our souls.

So why, when the sound of the shofar hits us, something in our souls resonate, changing and moving us, reconnecting us to who we are and whom we serve? And it all happens in the moment: there is an immediacy and vibrant power of being in that place, and in that time.

Is the Shofar a metaphor for being a Jew? Somehow both living in the moment and perpetuating the oldest extant civilization in the history of mankind? Is the shofar is our ever-present (and ever-passing) link to real immortality?

What Does the Torah Tell us About

Rosh Hashanah?

The only words in the Torah that are used to describe Rosh Hashanah that are not found to describe any other yomtov are zichron teruah. Do these three words tell us anything that helps us understand the meaning of this holy day?


The first time zichron is found in the Torah:

And G-d remembered (zichron) Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and G-d made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged. (Gen 8:1)

G-d remembers His creations, and he uses a wind to create a space for life to be renewed.

Is Rosh Hashanah an opportunity for us to reciprocate, to remember G-d and create a wind (blowing the shofar) to create a space for G-d in this world?!

Indeed, zichron is found only a few times in the Torah. Does each of them precede an action? Consider when G-d saves Lot for Avraham’s sake, giving Rachel a son, and delivering the people from Egypt. If this is right, is the Torah telling us that Rosh Hashana is when we (and G-d) first remember, and then act, creating space for the other in our world and our lives?


This word is only found with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – and for assembling and marching the nation.

What stands out here is that the Torah specifically tells us not to sound a “teruah” when the assembly is to be gathered but not to march (Num. 10:7).

So is Teruah is always a signal to start a journey, a march, or to go to war – but never to sit still and be inactive? Does that mean that teruah is a call to action? And if so, to what?


Though takah is not specifically used to describe Rosh Hashanah in the text, it is twinned with the word shofar elsewhere in the Torah.

Takah is a word of violent driving, installation:

Jacob had takah his tent into the mountain, and Laban with his brethern takah in the mountain of Gilead.

Indeed, when one considers that every other case of a tent being pitched in the Torah uses a different verb yate, takah gains a very specific meaning: it is an act of building that is defiant and forceful in its nature. It is the same verb used to describe Yael driving a tent-peg into Sisera’s temple.

When we blow, tekias shofar, we are driving our breath into the horn. It is not a natural act, nor is it easy. Indeed, the sound that comes out the other end is one that pierces us, touches us at the core of our being. It is a hard, defiant act. We are raging against the inevitable, using our breath to proclaim our lives and our vitality. And at the very same time, we are triumphally engaged in zichron teruah, triumphally engaging with our Creator. Takah is the state of each person during our lives, if we are trying to grow, to aspire to meeting challenging tasks and goals. Takah is like driving a peg into rock: doing that which is hard to do!

Our lives and our breath are here, now. It is hard to build and sustain them, just as it is hard to drive tent pegs into mountain rock (or Sisera’s temple). And both our lives and our tents are ultimately nothing more than temporary edifices.

Might this explain why the famous Unesaneh Tokef prayer tells us of the Great Shofar Blasting (takah). What follows? The still small voice…. if we listen for it. The voice of the divinely-shared spirit is there, a shadow reflection of the great takah. That voice is in the silence that follows, in the thoughts that run rings around each other in our minds.

In sum: Does our zichron connects with Hashem and all of the reconnections and remembrances between man and G-d since Noah? Just as He remembered us, so too, we remember Him and make room for Him in every facet of our lives? And as with the Children of Israel when the horns blew the teruah, we gird our loins, and march into the New Year, united and resolved, and ready for action.

Or is there a better explanation for how zichron teruah (and takah) explains the meaning of Rosh Hashanah?

This parsha question sheet takes the approach of reading the Chumash very closely. It is assumed that every letter and word has meaning, and all questions can be answered (at least every one we have come up so far!) So you’ll find the questions offered every week are deeply textual, seeking relevance to our lives today from the foundational document for Judaism and indeed all of Western Civilization.

This sheet is distributed with the general approval of Rabbi Rose.

Our answers can be found at (use the search tool). Or email me at

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