As human beings, we are blessed with five senses that help us experience and enjoy our world around us, help us interact with the world, help us protect ourselves, and help us know what to do next. Each one of our senses has a unique ability to trigger our minds to memories, places, people, actions and reactions, and thoughts for the future as well.
We can all recall places we’ve been, the faces of people we’ve seen, and the anticipation of seeing a new place or meeting a new face.
Our sense of touch can remind of the softness of a baby’s skin, the warmth of a friendly hug or the tears of someone you have comforted.
Our sense of taste, on this Jewish holiday, can remind us of delicious meals savored with family and friends, fond memories of loved ones passed, and anticipation of a new experience.
Our sense of smell is especially powerful when triggering memories– I’m sure there isn’t a single person here that can’t close their eyes and think of a smell associated with a happy place or time – Robin’s Grandma Frances’ house that always smelled like Ivory Soap – the smell of turkey roasting in the oven on thanksgiving, or the crisp odor of fireplaces crackling on a cold night. And we can anticipate smells as well.
Our sense of hearing has a unique ability in our memories as well – songs that immediately trigger a memory of a time or place, or the sound of a friend or loved one’s voice on the phone instantly calling their face to mind. Our sense of hearing also has the unique ability to spur us into action instantly – a baby’s cry, or that 5:30 AM alarm on Monday morning.
On Rosh Hashanah, we spend time remembering – the year past and many years past. We spend time reminding ourselves – of our commitment to God, to our faith and to our community. And we spend time thinking of the future – what will the next year be like; what will the rest of our lives be like; what are the possibilities beyond our days?
The shofar serves as that auditory reminder. I like to think of the three shofar calls in this way: Malkhuyot – remembering; Zikhronot – reminding; Shofrot – hoping. Through them, we receive an audible reminder of where we’ve been, why we are here, and where we are going.
First Shofar Call: Remembrance
Our first shofar call – Malkhuyot (mal-chOO-hyot) is an audible reminder to remember. Think of it as a wake up call – a wake up call from God. With the first shofar call, we are reminded that G-d is one and only – there are none before, none after, and none other than OUR G-d. It should also be a reminder that G-d is there for us, to guide us in our daily lives and to help us in our mission as the Jewish people.,
Finally, just like a song that recalls a time and a place, it is there to help us remember G-d’s beauty every day, in everything – as we hear the shofar call ring around us, we remember that G-d is also all around us.
Second Shofar Call: Reminder
Our second shofar call, Zikhronot (zeek- ROH-note) is a reminder to us to take action as Jewish people – a call to action that reminds us of several things. First, it reminds us of G-d’s covenant with us as His chosen people – as we hear the shofar tones, it is G-d saying to us, “I chose you.” Secondly, the shofar is a call to remind us of our side of the Covenant – our commitment to do G-d’s work on earth in helping to heal the sick, care for the less fortunate, and perfect the world – all as G-d’s chosen people.
Finally, the shofar should remind us to uphold the covenant every day. Just as our clock alarms wake us up, or our oven timers jangle to tell us the brisket is done, the shofar wakes us up and spurs us into action to uphold the covenant every day.
Third Shofar Call – Shofrot: A call to hope – to remember the future
Our third shofar call, Shofrot (SHOW-froat) is the sound of hope. It is a call to look to the future. In the same way that hearing a sound can make you look forward to an upcoming event, in the same way the third shofar call helps us as Jews to look forward. It helps us envision the sound of victory as the world has been perfected and the Messianic period has begun. It is a joyful sound to remind us of worldwide happiness that will come when we complete the covenant.
Finally, in the here and now, it is a sound of celebration – to remind us to look forward to all the positive things we can do in the year ahead as we continue the work of G-d.