Published September 2021
“THE SHOFAR’S SECRET FORMULA”
Rosh Hashanah is distinguished by the ceremony of the sounding of the shofar. There is nothing quite like it among all the other religions of the world. Why is the shofar used? Some say it was because the shofar was used to summon people to worship or to sound an alarm. Others maintain that it is a memory of Mount Sinai because the shofar was sounded when the Torah was given. There is another opinion that the shofar was sounded because the shofar will be blown before the coming of the Messiah. The accepted explanation is that the shofar and trumpet were used for the coronation of kings. God is acknowledged as king of the universe and, therefore, it is appropriate to use the shofar.
The rules of the shofar itself are interesting. It must be simple and unadorned for so should be our prayers. The shofar must be curved like a person bowed in prayer. The horn of a goat, sheep or antelope may be used for a shofar but not the horn of a cow. This is because the cow reminds us of the golden calf.
During the centuries many secret formulas were devised for the prayer that precedes the sounding of the shofar. It is told that a Rabbi Zev was to sound the shofar in the presence of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism. Just prior to doing this, he looked for the piece of paper with the secret formula he was to use and to his dismay he had lost it. So before the sounding of the shofar, he said to the Baal Shem Tov: “I am sorry. I hope you will forgive me” and the Baal Shem Tov replied: “That is truly the secret formula of the prayer for the shofar ritual – to be moved to say to God and man, “I am sorry I hope you will forgive me.”
My children, grandchildren and I join in the prayer that all of you will be inscribed and sealed for a happy and healthy New Year.
L’shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD