Ask A Kabbalist

Blowing the Shofar

Question:

I would like to have a deeper understanding of the spiritual reasons for the blowing of the shofar. ~CS

Answer:

The shofar can be an instrument of astonishing mystical power, when used as a tool by a kabbalist, such as Michael Berg, who has gained the necessary understanding and has completed the essential spiritual preparations. As it is written in the Zohar, “There is no sound of the shofar which does not ascend to a certain firmament, and all in that firmament make room for this sound.” When Michael brings the shofar to his lips and sounds a note, this is not merely a symbolic act. Only during certain cosmic openings, such as Rosh Hashanah, the blowing of the shofar is a tool that has an immediate cleansing and purifying effect on the negative forces affecting the lives of everyone in the prayer room, and even on the negativity in the world as a whole.

Rosh Hashanah is a time when there is an opening in the cosmos that creates a virtual time tunnel through which our thoughts and meditations allow us to travel back to the moments of the past year that require correction. If we arrive at those moments, with the right consciousness, using the right meditations to guide us, the shofar functions like a powerful laser, removing the negativity of our actions and replacing it with Light.

The shofar, together with the kabbalistic meditations and prayers of Rosh Hashanah, are powerful and effective spiritual tools. But it’s important to always be clear and aware of what we’re doing at Rosh Hashanah. We are transcending the everyday boundaries of time and space. We revisit the moments of our negative behavior, and we rescind the judgments against us by removing the causes of those judgments. Like travelers in time, we literally construct a new universe—one in which both our transgressions and the judgments they engendered never even existed.

The 101 soundings of the shofar are divided into four levels. Each has its own spiritual connections, and each focuses on eliminating a specific aspect of negative energy:

The First 30 Soundings are connected with Abraham, who represents the divine energy of mercy and kindness. These soundings erase negativity associated with idol worship. This does not refer to idolatry in the narrow sense of bowing down to graven images. Kabbalistically, we are worshipping idols whenever we give power in our lives to something or someone other than the Light of the Creator.

The Second 30 Soundings connect to Isaac, and to the energy of receiving. Kabbalah teaches that these soundings cleanse the negative effects of incest, which like idol worship, is defined in the broadest sense. Here, incest refers to any negativity created through improper sexual acts.

The Third 30 Soundings are a connection with Jacob, and to the divine balance between mercy and judgment. These notes of the shofar annul the effects of bloodshed, which include not just physical violence, but any intention to cause harm or pain. In this sense, Kabbalah even defines causing embarrassment to another person as bloodshed, because shame can cause blood to rush to someone’s face.

The Final 11 Soundings are connected to King David, and to the spiritual energy of Malchut, which is the foundation of the physical world. These last soundings deal with the negativity of evil speech, and the damage that is done by any form of gossip or slander.

In preparation for this part of the Rosh Hashanah observance, the person who will blow the shofar, devotes three days to his own spiritual cleansing, in order to become a pure channel for the energy of the holiday. We just have to focus on the meditations and prayers that the kabbalistic prayer book provides during the connections. It is helpful to prepare for the holiday using the days and weeks preceding the holiday as a time for taking account of and responsibility for the mistakes we’ve made during the year. Many people find it useful to write down specific issues that they need to work on. But, even if we have not undertaken this work, we can still receive the purifying energy of the shofar during the holiday, by bringing our transgressions into the forefront of our awareness during the ceremony itself.

When the last of the 101 notes has sounded, the first day’s blowing of the shofar has been completed. This is a truly powerful time—a joyous moment and a miraculous one. The day concludes with a meal and evening connections leading into the second day.

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