Rosh Hashana (5783) 5784 Part 2: The Call of the Teruah

“Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy assembly; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets.” (Num. 29:1)

Unlike many Torah instructions, this one about “blowing trumpets” is not a command; it’s a statement of fact. This feast will be a day on which blowing trumpets is considered fitting and necessary. Why?

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, we read that those who walk with the Creator know (or should know) the answer: “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound [or, shout]! LORD, they walk in the light of Your face.” (Ps. 89:15)

What the Hebrew (v. 16) literally says is this: “Blessed are the people who know a teruah.” In other words, blessed are those who can hear such a shofar blast and recognize what it means. They are the ones who walk in Light from the Creator’s face.

Jewish tradition built on this verse, assigning specific meanings to the different “voices” of the shofar:

  • Teruah: Close companionship, affection, yearning for the Creator’s presence.
  • Shevarim: Sorrow and brokenness over our sins.
  • Tekiah: Exaltation for the King, affirming His rule over all of creation.

The teruah thus came to represent a place of intimacy, walking in the Light of the Holy One in unbroken friendship, as Adam and Eve did in the beginning.

In an earlier lesson, we learned that there were two kinds of trumpets commanded by the Creator to be blown by the people of Israel: the shofar (ram’s horn) and the silver trumpet. Both were able to sound the teruah blast, which had multiple meanings depending on the circumstances. Jewish tradition also built on this context.

We learned that the teruah from the shofar is a call for us to remember the Creator (as we are remembered by Him), to acknowledge Him as our King, to return from exile, prepare for judgment, and be released from the bonds of slavery and death. The teruah from the silver trumpets (blown by the sons of Aaron only) doubled as a command for the people in the desert to start moving forward and as a distress call in wartime, asking the Holy One to remember them.

Both instruments were blown over the sacrifices on the holy altar, “as a reminder of you before your GOD” (Num. 10:10). This was particularly commanded on the new moons and festivals: “Blow the trumpet at the new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.” (Ps. 81:3) Since Yom Teruah was both a new month AND a festival, the multiplied trumpet calls echoing on the LORD’s holy mountain must have been awesome in their many-sided message:

“Remember our GOD! Know that He remembers you! Acknowledge Him as our King! Come back to Him in repentance! Move forward to meet Him! Call on Him in distress, and beg Him to triumph over those who want to destroy us!”

By this point, we should be close enough to Him to “walk in the light of His face” – a place of joy, intimacy, and confidence. We will have broken through the barrier that was hiding His face. The Hebrew of Psalm 81:3 doesn’t actually say we are to blow the trumpet “at the full moon” (yareach), but rather “at the covering” (keseh). What is this thing “covering” His face and hiding Him from our sight? Our sins, together with our refusal to admit them (Deut. 31:17-18, Isa. 59:2, Micah 3:4).

For this reason, the entire month before the Day of the Teruah is dedicated to preparing for this encounter, individually and as a community. It is indeed a fitting day on which to blow the shofar, as the echo of the Creator’s call.

And yet returning to the Holy One is so difficult that many do not experience this kind of breakthrough. That’s why He has promised to close the gap for us, if we will only listen attentively to His call:

“‘Return to Me, and I will return to you,’ says the LORD of armies…. Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened attentively and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and esteem His name. ‘And they will be Mine,’ says the LORD of armies, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession; and I will have compassion for them just as a man has compassion for his own son who serves him.’” (Mal. 3:7-17)

The Creator has also promised that He will show His face by returning all of His people to the Promised Land – and by pouring out His Spirit on them:

“‘When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall show Myself holy through them in the sight of the many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD their GOD because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then I gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ declares the LORD GOD.” (Ezek. 39:27-29)

And to make it still easier for the lost wanderers to return, the Holy One has resolved to forget that we ever sinned! When we plead like King David, “Hide Your face from my sins, and wipe out all my guilty deeds” (Ps. 51:9), the Creator answers:

“I – I alone – am the One who wipes out your wrongdoings for My own sake. And I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25)

“I have wiped out your wrongdoings like a thick cloud, and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you!” (Isa. 44:22)

It all begins with recognizing the call of the teruah, and knowing how to answer it.

But many have lost this understanding, and they have no one to lead the way back. If there are not enough shepherds to bring the flock of the LORD out of the dark fog and into His Light, then the Creator will do it Himself:

“My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them.… Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them. As a shepherd cares for his flock on a day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.” (Ezek. 34:6-12)

In fact, the Creator is determined to reach even those who have lost the ability to hear:

“Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made. Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and those who are deaf, even though they have ears.” (Isa. 43:6-8)

Those who He considers to be His are not only from Israel; they include peoples from “‘all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this.” (Amos 9:12).

May this be a year when GOD’s people everywhere receive new ears to hear His call, new eyes to see His Light, and a new spirit to know the message of the teruah!

Be blessed by the Most High from Zion and Jerusalem,

Mordechai ben Yakov


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