Why the Shofar is Sounded on Rosh Hashanah-A chilren's midrash
A long, long time ago, the world was empty-there was no world. No stars, no moon, no sky with patches of clouds, not even a sun pouring out its light all over the place. No mountains or deserts, oceans or rivers, no meadows or plains. Not even a tiny patch of grass and certainly no fragrant flowers. No moos could be heard-there were no cows; no meows of furry kittens and no matter how far you looked, there wasnt a puppy in sight. There was nothing. From aardvark to zebra, not a single living thing. Absolutely nothing.
Well, not exactly. There was God. God was everywhere. Everything was God and God was everything. But God was lonely. And all that emptiness was, well, kind of boring,
So God decided to make a world, a sky, the land and seas, the sun, moon and stars, trees bursting with fruit, and crawling, creepy things, fish that swam and birds that fly. And of course, fluffy kittens and cuddly puppies.
How beautiful everything was. How exciting, how interesting,
However, one thing was missing. Me-you-people. And so God made Adam, the first person. From very corner of the world, God took earth and from all this soil a human body was fashioned. From head to toe-hair, eyes, ears nose and mouth. God made skin all over, and inside were veins that carried blood, a heart that pumped the blood into all parts of the body, nerves that carried messages to the brain, arms and legs and fingers and toes.
Finally it was done-Adam was finished. He lay there like a statue-quite a creation.
But, something was wrong. Adam didnt move. God hadn’t really completed the work.
There was one last thing that was left to be done. God blew breath, air, into Adam’s nostrils. A few moments passed and suddenly Adam’s nose began to twitch. Then his eye lashes fluttered, his leg moved, his hand twitched , a sound rose in his throat . Adam was now alive-he began to breathe . Now she could run so fast that she ran out of breath; now he could put his head in the water and hold his breath until he felt his lungs bursting inside. Now she could blow into the cold winter’s air and see her breath form smoky clouds rising above her. Standing up for the first time, he looked up at the beautiful blue sky, took a deep breath and spoke his first words:Thank you!
Time passed. More and more people were born. Towns and villages sprung up everywhere.The world was filling up and getting noisier and noisier.
One day, in a special land called Israel, in the Galilee mountains, a shepherd boy was leading his sheep and rams to a grazing spot so that they could eat and grow strong and healthy. It was a luscious autumn day. The deep blue sky stretched out for miles and all around were the songs of birds welcoming the New Year.
The shepherd could'nt have been happier. Suddenly, he spotted something lying on the ground. It looked like the horn of a ram. But there was no ram-only the horn.He picked up the horn and holding it in his hands he wondered, What can I do with this horn? He rubbed his hand along the rough edges, looked into the hole from the top and from the bottom. There was nothing inside.
Perhaps the horn helped the ram hear the whispers in the mountain winds, she thought. !So she placed one opening against her ear, hoping that it would help her hear distant sounds that she otherwise could not hear. It made no difference. He carefully licked the side of the horn-perhaps it would taste sweet like the honey of the comb. His nose wrinkled with a look of displeasure; the taste was dusty dry and flat. He looked through the small hole like looking into a telescope expecting to see far away things up close. He was quite disappointed when that did'nt happen either.
He was puzzled. For a few moments he did nothing.Then she brought the horn to her lips and blew air into the horn. Nothing ; just the silent sound of his breath. Feeling so frustrated that this beautiful horn could serve no good purpose-it didnt help her hear or see , didnt have any taste and felt rough and bumpy – all she could do is purse her lips tightly to hold back her anger. The tip of the shofar was pressed against her lips. She breathed a big breath of disappointment.
The quiet morning air was suddenly pierced with a loud wavering sound. Excited she blew into the small hole of the shofar again and another loud sound came bursting out of the other side.
The sheep and rams began bleating, their “baas” forming a chorus of song carried by the soft morning breeze. Filled with curiosity the shepherd blew again and again. Strong sounds, followed by short , stubby sounds and sounds that floated in the air rose into the vast , open sparkling sky.
My breath makes sounds, it makes music, the shepherd thought. How wonderful! People everywhere heard about the miracle of the breath in the shofar. Like the shepherd they too were amazed and thrilled.
It was decided by the wise men of the land that every New Year Day the shofar would be sounded to thank God for the gift of human breath. Since then, on Rosh Hashanah which is the birthday of the world and Adam's birthday too, the shofar reminds us to thank God with gratitude and love for the very breath of life.
So, when we listen to the shofar we realize how special is every breath we take.The next time you breathe,which of course is right now and all the time, pay close attention to your tummy rising and falling as you breathe. It's a miracle that we dont have to do anything ; but the breath goes on by itself, making us alive . Now we walk and run and skip and jump, all because of the air we breathe.
Thank you God for Your breath of life.