Friday, April 20, 2012

Connecting Shofar Blowing to Civilian Sirens

My mind goes back to last year when 20-year old cousin Michael spent his Spring semester at Tel Aviv University. "Wow!" he said. "What an unbelievable experience Israel Memorial Day is." He explained: "No sales, no barbecues, no merrymaking!" What he experienced was respect to the fallen, as the entire country came to a standstill with the sound of silence at the sound of the siren -- be it on the road or in the shuk.

This got me thinking. Shofar blowing. Sirens. Around the world, civil defense sirens warn against potential danger as well as sound "the all clear" signal. Israel has a special siren call in case of imminent attack or danger. Now let's connect the dots. During Biblical times the shofar was used as a way to mark the start of a war. Take a look at Joshua and the story of Jericho. The use of numerous shofarim was part of the battle plan.

Then and now, be it in Biblical Israel or the modern state, the shofar/siren was used for numerous purposes.   Back then, what better way to announce the beginning of Rosh Chodesh or to usher in Rosh Hashanah -- the New Year? During the First and Second Temples the sound of the shofar was incorporated with trumpet blowing to signal special occasions and ceremonies. Little wonder that the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces -- Shlomo Goren -- made sure to blow the shofar at the Wailing Wall when Israel recaptured Jerusalem's Old City during the Six Day War.

Today? Aside from civil defense purposes and silent commemorative moments on Yom Hashoa and Yom Hazikaron, sirens are sounded every Friday to signal the beginning of Shabbat. A new custom? Not at all.  When the Jews returned (to Israel) from exile in Babylonia, a  priest blew the shofar to signal the people that it's time to stop work and get ready for Shabbat. Travel to the Jewish community living in the island of Djerba off the coast of Tunisia, and you'll find a living example of this custom.

Time for a shofar blowing class or competition?
Think about it and have a Shabbat Shalom.

Shofar blowing photo credit
Siren photo credit

No comments:

Post a Comment