Special for Rosh Hashana 5761

Tora - Torah

Rosh Hashanah 1 Tishrei, 5761 September 30, 2000

Tora Dojo Teachers and Parents If you share and discuss the Tora-Torah with younger students, tell it in your own words at their comprehension level rather than try to read it to them or have them read it.


There are three issues when it comes to discussing the blowing of the shofar. First is the technical set of questions why do we do it, how is it done to have the right number of blasts, etc. Second, what is the intention of the blower while he’s doing it? Third, since the blessing is “to hear” the blowing of the shofar, how are we supposed to listen to it?

I’ll summarize some answers for the first question because the second and third questions are the ones that fascinate me.

The answer to the question of why we blow the shofar is summarized by Rav Saadia Gaon (10th century) who gives 10 symbolic meanings for the mitzvah of the Shofar 1) Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the world. 2) It initiates the Ten Days of Repentance. 3) It reminds us of the shofar at Mount Sinai. 4) It reminds us of the admonitions of the prophets and their calls to repentance. 5) It reminds us to pray for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. 6) The shofar reminds us of the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), when Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of Isaac. 7) The sound of the shofar inspires fear and trembling in the hearts of all that hear it. 8) The shofar reminds us of the final Judgment Day of the future. 9) The shofar reminds us of the long anticipated day of the ingathering of the exiles, and arouses an inner yearning in our hearts for that time. 10) The shofar awakens our belief and yearning for that final day when “All inhabitants of the world and dwellers of the earth… shall see, and when he blows the shofar, you shall hear.” (Isaiah 183)

The second question (What is the intention of the blower while he’s doing it?concerns the Kavana of the Baal Tokea, the blower of the shofar. The classic answer is that the prayers in the heart of the blower should be pure and simple. The famous story below illustrates that. (I can’t credit the writer of the story since I got it from a friend on the Internet).

One year Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev spent a long time in search of a man who would be worthy of blowing the shofar in his synagogue. Rosh Hashanah was fast approaching, and though many righteous folk sought the privilege, vying with each other in demonstrating their expertise in the mystical Kabbalistic secrets associated with the shofar, none of them were to his taste.

One day a new applicant came along and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak asked him on what deep mysteries he meditated while he was performing the awesome mitzvah. “Rabbi,” said the newcomer, “I’m only a simple Jew. I don’t understand too much about the hidden things of the Torah. But I have four daughters of marriageable age, and when I blow the shofar, this is what I have in mind ‘Master of the universe! Right now I am carrying out Your will. I’m doing Your Mitzvah and blowing the shofar. Now supposing You, too, do what I want, and help me marry off my daughters.'” “My friend,” said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, “you will blow the shofar in my synagogue!”

For over 25 years I have blown shofar in whatever shul I was in. With a good stance and some degree of breath control and abdominal support, I have tried to bring whatever technical skills I have to the performing of this fantastic and important mitzvah. My entire focus (and ability to maintain that focus) is based on my lifetime in Tora Dojo.

What am I thinking about?

When I prepare to blow the Shofar in my shul, I imagine the “dust” of anger, fear, jealousy, pride and arrogance having settled on each of us in the congregation. It is a rather dingy landscape. I imagine the dust to be so thick that it has become a crust around each and every soul. When I blow the shofar I imagine the blasts shattering those shells, veils and encrusted layers of ego energy, just as a singer’s note shatters glass. I imagine the vibrations of the shofar filling the shul. I imagine that the shells of dust crack and the light of the soul-sparks within begins to shine through the cracks. By the final blast, the crust falls away and the room is filled with light.

That’s all homework I do in advance. I meditate on that throughout Elul in preparation. Then, when Rosh Hashanah arrives, something else occurs. This is hard to describe, so bear with me. When I finally begin the first blast, I think of nothing. Nothing at all. The vision of a room filled with the lights of each soul fills my heart. I feel the physical vibration of the shofar extend from my center outward. In my mind I ride each note-sound-vibration to the ends of the shul walls and beyond. I feel it shattering the crust and removing the veils throughout the city, state, country and planet. I feel it touching and joining every other shofar on the planet in a 24-hour continual blast of all the shofrot being sounded all around the world.

I don’t think this. I don’t see it. I feel it. The emptier my mind is of words, the farther the energy goes and the more powerful the effect.

So, how should you listen to the blasts of the shofar? My personal suggestion is to stop thinking and talking inside your head. Put aside all the words of the prayers and other head-noise. Prepare by feeling the tightness of the crust around you. When the Baal Tokea says “Min Hamaytzar kara’te” (“from the narrows I call out”) let your inner-light radiate from beneath the veils that you yearn to remove. Know that your Tora Dojo kara-te has helped you attain the skills of disciplining the mind somewhat so that you can direct your words with Kavana and call out.

With the first blast, quiet the mind and feel the vibrations of the shofar shatter the crust and free the light of your soul inside you. Of course, your “monkey mind” may rush in and tell you that you’re doing well not thinking (oops!) or remind you how poorly you’re doing (by thinking that very thought). Don’t fight it. Just bring your attention back to the vibration itself.

I have found this image to be the center of my Rosh Hashanah experience year after year. To me, t’shuva, t’filla and t’zedaka can’t even begin until some of that crust falls away, we free the inner light and we commit ourselves to the continuing, lifelong process of removing the veils.

May your year be filled with sweetness and sweetening.


If you need a more conventional, word-filled prayer, here is one you’ll love! Thank you Dan and Pam Posner for passing it along.

L’Shana Tova

A New Year’s prayer

Dear Lord May we get a clean bill of health from our dentist, our psychiatrist, our ophthalmologist, our cardiologist, our gastro-enterologist, our urologist, our proctologist, our gynecologist, our podiatrist, our plumber

and the IRS.

May our hair, our teeth, our facelift, our abs, our honey cakes, and our stocks not fall and may our blood pressure, our triglycerides, our cholesterol, our white blood count, our weight and our mortgage interest rates not rise.

May we find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour in less than an hour and when we get there, may we find a parking space. May we all relax about the third millennium of the common era, and

realize that we still have 239 years until the dawn of the sixth millennium of the Hebrew calendar by which time the computer will be long since obsolete and so will we.

May God give us the strength to get through this presidential campaign and may some of the promises made be kept. May we believe at least half of what the candidates propose and may those elected fulfill at least half of what they promise and may the miracle of reducing taxes and balancing budgets come to pass.

May we be awe-struck by God’s sense of humor as we realize that a professional wrestler could have become president of the United States and that an Orthodox Jew has risen to prominence in American politics while remaining true to his Jewish roots.

It is my belief that God’s joyous humor is the reason he really does not want us to touch our toes while exercising or he would have put them further up our bodies; and, the reason so many of us take up jogging is to hear heavy

breathing again.

May what we see in the mirror delight us and what others see in us, delight them.

May someone, as well as God, love us enough to forgive our faults, be blind to our blemishes and tell the world about our virtues.

May the tele-marketers wait until after we finish dinner to call us. May our checkbooks and budgets balance and may they include generous amounts for charity.

May we remember to say “I love you” at least once a day to our spouse, our child, our parent, all of our significant others but not our boss, our intern, our nurse, our masseur, our hairdresser or our tennis instructor.

And may the Messiah come this year, and if he does not, may we live as if he has, in a world at peace, with awareness of God’s love in every sunset, flower, baby’s smile, lover’s kiss, and every wonderful astonishing beat of our heart.

May we smile and laugh throughout the year.

L’Shana Tova.

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.

"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.

Note that the Tora Dojo comments are highlighted in a different color. This should help teachers in their sharing Tora-Torah with younger students at their level of comprehension. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Sunday, please) to michael@kodesh.org. I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.

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