The upcoming holiday Rosh Hashanah is centered around the idea of welcoming the Jewish New Year and doing Teshuva (repentance) for our sins of the past year. One of the most iconic moments of the holiday is the blowing of the shofar. The hollowed-out ram horn consists of a larger end, where the horn was attached to the ram, and a skinny one, the tip and mouthpiece. There are two Halachot (laws) in the Shulchan Aruch, a compilation of the laws of Jewish life and practices, pertaining to the different sides of the shofar. First, if heat is used to transform the narrow end into the wider one and vice versa, one cannot use it for the mitzvah because, with the exception of hollowing it out, the horn must be in the same state as it was when it was part of the animal. Second, one cannot complete the mitzvah by turning the shofar around and blowing through the bigger end. The second one seems strange. Why would one not get credit for performing the mitzvah? If the original state of the shofar is maintained, why would someone not fulfill the commandment?
Rabbi Baruch of Mezibush comes to answer this question with a quote from a Midrash. “Make a small opening like that of the head of a needle, and I will open for you an opening through which caravans can enter.” He says that all we need to do in order to do Teshuva is put in a little effort, and Hashem will open the way for us to accomplish all that we want. Our end of this bargain is microscopic compared to Hashem’s end. The small side of the shofar is like the action the Jew must take, while the wide side symbolizes all that Hashem will do for us when he sees we have just started the Teshuvah process. Before Rosh Hashanah, many people don’t even attempt to do Teshuvah because they think it is hard to reconnect with Hashem. However, this very idea disproves that theory. Just like the correct shape of the shofar, all one must do is create a small opening and Hashem will widen his gates for you.
By: Hadassah Reich (9th Grade)