Among the ten reasons presented by Rav Sa’adia Gaon for blowing the Shofar is that the Jewish Shofar symbolizes G-d’s coronation over the world. In the same way that trumpets are blown at a coronation, so too the Jewish people blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the day on which we proclaim G-d’s Kingship.
On Rosh Hashanah, the morning prayers are introduced with the cantor singing the word “Melech”, meaning “King”. The central theme of Rosh Hashanah is just that- Kingship- the Kingship of G-d.
On Rosh Hashanah, the entire world gets judged on their actions from the previous year and it is decided by G-d how their coming year will be. Therefore, in the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, there is much emphasis in Jewish circles put on repentance before G-d. the pinnacle of this repentance is on Rosh Hashanah, when the Jewish people spend an intense two days praying, hearing the Shofar being blown and reflecting on their behavior in the past year.
Rav Yitzchok Blazer, a disciple of Rav Yisroel Salanter explained that proper repentance is dependent on realizing the severity of one’s sin and this cannot be achieved without acknowledging that G-d is our Melech- our King. In the same way that one will not feel obliged to go according to the laws of a country without recognizing the power of the ruling authorities, so too Jewish people will not feel obliged to live according to G-d’s laws without first accepting His power. One cannot truly return to G-d without understanding that G-d holds him responsible for his actions.
Rav Avigdor Miller writes that the Shofar arouses people to repent. It isn’t enough to just think of repentance in one’s heart. That is the beginning, and a good one at that. But it needs to go further than that. The Shofar is an effective way of sounding this desire to return to G-d. In the same way that when praying in Judaism, there is a need to actually pronounce the words one is reading and not just to mouth them in order to make praying effective, so too we need to hear the voice of the Shofar and not leave the thoughts of repentance as nothing more than that.
Every year on Rosh Hashanah we are renewing our loyalty to our G-d through the blowing of the Shofar. We recognize that G-d is the King since the time of Creation and continues to be King now and will be so for eternity. It is relayed that the Gra would be full of joy at the time of Shofar blowing because he explained that just as a nation is full of joy when crowning their King, so should we be when coronating G-d over the universe.
THE SHOFAR SOUNDS
There are three different types of noises that are sounded. The first sound is called “Tekiah” and is a bass sound- a long, continuous burst. The second is called “Shevarim” and is made up of three shorter sounds. The third, “Teruah”, is a treble sound and is a set of nine short sounds. The three sounds represent different things. The first is blown in honor of G-d’s Kinship. The second serves as a remembrance of the “Akeida” where Isaac was almost offered up before G-d. The third is purely in order to fulfill the precept of sounding the Shofar.
A beautiful explanation of the different sounds of the Shofar is brought by Rabbi Yehudah Prero at https://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/roshhashanah/vol3no16.html#. There he begins with the Gemara’s likening of the Shevarim and Teruah sounds to crying. The Ben Ish Chai is of the opinion that these sounds are supposed to contrast with the first sound, the Tekiah. The Tekiah, according to the Ben Ish Chai, is actually a sound of triumphant joy, as opposed to the Shevarim and Teruah sounds that are sounds of suffering. Due to the opposites that these sounds represent, the one blowing the Shofar must be careful that the Tekiah does not run in to the other sounds by making sure not to blow them in the same breath.
The Ben Ish Chai then answers the question of why both the sounds of joy and sorrow are sounded with the Shofar through a story. There was once a man who had a ring made especially for him. It was engraved with the words, “This, too, will pass”, or in Hebrew, “גם זו לטובה”. In times of pain and suffering, he would gaze at the ring and be reassured that this state he is in at the moment is only temporary. Also in times of great joy and happiness, he would look at the ring. This caused him to be reminded that these good times could change in an instant. These thoughts kept the man humble as he realized that things in this world are beyond his control. This ring was responsible for keeping this man aware at all times of the importance of living with perspective, not allowing complacency, not despondency.
The first sound, the Tekiah, is a happy sound. It is immediately followed by the Shevarim and Teruah, broken-hearted sounds of suffering. The sharp contrast is meant to rouse the listeners, to remind them that G-d cannot be forgotten in times of goodness or in times of suffering. Immediately following these sounds a Tekiah is blown again. This symbolizes G-d’s constant presence in our lives and in the world and His mercy that will allow us to merit once again a jubilant existence.