Our Sages teach us: “The Holy One Blessed is He said: ‘Blow before Me the horn of a ram, so that I will recall for you the Binding of Isaac, and I will consider it as though you have bound yourselves before me” (Rosh haShanah 16A). We know that Isaac made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life to be bound upon the altar as an offering to G-d (though of course he was spared at the last moment). We recall this merit on Rosh haShanah, the Day of Judgment, to stand as a merit for us to be judged favorably. The sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn, recalls the ram that was slaughtered in Isaac’s stead. But can it really be considered as though WE ourselves are bound upon the altar just by hearing a ram’s horn blown? Without our own merit, what can this act possibly be worth? How can our sins magically disappear through the blowing of a horn? One of the deeper meanings of blowing the shofar is to “sound the wake-up call,” to pierce our spiritual slumber and alert us that we must abandon our wrongful paths and return to HaShem. If we internalize the message of the shofar properly, turning away from wrongdoing, then we turn our hearts toward HaShem in teshuvah (repentance), removing our thoughts from inappropriate things and focusing on what is truly important. We pull our hands away from wrongful deeds, stop our legs from their path toward improper objectives, turn our eyes away from distracting and inappropriate imagery, and turn our hearts from negative, hateful thoughts, toward positive thinking, love and forgiveness. We flip all our limbs from their downward trajectory, like that of an animal, and turn them upward, toward G-d, in a positive direction. This new orientation resembles that of the Ram of Isaac, bound upon the altar, with its limbs pointing upward. This is how the sound of the shofar, properly heard, can transform us into creatures of repentance, purifying us like an offering bound upon the altar. May we all merit to hear and internalize the message of the shofar, and merit a blessed New Year!
(Source: Sh’ney Luchos haB’ris [Shla”h] on Rosh haShanah)