The Torah mentions a great woman with a name related to the word shofar - Shifra, a midwife to the Israelites at the time of the birth of Moses in Egypt. Her name means to make beautiful, and that is what she did; she ensured that the babies would emerge healthy and viable, then swaddled and massaged them to foster their strength and beauty.

The shofar is the midwife of the new year.

The shofar is the midwife of the new year. Into its piercing cry, we squeeze all of our heartfelt prayers, all of our tears, our very souls. All that exists resonates with its call until it reaches the very beginning, the cosmic womb. And there it touches upon High: the Divine Presence shifts modalities from transcendence to immanence, from strict judgment to compassion. In the language of the Zohar: "The shofar below awakens the shofar above and the Holy One, blessed be He, rises from His Throne of Judgment and sits in His Throne of Compassion."

The flow of energy into the world is similar to breath, a Divine exhale, filling creation and then immediately, as in to allow manifest reality to remain in existence, a cosmic inhale. Back and forth, exhale and inhale, running and returning.

Every year before the bellowing of the shofar there is a great cosmic inhale and retention, the Light of the year that has just passed returns to its Source above, and only later, at the blowing of the shofar, the literal filling of the hollowed shofar with breath is there an exhale, the filling of the cosmic void with life and renewed divine energy.

This continued movement of Divine energy-flow in and out, exhale and inhale, is rooted in the Name of G‑d. When we blow the shofar, we are the agents to bring down Infinite light into this world; with our breath, we are filling the empty space of creation with a new Divine light and blessing.

As a reflection of this process, the act of blowing the shofar mirrors the four letters in the Inefffable Name of G‑d. The Shelah writes that the yud is the small opening of the mouth where one actually blows into, the hei is the widening breath, the inhale before the exhale. The vav is the sound itself, the exhalation, and the out breath is the final hei. (Rosh Hashanahp.169)

[Reprinted with permission from // - copyright The Iyyun Institute.]