On the days of Rosh Hashanah, the court prepares a throne for the King to judge the whole world. Israel comes in first to be judged before Him, so that mercy will multiply [before He increases his anger based on the bad acts of the wicked of the nations. R. Chaim Vital adds there are two good ways that this helps Israel: (1) the intention before G‑d to multiply the mercy in viewing Israel and (2) for the sake of Israel itself when they enter first, before He gets angry due to the bad acts of the wicked of the nations].

It is written "that He keeps near to Him...the cause of his people Israel, as each day may require." (I Kings 8:59) What is the meaning of: "as each day may require"? These are the two days of Rosh Hashanah. And why are there two days? Because there are two courts joined together
[i.e. Leah and Rachel, and as the heels of Leah extend down to keter of Rachel, this is the secret of the 2 days of Rosh Hashanah: the first day is harsh judgment and the second is lenient judgment]. There is the upper judgment, which is harsh [and related to Leah], and the lower judgment that is lenient [related to Rachel], and both of these aspects exist [on Rosh Hashanah].
...the Babylonians did not know the secret of the shevarim and teruah...
And in this respect, the Babylonians did not know the secret of the shevarim and teruah and that both of them are required
[corresponding to the Tikunim of Leah and Rachel]. The teruah long blast is strict judgment [related to Leah]. The three notes of the shevarim are lenient judgment [related to Rachel], like someone who groans which is softer. They did not know this distinction so they blew both of them.1 But we know that both are needed and therefore do both. And in the end everything comes out in a true and correct way.

[Rabbi Shimon] opened his discourse with the verse: "Blow the horn at the new moon, in concealment for our feast day. For it is a statute for Israel, an ordinance of the Elokim of Jacob." (Ps. 81:4-5) What is "Blow the horn at the new moon"? It means the lenient judgment that is called "new moon" [and is the secret of Rachel who is the new moon] And what is "in concealment"? This is harsh judgment, which is 'the fear of Isaac. [i.e. the secret of Leah which is harsh judgment like the gevura of Zeir Anpin called "fear of Isaac."] It is a judgment that is concealed permanently which is not judgment openly [for Leah is the concealed world]. "For it is a statute/chok" refers to lenient judgment [and Rachel who is the revealed world]. "An ordinance/mishpat" refers to [harsh] judgment [of Leah] and the two of them [Rachel and Leah] are linked together as one, and this is why there are two days [of Rosh Hashanah] both of which are in the same secret (and called together "one long day").

"Happy is the people that know teruah." (Ps. 89:15) It does not say "that hear," nor does it say "that blow the sounds" but "that know teruah." This is because the Sages who dwell in the atmosphere of the Holy Land are the ones who know teruah. The secret of the teruah is as it is written: "You shall break (in Hebrew, 'teroem') them [the power of the accusers] with a rod of iron2." (Ps. 2:9)

...all those who know the secret of the teruah will draw near and walk in the light of the countenance of G‑d...

What people is there like Israel, who know the heavenly secrets of their Master and enter in before Him and connect with Him. And all those who know the secret of the teruah will draw near and walk in the light of the countenance of G‑d, because this is the first light that G‑d hid for the righteous [in the World to Come]. This is why it is necessary to know it.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
We think we may "know" the sound of the Shofar, but, in fact, we know basically nothing. Even though Kabbala may enlighten us as to the technical science of what's going on, this is a drop in the ocean of what really is going on. And even amongst the cognoscenti, there are major differences of opinion as to what is a teruah and what is a shevarim, which is why we blow different orders many times to cover our ground.

At its heart, it is all about softening the judgment of the day. Rosh Hashanah is one long day that has both a harsh part and a soft part. Harsh first, soft second. Some years, the harsh part falls on Shabbat when we are not permitted to blow the Shofar for traditional reasons. How then can the world exist without this mollifier? Shabbat does the work for us!

Still, some hold it is important to contemplate the sounds of the Shofar in one's mind, to meditate on the meaning of the different blows, and how their effect on the world. Most, most pressing is to break one's heart on both days, to let the sounds (or thought of the sounds on the first day which falls on Shabbat) penetrate to the heart to call to one to really really really want to return to the place of centering, the place of teshuvah. If we can do this, we've begun the 10 days of Teshuvah properly.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.