It is explained in Kabbala and Chasidut that on Rosh Hashanah the act of the creation of the world is in a sense replayed. Although, since G‑d made a covenant with Noah never again to destroy the world, the world will certainly continue to exist from year to year, the passage from old year to new year is still a critical nexus point. This is because the nature of the created universe is being determined at this time. The energy that powered the previous year is withdrawn and a new energy is drawn down. Since the creative energy that powers the world is being withdrawn to its source, there are no "rules", and everything is, in a sense, up for grabs. Evil can assert that it deserves to receive the new life force of the coming year, especially in view of the record of its so-called rightful recipients during the previous year. Therefore, in order that the life force of the new year be drawn down as it should, that is, channeled mainly into holiness (and its champions in this world, the Jewish people), it is necessary to ensure that G‑d is "reminded," so to speak, of His original vision of Creation, in which the Jewish people are His emissaries to make this world into His home.

The word "shofar" may be analyzed as follows. The shin-vav together with the 14 joints of the hand holding the shofar are 320 sparks, which are awakened from "the candle of darkness".

The word "shofar" is spelled shin-vav-pei-reish.

The numerical value of shin-vav is 300 + 6 = 306. The hand of the shofar-blower has 14 joints (3 in each of the 4 fingers and 2 in the thumb); 306 + 14 = 320. The number 320 is associated with the attribute of severe judgment (din). The "candle of darkness" (butzina d'kardinuta) is an appellation of the gevura of Atik Yomin.

The gevura of Atik Yomin becomes vested in the bina of Arich Anpin

In the cascading development of the partzufim, the higher partzuf always serves as the motivation or origin of the next lower partzuf. In this case, Atik Yomin, the partzuf of delight, motivates the partzuf of will, Arich Anpin. The way this "motivation" works is that the seven lower sub-sefirot of the higher partzuf enter and become vested within the lower partzuf. Chesed of the higher partzuf becomes vested in chochma of the lower partzuf; gevura of the higher partzuf becomes vested in the bina of the lower partzuf, and so on. What is relevant here is that the gevura of Atik Yomin becomes vested in the bina of Arich Anpin. We thus see that bina is rooted in a higher gevura. This is what gives bina its ability to act as the evaluating principle of the intelligence, weighing the implications of the insight of chochma.

The [other two] letters, pei-reish, signify the five states of gevura indicated by [the five final letters] mem-nun-tzadik-pei-chaf, that are awakened from bina.

The numerical value of pei-reish is 80 + 200 = 280. This number is also the combined numerical value of the five letters in the Hebrew alphabet that have final forms: mem (40) + nun (50) + tzadik (90) + pei (80) + chaf (20) = 280. The five final letters are also a phenomenon of gevura or din (severe judgment), since they indicate a stop or limit of the flow of life-force or meaning indicated by the other letters. As we have explained previously, the five states of gevura that originate within bina are the source of the five states of gevura of daat, which in turn inform the gevura aspects of Zeir Anpin and Nukva.

We see from all this that the shofar is an expression of the attributes of severity and judgment.

[…] On Rosh Hashanah, the inner dimension of the lights of chesed-gevura-tiferet-malchut ascend into bina.

The renewed inner light returns when the shofar is blown…

Chesed, gevura, and tiferet are the three principle emotions, and thus signify the partzuf of Zeir Anpin; malchut of course signifies the partzuf of Nukva. On Rosh Hashanah, these two offspring of Imma withdraw back into the womb where they originated, so to speak. The external dimension of the lights of these partzufim remains in place in order for Creation to continue to exist. The renewed inner light returns when the shofar is blown.

This is in order to sweeten all the aspects of severe judgment in the mouth of the one blowing the shofar and in the breath issuing from his mouth that enters into the shofar. This breath collides with the seven [aspects of] breath present in bina, and thus produces 260 lights, [this number being] 7 times the numerical value of the word for "breath" [in Hebrew, "hevel", spelled hei-veit-lamed, 37, plus the kolel].

7 x 37 = 259, adding 1 for the word itself gives 260.

"Bina," says the Zohar, "is the heart, and through it the heart understands." Although understanding is obviously a facet of the intellect, the intellect will produce - if all is functioning well - an emotional response, and thus bina may be seen as the origin of the emotions. Emotions are felt in the heart, and therefore the Zohar calls bina the heart.

The arousal of the emotions, which is physically manifest as the warming of the heart, produces "breath," i.e., the beginnings or raw material of expression. This breath may ultimately be expressed as words (when the breath is acted upon and "processed" by the five organs of speech in the mouth - which themselves manifest the five states of gevura of bina), or as a scream, a sigh, or a kiss. In any case, the "seven aspects of breath" of bina are the seven proto-emotions as they exist within bina.

[…] The first set of blasts is tekia-shevarim-terua-tekia. The first blast is the straight tekia. One should have in mind [during this blast] that the numerical value of the [root of the] word "tekia" [spelled taf-kuf-ayin, 570] is [the same as that of the word for "ten", ("eser", spelled ayin-shin-reish), and that the numerical value of the rest of the letters (yud-hei) is 15,] and that 10 times 15 equals 150.

15 is the numerical value of the divine name "Y-ah"(spelled yud-hei). Since this name is associated with a sefira of the intellect, it is considered completely iterated in its ten sub-sefirot, giving 10 x 15 = 150.

In other words, intend to elicit the 150 lights from Abba, who is associated with the name Y-ah, to Zeir Anpin, and from him to Nukva.

[…] In the three blasts of the shevarim, have in mind that they express the states of severe judgment situated in the throat.

As we have explained previously, the throat is the narrow passageway from the intellect (the head) to the emotions (the torso). The transformation from intellect to emotion is a contraction of the original light or consciousness of the intellect. This process is "dangerous" in that the emotions can be sidetracked along the way into all other sorts of contexts. These dangers are the states of din situated in the throat. Although the Arizal does not mention it here, these states of din are generally identified with the three ministers of Pharaoh (the butcher, the baker, and the butler), who are associated with the esophagus, the trachea, and the jugular vein. Pharaoh himself is associated with the neck, since the word for "neck" (in Hebrew, "oref") is spelled with the same letters as is the word "Pharaoh". Pharaoh (and Egypt in general) signify the constricted state of intellectual bondage, in which the intellect is prevent from giving birth to emotions (this is why the Egyptians threw the Jewish babies into the Nile).

[…] These three blasts then expand into the nine blasts of the terua. Intend through these [latter] to sweeten these states of judgment [manifested by the shevarim] by means of the chesed situated in the throat. Specifically, the [throat is the origin of the] guttural letters alef-chet-ayin-hei, whose combined numerical value is 84. This number is 2 times 42, the number of letters in the two names Havayah spelled out with the letter yud.

Again, since we are at the level of intellect, the three states of gevura expand into their full iteration of 3 x 3 = 9.The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are divided in terms of their origin in the mouth into the dentals, labials, gutturals, palatals, and linguals (Sefer Yetzira 2:3).

The numerical value of the name Havayah when spelled out with the letter yud is 72, as we have explained previously. Spelling out this name in two iterations requires 42 letters (4 for the name itself, 10 for the first iteration, and 28 for the second iteration).

These [two names Havayah] are the two drops of 42-letters situated in bina, that is, in the throat, and they are names Havayah spelled out with the letter yud.

The breath of the lungs…rises to the throat in search of expression…

As we said, the breath of the lungs, warmed by the heart (related to bina), rises to the throat in search of expression. As we have explained previously, each of the four spellings-out of the name Havayah is associated with a specific partzuf, and this one is associated with chochma, i.e., the initial insight on which the analysis of bina operates. The presence of bina in the throat is thus the presence of the insight of chochma at the core of bina. This presence of original insight acts to mollify (i.e., sweeten) the severity of the bina-process and allows it to remain inspired by the recollection of the original insight. This is a manifestation of chesed, which is also indicated by the fact that 72, the numerical value of this name (in its first iteration), is also the numerical value of the word "chesed" (spelled chet-samech-dalet, 8 + 60 + 4).

Finally, in the last tekia [of this series] intend to combine all these elements together. The [states of severity] first appeared as three [in the shevarim] and were then expanded into nine [in the terua] and are now united into one simple blast [indicating that they have become sweetened].

Just as the first tekia is the sweetening light of Abba/chochma, the original insight.

In describing the next two sets of blasts, tekia-shevarim-tekia and tekia-terua-tekia, the Arizal states that the intentions for the tekias that frame each set at the beginning and end are the same as described above, i.e., eliciting the light of Abba into Zeir Anpin and thence to Nukva. The middle blasts (shevarim and terua) also indicate various aspects of severe judgement, differing based on the numerical values of the number of beats in each as reflected in the various Divine Names possessing equivalent numerical values. Specifically, the shevarim indicate the "hard severe judgments" while the terua blasts indicate the "soft severe judgments," presumably because they are more "pulverized" than the shevarim.

In the set of 30 blasts there are 270 short beats…the numerical value of the word for "evil"…

In any case, it is clear that the overall idea is to sweeten the judgements of the middle blasts by the simple straightforward blast of the tekia. In Chassidut, it is explained that the tekia indicates the "primal scream" of the soul expressing its ineffable yearning and absolute desire for G‑d in His essence. The shevarim and terua blasts reflect the brokenhearted crying that results when the revelation of the tekia-consciousness focuses then on the individual's actual behavior in the here and now.

[…] All three sets - tekia-shevarim-terua-tekia, tekia-shevarim-tekia, and tekia-terua-tekia - are blown three times, giving a total of 30 blasts.

The tekia is sounded for 9 beats, the shevarim are sounded for 3 beats each, making 9 beats, and the 9 blasts of the terua are each 1 beat long, again giving 9 beats. Thus:

In the set of 30 blasts there are 270 short beats.

Now, 270 is the numerical value of the word for "evil" (in Hebrew, "ra", spelled reish-ayin).

The entire set of thirty blasts is sounded three times: (1) before Musaf, (2) during the silent recitation of Musaf, and (3) during the repetition of Musaf, totaling 90 blasts. In addition, the three sets are again blown - once each, i.e. 10 blasts - during the Kadish after Musaf. The grand total is thus 100 blasts.

[During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts before Musaf] intend annihilate the evil inclination toward idol worship. During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts of the silent Musaf, intend to annihilate the evil inclination toward sexual aberration. During the 270 beats of the 30 blasts of the repetition of Musaf, intend to annihilate the evil inclination toward murder. During the final ten blasts after the prayers, during the Kadish, intend to annihilate the evil inclination towards slander.

Normally, if a person is faced with the choice of committing a sin or being killed, he may commit the sin in order to save his life. There are three exceptions to this, however: idol worship, major sexual offenses, and murder. Although one is not required to lay down his life rather than speak slander, we are nonetheless taught that slander is such a heinous crime that it is considered as grave as these three cardinal sins.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Shaar HaKavanot, Rosh Hashanah 9; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.