Beit Midrash

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Humble, Majestic Sounds


Rabbi Yossef Carmel

Sivan 10 5780
The trumpets that are discussed in the parasha were intended for three functions: 1. As a symbol of the monarchy/government; 2. As a means of raising an alarm to be saved from trouble. 3. To sound a call of thanks for plenty or salvation.

The Torah writes: "Make two silver trumpets, and they shall be for calling the congregation and moving the encampment … When a war will come to your land … you will blow the trumpets, and you will be remembered before Hashem and be saved from your enemies. And on your happy day, your holidays and your new months, you shall blow the trumpets over your sacrifices … and it will be a remembrance for you before Hashem" (Bamidbar 10:1-10).

Let us take a closer look at the three purposes of the trumpets. The first is a sign of leadership. It is obvious that a political leader needs to use symbols to demonstrate that he is chosen among the people and has many elements of power. Rashi cites Chazal that they would blow the trumpets before Moshe like a king. On the other hand, the Midrash says that the trumpets were made of silver, and not gold, because Hashem "wants to spare the money of Israel" (Midrash Aggada, B’ha’alotcha 10). Public funds should indeed be spent carefully even when being spent on a proper cause. The gemara (Yoma 3b) says that the silver used had been owned by the leader. Although this opinion is not accepted, it is still telling as to the high moral level desired of the leadership in relation to finances.

We saw also that a teruah was blown when there was danger from the enemy. The word teruah is taken from the word for broken. Therefore, on Rosh Hashana we also blow both a shevarim (big breaks) and teruah (smaller breaks). Such broken and up-and-down blasts have always been the sound of a siren, warning of various dangers. The sound that comes out at such times is also there to call out for moral contemplation and warning against arrogance and complacency, which can bring on calamities.

The trumpets were also used to sound the sound of joy at happy and successful times, using it to express gratitude to Hashem. Ibn Ezra says that the "day of joy" refers to "returning from the land of the enemy, or when you defeat the enemy who attacked you, and you set a holiday like Purim and Chanuka."

After 2,000 years of not having the opportunity for such celebrations, our generation had the z’chut of experiencing the ingathering of exiles from the lands of the enemy. So many years had gone by since the last military victories, and indeed we witnessed unprecedented victories by the standards of any nation. Let us pray that we will merit leadership, who might deserve the outward signs of its dominion but is careful to minimize them due to concern for the public purse. We should be careful of the dangers of sin and conceit. We should also remember to use the tools we have to thank Hashem for the great miracles with which He has blessed us.
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