“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” Joel 2:1
The defeat of the Turkish forces in 1917, by the British Expeditionary forces, brought the sound of the shofar back to Jerusalem. Its trumpeting blast had been forbidden by Ottomans for 400 years. The Turkish pashas had feared that its “voice” would signal a call by the Jews to overthrow their rule.
The Jews of the city once again were free to worship as they pleased. The “yoke of bondage” had been broken. This liberty, though, was not to last. Following the Arab riots of 1929, the British Mandate authorities acted swiftly to prohibit its use. Laws were enacted which forbade the blowing of the shofar near the Western Wall. The Arabs declared that such acts insulted Islam. The Mandatory government agreed and stipulated that the Moslems’ ownership rights to the Temple Mount also included the Western Wall. Therefore Jews were forbidden to blow a trumpet in Zion.
Jews who were bold enough to ignore this decree became subject to harsh penalties, ranging from three to eight months in prison, hard labor, fines, and beatings. British policemen were regularly stationed near the Wall so as to prevent such “criminal activities.” Their efforts, though, were in vain. Every year at the height of Jewish feasts, shofars were sounded at the Western Wall. At great risk, these “insulting” instruments were smuggled in. Sometimes two or three volunteers were appointed to “sound an alarm,” causing the authorities to wildly run after each perpetrator. Each illegal blast proclaimed religious freedom and fostered a sense of national unity, among the pioneering Jews.
Moshe Segal, a young rabbi in 1931, was the first of these “volunteers.” He was determined to blow the shofar, regardless of the consequences. Thus at the appropriate hour, he walked over to a prayer stand and removed the instrument from a drawer where it had been hidden away. Quickly before the eyes of the authorities could see him, he secreted it within the folds of his tallit.
Then at nightfall, when the Yom Kippur fast was ending, and hearing the closing prayers proclaiming “Hear O Israel,” “Blessed be the name,” and “The Lord is God,” Moshe took the shofar and blew a long, resounding blast. He was promptly arrested and sent off to the “Kishleh” or the prison inside the Old City.
Years later, Rabbi Segal summed up these acts. He declared:
The British well understood the significance of this blast; they knew that it would ultimately demolish their reign over our land just as the walls of Jericho crumbled before the shofar of Joshua, and they did everything in their power to prevent it. But every Yom Kippur, the shofar was sounded by men who knew they would be arrested for their part in staking our claim on the holiest of our possessions.*
The Sound of Victory
Then in 1948, once again the area around Judaism’s holiest site grew silent. Jordanian forces had seized control of the Old City. Under the re-instituted rule of Islam, the sounding of the shofar was forbidden. This exclusion lasted for 19 years until the Old City and the Temple Mount was liberated by Israel on June 7th, 1967. Perhaps one of the most famous photographs of that victory was a picture of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces, blowing a shofar as he reached the Wall.
Each blast of Goren’s shofar proclaimed triumph and joy. A new tradition was also instituted at this time. Israelis or soldiers who either have been rescued or have returned from dangerous missions are welcomed back by the joyous blast of the shofar ringing in everyone’s ears
Not commonly publicized was that Rabbi Goren also blew the shofar while standing on the Temple Mount. He was the first Jew to do this in 2000 years. Goren was declaring in a prophetic act—the return of this area to the Jewish people. Sadly though, not long after his prophetic summons, Israel handed control of this area over back to the Islamic Trust or Waqf as it is known.
Today, Islam has reasserted its authority over the Temple Mount. Shofar blowing, praying, and reading the Bible by any religious denomination other than Islam is strictly forbidden. To do so would place the trumpeter or intercessor at great risk to his/her life. Yet, the prophetic blast of Goren’s shofar resounds. His act was more than the sound of triumph and joy. I believe it was as Joel prophesied. Rabbi Goren was blowing a trumpet in Zion and sounding an alarm in God’s holy mountain. Let us tremble for “the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand.”
A Word of the Lord
My trumpet’s cry pierces the darkness, causes walls to fall, scatters the enemy, and proclaims victory. My trumpet assembles armies and commands attention. Even the deaf shall hear, for its sound will reverberate throughout their bodies and spirits. Set my trumpet to your mouth. Learn to “sound an alarm.” Be ready upon my command to use it. I have need of my trumpeters in this hour. The blowing of the shofar is the war-cry of my Spirit.
I have also made you into a trumpet. Set your voice to proclaim my words. Open your mouth, I will fill it. The wail of my cry is found through your intercessions, proclamations, and preachings.
Lord, help us to be like Gideon’s army today. May we be one of your chosen warriors, fit to go into battle. Give us the grace and courage to go after the Midianites of this world, and the devils that undergird them. Let us stand and hold our ground, waiting for your signal to sound the trumpet. Let us be willing in that hour to smash our pots, holding nothing back. As we shatter our own fears and reservations, we will stand in the light of your Son shining out from within us. As your army of light, we will then blow our trumpets and decree: “The sword of the Lord and of his servants!” Thank you this day, Lord, for the overcoming victory. I receive it now by faith and rejoice!
“Praise him with the sound of the trumpet” (Psalm 150:3a).
“All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye” (Isaiah 18:3).
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).
“And the seven angels which had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (Revelation 8:6).
Jerusalem, Lest I Forget Thee by Gene Little
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*Segal, Rabbi Moshe. “The Shofar and the Wall.” www.chabad.org/library