In Part One of this three-part series, we discovered that Yom Kippur is a Jewish Fall Feast focused on repentance and restoration. Further, we explored the Biblical importance of the three most common symbols of Yom Kippur: white garments, shofar, and Torah.
In this Part Two, we will examine artifacts relating to the shofar and find how they relate to the Jewish people’s close connection to God, as well as the unity found amongst His people.
Symbols Found in Archaeology and History:
From Israel, to Europe, and to all the ends of the earth, we find that the Jewish people have not only been dispersed throughout the world in search of peace, but have also left behind a legacy from their journey.
In the archaeological history that they have left behind, we discover their story. Not only through the symbols found that related to Holy Days, such as Yom Kippur, but to the Jewish people in their everyday lives as well—in their faith in God and collective unity of purpose to serve Him.
Jerusalem’s Old City.
A forced labor camp, Skarżysko-Kamienna, in Poland…
In all these places we find, through the items left behind, the significance of the shofar to the Jewish people. From the start of the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah, to the Sabbath, and even to Yom Kippur, we find the shofar performing a key role over and over again.
In the last decade, Jerusalem has had an archaeological revolution in terms of finds and of those uncovered artifacts. Those discovered near the Temple Mount play, perhaps, the most important role.
From the seals of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, to the gold bell of a Temple priest, the artifacts found are bringing the Word to life! Yet, some finds, while important to Jewish and Christian faith, do not—at first—seem quite so important. Take the stone that fell long ago from a parapet near the southwest corner of the Temple Mount…
Aside from the carved Hebrew lettering which reads, “to the place of trumpeting…” there is nothing that sets this stone apart from any other… that is until you understand what it represents.
It represents a location—near what was once the corner of the Temple’s parapet—where the Sabbath would have been announced with a blast from the shofar. It represents a place where the following of God’s laws—the keeping of the Sabbath—were set in motion. It represents a place where that which is Holy is set apart. It represents the remembrance of God by His children. It shows us the importance of the shofar in days gone by, and the love of God’s children for His law and for Him.
“The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations.”—Numbers 10:8
Yet, the importance of the shofar in Jewish culture is seen not only in artifacts found within Jerusalem—such as the Temple Mount parapet stone—but everywhere. Each artifact displaying the shofar demonstrates the Jewish people’s love for God no matter the distance… the ability to never forget God or the traditions of their fathers despite thousands of miles separating them from the land promised by God.
In Israel, these symbols of God’s breath in us can be found throughout various synagogues dotting the nation. The shofar, having been used to adorn Torah scrolls, walls, and even floors in the form of mosaics… a constant reminder to the Rabbi and all who entered of the importance of the shofar in terms of holiness—while reminding them of man’s connection with God. For when God breathed life into man the soul was brought into being, and the cry of that moment is uttered through the breath of man sounding the shofar. This connection with God and creation is one of the many reasons we find the shofar throughout the archaeological record.
Yet, while Israel has the oldest and largest collection of archaeological finds originating from the Jewish people—going easily back to the First Temple period—other countries around the world have felt the influx of Jewish artifacts over the centuries.
For instance, this burial plaque shown below originates from Venosa, Italy, a city over 1,000 miles from Jerusalem as the crow flies. Yet, even in such a distant land we find evidence of a Jewish population—likely due to extended Roman occupation of Israel which culminated in the destruction of the Second Temple. However, not only was there a Jewish population in Italy, there was a Jewish population that, despite the trials they faced, were still focused on God. Specifically we find that, in the case of this burial plaque, there are a shofar, menorah, and palm… Holy symbols of faith, love, and loyalty to God. Symbols important enough for the Jewish population not only in life, but also in death.
Still, even in years not long past, the Jewish people have left their mark upon the world, not only by what they have done—which has been vast—but in the items they have left behind. The shofar pictured above is one such item.
Made in 1943 by Moshe Winterter (Ben-Dov), we may wonder why such a relatively new artifact is important?
Well, the shofar was crafted by Moshe Winterter (Ben-Dov) in a forced labor camp in Poland, known as Skarżysko-Kamienna during the Holocaust. Moshe, in 1943, was approached by Rabbi Yitzhak Finkler to make the shofar for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah—new year—celebration, and at first Moshe refused. After all, to be caught would mean certain death. Yet eventually he agreed, and by Rosh Hashanah the shofar was completed. But only after many attempts to bribe a guard to bring a ram’s horn suitable for the holy task it was to perform. The Jewish inmates gathered together to hear the shofar blast—a sound most holy.
“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.”—Numbers 10:9
In the FINAL part of this three-part series, we will examine artifacts related to the Torah to gain a fuller picture of Yom Kippur and our Jewish roots of the faith. We continue to discover how Yom Kippur brings unity to the Jewish community. And finally, we will learn how we, as Gentile Believers, can benefit from the lessons our Jewish brothers and sisters have—and are—teaching us… as well as the benefits of Jew and Gentile being brought together as One New Man.
“…to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.”—Ephesians 2:15