It is customary to sound the shofar at the conclusion of the ne’ila prayer, marking the end of Yom Kippur. Rav Eliyahu Lerman of Viscott, in Eizor Eliyahu, offered a creative explanation of this practice, noting that the verb t.k.a., which is commonly used in reference to sounding the shofar, can also mean “affix,” or permanently thrust. He cites as an example the verse in Sefer Yeshayahu (22:23) in which the prophet says about Elyakim (an officer serving under King Chizkiyahu), “U-tkativ yateid be-makom ne’eman” – “I shall knock him as a peg in a permanent place,” referring to his permanent installment in his post as manager of the king’s palace (replacing Shevna, who was deposed). The “teki’a” sounded at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, Rav Eliyahu of Viscott suggested, calls upon us to strive to make permanent the inspiration we received on Yom Kippur. It is intended to urge us not to leave the uplifting Yom Kippur experience behind, but instead try to ensure that it makes a lasting and permanent impact upon our lives.
If so, then the shofar sound on Rosh Hashanah and the shofar sound at the close of Yom Kippur serve opposite – and complementary – purposes. The sounding of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, as the Rambam famously writes (Hilkhot Teshuva 3:4), is intended to “awaken” us, to shake us from our routine, to rattle us, to call us to introspect and make the necessary changes in our conduct. At the end of Yom Kippur, we sound the shofar for the very opposite reason – as a plea for stability and permanence, a call to firmly implant all that we’ve gained during this period within our minds and hearts, so it remains with us throughout the coming year and beyond. The shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a call to change, while the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur is a call for consistency; the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a call for questioning our current position, while the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur is a call for solidifying our current position and making it permanent.
Personal growth requires both kinds of “shofar sounds” – the sound of self-doubt, and the sound of firm conviction. On the one hand, we will never grow if we do not regularly question ourselves, scrutinize our beliefs, our assumptions and our habits, or look for ways to make positive change. But at the same time, we cannot grow if we are incapable of long-term commitment, if every change is purely experimental or contingent upon our fleeting whims and moods. We must sound both the shofar of uncertainty and self-doubt, as well as the shofar of conviction, living with both the humility of questioning ourselves as well as the strength and determination to follow through on our resolutions and making permanent positive change.