Two Trumpets, One Sound

In the Torah this week we are told to make trumpets:

God spoke to Moses, saying: Have two silver trumpets made; make them of hammered work. They shall serve you to summon the community and to set the divisions in motion. When both are blown in long blasts, the whole community shall assemble before you at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; and if only one is blown, the chieftains, heads of Israel’s contingents, shall assemble before you. But when you sound short blasts, the divisions encamped on the east shall move forward; and when you sound short blasts a second time, those encamped on the south shall move forward. Thus short blasts shall be blown for setting them in motion, while to convoke the congregation you shall blow long blasts, not short ones. The trumpets shall be blown by Aaron’s sons, the priests; they shall be for you an institution for all time throughout the ages.

Numbers 10:1-8

That last part, not so much–we don’t use silver trumpets like this in our Jewish communal practice, they haven’t been an institution for all time. The reason why is indicated by their use: they are blown by the priests and were used to signal the tribes when to move. We neither have the priests nor the tribes in our day, and so the use of the trumpets has been rendered moot.

[These silver trumpets are different than the shofar, the Rosh Hashana ram’s horn we know and love. That’s another horn for another use.]

And while I think it may be cool to think about using trumpets in our contemporary practice, I don’t miss the hierarchical priesthood or the rigid social structure of the tribes.

However, there are two other uses of those silver trumpets mentioned in the Torah that may be meaningful for us today:

When you are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets, that you may be remembered before God and be delivered from your enemies. And on your joyous occasions—your fixed festivals and new moon days—you shall sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being. They shall be a reminder of you before your God.

Numbers 10:9-10

Not only are the trumpets used for assembly and marching, but they are used for announcements of war and holidays.

Still, we don’t practice this today. But the idea of it teaches us something.

The horns both announce the times of communal danger, and they announce the times of communal celebration. They announce the times the community needs to turn outward to address a threat and wrong, and they announce the times the community needs to turn inward to address tradition and the spirit. And, as the Torah points out, it is the same trumpets and the same sounds that are used to signal both of these seemingly incongruous times.

Which means, they are not really incongruous.

There is no distinction between when we are called upon to turn inward or outward. There is no distinction between when we cry out in song and prayer, and when we cry out in slogan and protest. We raise the same voice both times.

By using the same trumpets, we announce: they are both necessary. By using the same trumpets, we announce: they are both holy.

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