Rav Saadia Gaon offered ten reasons why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana:
1. The Shofar is like the trumpet which announces the coronation of a king. That is why it is used on Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the universe. At that time we accept Hashem’s sovereignty. Our tefilos and shofar blasts are like the coronation ceremony in which Klal Yisroel crowns Hashem as Sovereign..
2. The Shofar calls us to examine our deeds and return to Hashem, who will always accept us if we are sincere. This is why we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashana which is the first of the Aseres Yemei Teshuva. (Ten Days of Repentance)
3. The Shofar reminds us of the Shofar which blew when the Torah was given at Har Sinai; thus we are reminded to study and cherish Hashem’s Word.
4. The Shofar reminds us of the voice of the Nevi’im, whose voices rang out like a Shofar blast in calling the people to do justice and mercy and follow Holy ways.
5. The Shofar sounds like crying, which reminds us of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, and thus calls upon us to work for and daven for the Geula.
6. The Shofar, since it is a ram’s horn, reminds us of the binding of Yitzchok, when Hashem provided a ram to be sacrificed instead. Thus we are called upon to be as faithful to Hashem as Avraham, and be inspired by his example of sacrifice and love of Hashem.
7.The Shofar calls us to be humble- its mighty blast reminds us of the mightiness of Hashem and the fact that Hashem is everywhere at all times.
8. On the Final Day of Judgment, a Shofar will be blown to announce Hashem’s Sovereignty over all beings- our Shofar blasts remind us to prepare for Hashem’s examination of our deeds.
9. The Shofar foreshadows the jubilant return to freedom and peace when we all end up in Yerushalayim at the time of Moshiach. It reminds us to have hope and faith in Hashem’s saving power.
10. The Shofar will be blown in Messianic times to announce the redemption of the whole world, when all nations will recognize that Hashem is One.
2. Apple and Honey
The custom to eat special fruits in Rosh HaShanah is from the Gemara in Horiyos 12a. While the gemara gives a list of recommended fruits and vegetables to eat, dipping apples in honey is not mentioned. The earliest source for the apple in honey is from the Abudraham as quoted by the Rema (Orach Chaim 583:1). What is the significance of this famous custom? The Moadim L’Simcha brings a number of reasons.
1. The Maharil says that Yitzchok smelled an apple orchard when he commented on the beautiful smell as Yaakov came in to him to receive the blessings. The Vilna Gaon in his commentary says that this happened on Rosh HaShanah.
2. The Ben Ish Chai says that apples give three pleasures: smell, appearance and Taste which correspond to three blessings we’d like to receive for the next year: Benei: (Children and Nachas from Children), Chayai (Life/Health) and Mezonei (Livelihood).
3. The Zohar says that wine symbolizes Din or judgment. Apples are eaten after strong wine in order not to be harmed by the strength of the wine. Therefore since Rosh HaShanah is a time of Din, we eat apples in order to sweeten the judgment.
4. On Rosh HaShanah we want Hashem to remember the ashes of Akeidas Yitzchak. The ashes that accumulated on the altar from all the sacrifices are called Tapuach or apple.
5. “Tapuach” has the same numerical value as “Peru V’Revu”(“be fruitful and multiply”) and “Dvash” has the same gematria as “Isha”. Rosh HaShanah is a special time for barren women to be remembered by Hashem and blessed with children, just as Sarah and Chana were blessed on this day and became pregnant. We therefore eat Tapuach B’Dvash as an omen for fertility.