Purpose of the Trumpet Blowing


Interactive Module

Utilitarian Tool or Religious Vessel?

Bemidbar 10:1-10 speaks of the command to make two silver trumpets and the roles these trumpets were to play both in the period of the wilderness and afterwards. The verses speak of four distinct occasions on which the instruments were to be blown: when gathering the nation, upon travel, when heading to war, and on festive days during the sacrificial service. What is the common denominator that unites all of the different cases?  What is the ultimate goal of blowing the trumpets in each instance?  While some verses suggest that they served a purely practical function, others might imply that they played a ceremonial role. Were the trumpets holy vessels or secular instruments?

Additional Questions

Several other questions emerge from the text which might relate to the central question above:

  • תרועה vs. תקיעה – Is there any significance to the choice of sound blown on each occasion?  Why is a tekiah blown for assembly and over sacrifices while a teruah is blown for travel and war?  Might this suggest that each pair of cases shares a common purpose different from that of the other pair?
  • Signal for only two camps? The verses speak of blowing trumpets to signal the travel of the first two camps in the wilderness, but they say nothing regarding the last two camps. Why were trumpets not sounded for them?
  • "וּבְנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים יִתְקְעוּ" – Why were specifically the priests tasked with the blowing?  Does this imply that the act was viewed as religious in nature?
  • "וְנִזְכַּרְתֶּם לִפְנֵי י״י" / "וְהָיוּ לָכֶם לְזִכָּרוֹן" – Only with regards to wars and festive occasions do the verses indicate that "there will be a memorial before Hashem".  Why does blowing in these specific cases lead Hashem to remember the nation? Is the blowing, for some reason, considered a meritorious deed?
  • "וְכִי תָבֹאוּ מִלְחָמָה בְּאַרְצְכֶם" – This language is somewhat difficult, as one would have expected the verse to read 'כי תבא מלחמה בארצכם' if Israel were to be under attack and fighting a defensive war, or "כי תצא למלחמה" if the nation were to be headed outside for an offensive war.  Is there any significance to the grammatical form of "תָבֹאוּ מִלְחָמָה"?