During the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the sounding of the ram's horn signifies a time of spiritual awakening and is meant to encourage repentance.

St. Paul Rabbi Reuven Drori has one of the more unusual horns, called a shofar. While most typically measure a foot long, Drori's Yemenite shofar is close to 3 feet and produces much louder sound.

To mark the beginning of Rosh Hashanah -- often referred to as the Jewish New Year -- Drori sounded his shofar at a special service held Thursday at the Lubavitch Cheder Day School in St. Paul.

"We thought the children would enjoy seeing that a lot," said Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, principal at the school.

Sounding the shofar is just one of the key traditions of Rosh Hashanah, which this year begins at sundown Sunday and ends Tuesday. The holiday starts a period of deep introspection, repentance and hope for redemption that concludes with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, which this year is from sundown Sept. 25 to sundown Sept. 26.

Rosh Hashanah services include festive dinners that usually feature apples dipped in honey, symbolizing hope for a sweet year. In addition, Tashlich services are held, which follow the custom of symbolically casting away sins by throwing bread crumbs, sticks or rocks into a flowing body of water.

Rabbi Goldberg said the blowing of the shofar is meant to "awaken our hearts to get closer to God because the ram's horn sounds like a very kind of emotional cry. It's supposed to signify someone who's crying or repenting, coming back and getting closer to God."

Goldberg added that when Jews received the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) on Mount Sinai, a horn was blown. "One of the reasons we blow it is we want to remind God of that very special time when he ... gave us the Torah."

"We crown God on that day," Goldberg said. "When a king is crowned a trumpet is blown. That's another metaphor for that idea."

Rose French • 612-673-4352