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…it’s tru’ah that’s the most interesting. The word is related to the verb heyri’a, and both noun and verb occur many times in the Bible, where they can refer to a cheer, battle cry, military command, or outburst of jubilation. Thus, we have verses like 1Samuel 10:24, “And all the people cheered [va-yari’u kol ha’am] and said, ‘Long live the king!’”; 1Samuel 1:52, “And the men of Israel and of Judah arose and cried [va-yari’u] and pursued the Philistines”; Numbers 10:5, “And ye shall blow a command [tru’ah] and the eastward camp shall move forward”; and Psalms 33:3, “Sing unto Him a new song, play the tru’ah well.”
A biblical tru’ah can be produced either by the human voice or by a wind instrument. In Rosh Hashanah services in Jewish communities all over the world, it is sounded as a series of rapid staccato blasts, generally nine in number, all having the same pitch, although the last is sometimes slightly higher: tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh! (In Sephardi synagogues, the staccato form can be replaced by a gentle and wavelike legato.)
Curiously, however, there are a few places in the Bible where the same verb and noun can indicate a wail, dirge, or lament, or the sounding of one. Thus, we have Micah 4:9, “Now why dost thou [Jerusalem] cry aloud [tari’i re’a] . . . for pangs have taken thee like a woman in travail,” and Jeremiah 20:15-16, “Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father saying, ‘A man child is born unto thee;’ . . . let him hear the cry of pain in the morning and the lament [tru’ah] in the afternoon.” Is this tru’ah a different sound from the tru’ah of battle and rejoicing? But why, if it is, should the same word be used for it?
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