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To Hear the Call of the Shofar

For thousands of years our people have welcomed the new year with prayer and song. We have gathered in synagogues the world over as the melodies and notes of this sacred season wash over us. In times of strife, in times of war, in times of peace and contentment, Jews have joined together during the Days of Awe. These holy days have been a beacon of light for us, granting us perspective, direction, and hope no matter our age or ideology, no matter where we live or what exactly we believe. It feels like we need all of it as much as ever.

Our lives are so full, so stressful, and often so unnerving these days. We need this time of reflection and community. We need to know that there is more to life than errands and to-do lists and the nightly news. We need to remember the abounding sense of purpose that Judaism grants us and that we are part of a people who have long endured precisely because of our commitment to education, generosity, and great moral clarity.

Of the many transformative rites that we will take part in this season, one of them that speaks loudest (literally) is the ritual of hearing the shofar. It is such a fundamental concept: a blast to signify the end of one year and the start of the next. The mitzvah is to HEAR the shofar. The Talmud will make clear that we’re not to hear an echo or to merely see it; we must actually hear the shofar.

What will the shofar call mean to you this year? Will it call you to greater advocacy? Greater learning? More patience? More kindness? Will it encourage you to listen more, laugh more, love more? Will it urge you to leave your comfort zone?

While the ram’s horn hearkens specifically to the Binding of Isaac, it also reminds us more generally of our collective past. For all the change and innovation in our world, the shofar remains exactly the same. The sound of the shofar likewise remains exactly the same. It reminds us that the chain of continuity in Judaism is real, even if many elements of our lives have changed. In just a few days’ time we will say the prayers our people have said for generations. We will feel many of the same feelings our people have experienced at exactly this season: gratitude, hopefulness, humility, awe, and solace to name a few.

They endured hardship and so have we. They experienced joy and – I pray – so have we. They felt motivated to bring greater peace and compassion to our broken world and so do we. Our lives are intertwined: past, present, and future. Our stories are intertwined.

May these coming days grant us meaning, contentment, and comfort. May the coming year be one of health and happiness for us and for our loved ones. Amen.