The Shofar’s Call by Lauren Shaps
Dear JWRP Chevra,
As the Jewish holidays quickly approach, I want to wish all of you a year of meaning, sweet growth, health and prosperity.
May we all merit to take the wisdom and inspiration we experienced in Israel into our lives, and may those seeds blossom many, many times over. May G-d give all of us clarity of purpose and everything we need in order to accomplish our meaningful goals, including time, resources and energy.
And may there be true peace in Israel and throughout the world.
Hey to the Chevra,
There's an old joke that the Jewish holidays arrive early or late but never on time. This year, that is certainly true. Rosh Hashanah has snuck up on us, arriving just after Labour Day. Nonetheless, we'll be ready, our tables set, our children clean and dressed, our menus complete. If only Jewish mothers ran the world….
Speaking of which, the world is not looking too good. Poverty, war, human trafficking, hunger, decadence and environmental woes continue. At one time there was great optimism that education, science and technology would change the world for the better, but none of those have proven to be enough of an answer.
Much like on September 11th, 2001, the world today stands at the crossroads. Many believe that Iran, once described as part of the Axis of Evil, has been given the ticket to becoming a nuclear power. Others feel the outcome of recent negotiations will contain Iran’s destabilizing influence on world affairs. War continues in Syria where tens of thousands have died. Innocent civilians are condemned to horrific deaths by ISIS or sold into slavery. Masses of people take great risks to travel to the safer shores of European Union countries. The fortunate ones make it, but tragically, many don’t survive.
In our own lives, a turbulent economic climate, the challenges of health, our worries about our children, siblings, parents and friends give us much to pray for this year. Rosh Hashanah is a serious but not a sombre time. This year the world could become all that it should be. Changing the world begins with changing ourselves.
Many of us will attend shul or synagogue or temple. We will fulfill one of the 613 commandments by hearing the sounds of the shofar. In the Torah, Rosh Hashanah is called yom teruah, a day of blowing.
Why is the shofar such an integral part of this day? The Rambam (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204) explains that the purpose of the shofar is to wake us up from our sleep. Have we slept through our lives? The shofar reminds us to pay attention to what is truly important. It is a wake up call for our souls. Time passes so quickly. Who have we become? How have we grown? What needs improvement? What needs attention? The sound of the shofar expresses what lies within our hearts but is so difficult to put into words. It is the wordless call of our prayers.
The shofar represents the coronation of the Almighty, crowning G-d as Melech ha-Olam (King of the Universe). Not an angry dictator like Assad, but an all-powerful Creator who expresses His strength through enormous patience with the world. We know that when we rush to solve people's problems, things can get worse rather than better. Rescue our kids from every mistake and they won't learn to take responsibility for their lives. The Almighty gives humanity countless opportunities to get it right on our own. He waits patiently for our return.
The shofar reminds us of the shofar at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given to the Jewish people. It connects us to the mitzvot (commandments), through which we grow. G-d gave us the Torah to be our manual for life, Torat Chaim (a living Torah), a bottomless well of wisdom for our lives and for a better world.
The shofar we hear at services represents the shofar that will be blown at the time of the ultimate redemption. Right now things are so challenging, so grey. We have unparalleled wealth in the Western world and unparalleled unhappiness. We have returned to Israel and Jerusalem, yet we face continuous threats from surrounding enemies and isolation from the world community. We have the freedom to live and practice our Judaism, yet more Jews than ever are opting for assimilation.
May we merit to have the clarity to recognize the Almighty's existence – His Presence in our lives. May we grow to understood and integrate the knowledge of G-d as the Great and Giving King, May this be the year when He parts the clouds, lifts the veil and gives us the clarity to do what is right and good. May this be the year that the shofar heralds the redemption, bringing with it an end to suffering, a world of peace. May it all happen very soon, speedily and in our day.
Best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom and a Shana Tova U'Metuka, a sweet New Year,
Lauren Shaps, MSW is a JWRP city leader and full time adult Jewish educator. She works closely with her husband, Rabbi Zischa Shaps and they are blessed with 5 wonderful children. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org