The primal sound courses through our souls. It's an instant, bringing us together--everyone in the sanctuary at that moment, every Jew across the globe, across time. An instant that defies words. We think we are ready. But then, the call, the sound: the shofar. We feel it run through our bodies, indescribable yet undeniable. We are called by history. We are called today.
We are called by the shofar to remember. The sages, say [ii] Remember our beginnings, the creation of the world. Remember our mothers and fathers who stood at Sinai. Remember we stood with them at Sinai, an eternal community of commitment. Remember the message of the prophets, their ethical imperative. Remember the sovereign presence of our God, judging at this season. Remember teshuvah : turn and review, change and return. Remember, this is the time. Remember, this is the call.
What do we remember? We remember people and places of our individual lives, too. Our own beginnings, our mothers and fathers. Sitting with parents and grandparents at shul. Voices and sounds of childhood holidays. The taste of a brisket or kugel in our parents' kitchen or the beautiful table in our grandparents' dining room. Who first wore our tallit (prayer shawl) or showed us how to knead the dough. The hand of the generations kindling the flame or raising the wine. Who stood by us as we held our breath for the tiny splash as the tossed bread touched the water.
What do we remember? We remember the ethical imperative taught in our own homes. The hands that showed us how to help. The example shown by delivering food to a neighbor. The phone call to invite another to take a seat at our table. The inviting wave to welcome a newcomer. The speeches urging kind words to our siblings. Respect shown to elders, walking slower, indulging their holiday wishes. The challenge of Isaiah to help the needy.
The refrain teshuvah, tefilah, tzedakah- -What do we remember? We remember our own relationship with the Eternal. Our fear of mortality each year when we hear "Who will live and who will die?" The quiet pleas of our heart. The baring of our souls, bolstered by community standing around us. The struggle listening to the Binding of Isaac, wondering, in human terms, how God and Abraham could even have this dialogue. How small we feel before Avinu Malkeinu or during Kol Nidre . Our awe as the ark is opened and the scrolls, attired in white, emerge.
Indeed the shofar's call brings us back to the place of memory, perhaps a comfortable place to inhabit. But we can't stay there. Shofar urges us forward with teshuvah , a fresh start. Search your souls. Be in the discomfort of quiet with yourself and ask: What could I do better in the new year? How must I change? Honestly face words and deeds. Approach those you hurt. Speak to people you wronged. Take a deep breath. Dial the phone. Ring the doorbell. Sit down and talk. Apologize, aloud. Lose the need to be right, the ever-present voice critique. With humility, ask for forgiveness. Commit to new paths-the chance is before us for new beginnings. The shofar call echoes: teshuvah
! Turn and review. Change and return. This is the time. This is the call.
Time freezes. [iii] The primal sound courses through our souls. It's an instant, bringing us together -- everyone in the sanctuary at that moment, every Jew across the globe, across time. An instant that defies words. We think we are ready. But then, the call, the sound: the shofar. We feel it run through our bodies, indescribable yet undeniable. We are called by history. The shofar calls us to remember. The shofar calls us to act, today.
Rabbi Lisa S. Greene is a rabbi of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, where she has just celebrated her 18 th anniversary of service to the congregation.
[i] Words inspired by Barry Skolnik, Baal Tekiah of North Shore Congregation Israel for 25 years.
[ii] Remember" - list inspired by & adapted from that of Saadiah Gaon as given in Days of Awe, S.Y. Agnon.
[iii] Words inspired by Barry Skolnik, Baal Tekiah of North Shore Congregation Israel for 25 years.