As we approach another Jewish new year, many of us look toward feelings of hope and renewal—and the sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn trumpet sounded on Rosh Hashanah during prayer service.

One of the teens in JCCA’s Kesher program recently asked if there’s a way to push the “2X” (fast-forward) button and speed through these days of awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He explained that reflection on this past year is bitter for him, and looking forward doesn’t bring much optimism, as he knows that it will be much of the same. Recent tragedies at home and abroad, along with the continued onslaught of COVID, might make any of us feel the same way. But even when we are not feeling hopeful or renewed, we can find guidance in the sound of the music being shouted through the Shofar.

The first sound blown is a tekiah, a long, uninterrupted, straight blast. This blast represents stability, consistency, and strength. It’s the sound of joy and goodness. Then comes a second and third blast, named shevarim and teruah. These sounds are broken small blasts that represent sadness and instability. These sounds represent a need to acknowledge that life often brings with it moments of pain, sadness, difficulty, and our own shortcomings. The broken blasts are then followed by another tekiah, signaling tranquility, goodness, and joy.

The same way that we cannot live in a fictional state of blind optimism, we must not become trapped in a reality of misery, thinking that nothing will change within ourselves or our environment. There are probably moments of grief, of difficulty, or times when we didn’t conduct ourselves with perfection. We shouldn’t ignore those moments—nor should we let them define us.

If we get lost in the notes of music that give off sounds of tragedy and brokenness, our strengths become dormant. We need the triumphant notes of joy and stability to awaken the greatness that’s inside us. Like my father used to say, the spiciest and most bitter food can become sweet with a drop of honey.

Looking back on the past year, we have seen incredible generosity, compassion, and heroism, here at JCCA and around the world. Like the tekiah, these joys bracket our challenges and strengthen us as we emerge into this new year and new season.

May this new year be one of sweetness and joy for all!
L’Shana Tova!

Rabbi Ilan Ginian, MSW
Director of Kesher & Partners in Caring