There are many well-known traditions observed during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Even though we repeat them every year, each one is special. We share a holiday meal with loved ones and community, eat symbolic foods, and recite prayers to commemorate the holiday. It’s not all serious–I remember, as a child, how my father would playfully conclude this traditional time by taking out a raisin and celery, with a humorous prayer that this new year should be a “raise in salary!” (Just kidding, JCCA!)

The holiday’s joy and sweet prayers are accompanied by a sense of deep renewal in the brisk fall air—and the blowing of the Shofar, whose wordless cry sounds like an expression from the depths of the heart.

A person’s power of speech represents life and is what makes us alive, it’s an expression of one’s feelings into words. Sadly, we don’t always speak words of truth. We tend to speak words that people want to hear rather than our own inner truth. However, there are times that a person is completely truthful. Like when they are in shock or fear and let out a cry, this expression is real and true. There is no calculated choice of words. On a day that is so filled with seriousness, prayer, and joy, the Shofar brings us back to a place of truth and connects us to the tremendous strength inside us.

For those of us at JCCA, the Shofar connects us to our past and reinvigorates our work. The apples and honey remind us of the sweetness of the children we serve and the promise of their futures. Whether you do or do not celebrate Rosh Hashanah, let the meaning of these rituals inform your work, your hopes, your relationships, and your future. Let the pure sound of the Shofar awaken you to bring out greatness that has been dormant, refreshingly starting a new year!

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