A central theme of the upcoming Jewish holiday is the blowing of the traditional ram’s horn trumpet, the shofar. As a young boy I remember the beginning of the school year and the heavy weight that came with it. Transitioning from summer fun to classroom days was not easy! One morning, I overslept only to be awakened by the blast of the shofar right above my bed. Frightened, I jumped up and saw my father (of blessed memory) with a smile on his face. “We blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah in order to wake us up,” he announced. “I see it works in the bedroom too, and not just in the synagogue!”
Sometimes, the slumber which we experience is not in our beds, but within us. We can forget, or even neglect, the giant inside. But Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time to wake up, and the shofar is our signal to do so. “Awaken, reveal and bring out your strengths that are within you” (Isaiah 52:1). Additionally, the root of the word shofar – from the word leshaper, to polish—gives definition to its purpose. We blow the shofar to awaken the greatness inside which may have become cloudy: in short, polishing the diamond.
The days of Rosh Hashanah precede the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. Many commentators are perplexed by this: why not atone before making a fresh start? In fact, the answer is echoed in one of the central tenets of our therapeutic work at JCCA. In all of our programs, we emphasize helping our clients identify their strengths in order to heal. Processing past events can be demoralizing, but it is easiest to move forward when we find value in ourselves and one another. We are worth making things better, and the sound of the shofar both connects us to the past and brings us back to ourselves. We then celebrate the creation of the world, the creation of humanity, and the beauty within us.
We are all too good in seeing the goodness in others. We deserve a day, or two, to reflect on our own and allow us to become the fruitful beings we can be. It is our time for renewal, to celebrate and give thanks for the sweetness within, and set this tone for an upcoming happy, healthy, and sweet new year!
Rabbi Ilan Ginian, MSW
Director of Kesher & Partners in Caring