I sit in synagogue and listen. On the bimah, a congregant summons his breath from deep within to blow into a huge and twisted ram’s horn, evoking almost other-worldly sounds. I can nearly picture the rest of the animal as it once was, perhaps awaiting sacrifice on the altar in place of Abraham’s son, Isaac.
The primal wail of the shofar rings out as the congregation holds its collective breath waiting for the final tekiah, which doesn’t disappoint. Its plaintiff sound makes its way to the top of the sanctuary and surrounds us in holiness.
It reminds me, once again, why I still belong to a synagogue when most of my family and friends dropped out years ago after their children had their b’nai mitzvah. I think about the importance of my almost 30-year membership in Hadassah, a Zionist organization that brings healing to the US, Israel and the world, and, before that, B’nai B’rith Women (now, Jewish Women International).
I contemplate the fact that, a year ago, The Jewish Agency for Israel estimated the world’s Jewish population to be 15.3 million, representing less than 0.2 percent of the eight billion people worldwide. I mourn the six million Jewish souls lost in the Holocaust and think how, if they had not been annihilated, their progenitors would have swelled our numbers today and into the future.
As a Reform Jew in America in the 21st century, I think about how the ancient teachings of the Torah provide me with a blueprint to lead an ethical life. The call of the shofar awakens my resolve to do more, to be better at taking care of our most vulnerable–the children, the infirm and the elderly. It reminds me to fight against hate of all stripes, to feed the hungry, to be proactive against the violence in our streets and to take whatever steps I can to contain my carbon footprint.
There is much to be done and, in many ways, time is short, because every day people and our planet suffer needlessly.
As the Hebrew calendar year 5784 begins, there is no way to go but forward. I must allow those final notes of the shofar to reverberate throughout the year in my prayers, thoughts and actions.