Eyal Bitton
Cantor, composer, lyricist.

Rosh Hashanah and the Longing for Home

Parashat Ki Tavo: Rosh Hashanah and the Longing for Home

Two of the special additions to the Rosh Hashanah Amidah are the Zichronot and Shofarot sections. The Zichronot section is about remembrances. It tells us that God remembered Noah, God remembered Abraham, and that God will remember God’s covenant with our forefathers, “and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:42). In other words, the prayer begins with the acknowledgment of the covenantal relationship between humanity and God, then between the founders of the Jewish people and its religion, and then the promise to the Jewish people of a return to the land of Israel. Essentially, it’s an elegant way of telling God, “Hey, don’t forget You made us a promise to return us to our homeland.”

The Shofarot section is about verses dealing with the shofar, with revelation, and with various calls to our people. In a very popular text, Uva’u ha’ovdim, from Isaiah 27:13, it reads: “For on that day, a great shofar will be sounded: those lost in the land of Assyria and those cast away in the land of Egypt shall come back and worship Adonai on the holy mountain in Jerusalem… Adonai Tzeva’ot will protect… Your people Israel with Your peace.”

This week’s Torah portion of Ki Tavo begins with a call to the Israelites to be grateful for all that God has done for them. The portion then goes on to describe the consequences of sin, both for individuals and for the community as a whole. However, the Torah portion also offers hope for those who have sinned. It ends with a message of hope for the future, promising that if the Israelites are faithful to God, He will bless them with peace, prosperity, and security.

This message of hope is particularly relevant to the modern state of Israel. The establishment of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of God’s promise to restore His people to their land. It was also a sign of God’s redemption of the Jewish people, who had been exiled from their land for centuries.

The Jewish people have shown that they are capable of overcoming monumental challenges and building a strong and prosperous nation. This is a testament to the power of hope and the strength of the Jewish people.

The prayers cited earlier express the hope of the Jewish people for the restoration of Zion, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the gathering of the dispersed of Israel. It is a prayer for redemption, for the end of exile and the return to the land of Israel.

The modern state of Israel is a sign that this hope is not in vain. It is a reminder that God has not forgotten His people. As we celebrate the restoration of Zion and the redemption of the Jewish people, we can all work to build a better future for Eretz Israel and Am Israel – the land of Israel and the Jewish people.

About the Author
Eyal Bitton is the cantor of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland, Oregon where he incorporates Sephardi/Moroccan music, Ashkenazi music, popular adaptations, and original compositions into the service. As a composer and writer, his theatrical works have been produced in the US, Canada, Kenya, and China.
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