For me, two words sum up Rosh Hashanah.
That’s because my Rosh Hashanah tradition started in the most unexpected place many years ago in the early 2000s: the basement recreation room in a local synagogue a few weeks prior to the holiday. For a nominal fee, the Shofar Workshop allowed attendees to select an authentic ram’s horn, then cut, buff, smooth and shellac it to a shiny radiance. Our family of four each selected their own that day, mine the only black/grey variety among our group.
Sure, before this time, I had witnessed this mitzvah and the magic of this symbolic wake-up call for the new year.
As a young adult in the 1980s, I would watch Ethan, a temple congregant, rise for the shofar service at Temple Beth Shalom, Flushing, New York blowing the miraculous notes, red faced and remarkably talented.
Then, in the 1990s and 2000s as a wife and mother of young children, I would guide youngsters, including my own, as we constructed paper shofars in the Hadassah Al Galgalim/Training Wheels program.
And then I would watch temple patriarchs like Artie and Stewart who would blow the notes at Temple B’nai Torah (formerly Suburban Temple) in Wantagh, New York. It was only the final blast in the Neilah service – the tekiah gedolah – that any congregant could participate in, standing shoulder to shoulder on the bimah.
But when it finally came to our family blowing shofar, playing it outside the sanctuary is where it has mattered most. We have been honored to participate in several ceremonies and events that are seared in my memory because of their uniqueness:
My son Lathan, remembering what it was like to witness the blowing of the shofar as a young Sunday school student, paid it forward as a teenager. What started out as a presentation to the third-grade class he assisted each week quickly turned into a mini school-wide event. The teachers heard the sounds and quickly asked him to demonstrate the shofar for their classes as well — including the kindergarteners. The experience was his deep dive down memory lane.
The year in which Covid 19 forced our family to blow shofar in our living room, pre-recorded on Zoom while several other musicians did the same in their homes (the congregation would eventually watch via streaming). We situated ourselves by a bare wall, formally dressed as if we were in the sanctuary and watched the Zoom squares on the computer screen, de-muted and anticipating our next cue.
The times at Jones Beach, Wantagh NY in which we stationed ourselves in the parking lot, the boardwalk, the edge of the sand and stood with clergy, Temple B’nai Torah and the community while we played in a round.
And my personal favorite, on the curb of the entrance and driveway for Temple Chaverim, Plainview, NY in which congregants experienced a “Shofar drive-through” as they sat and witnessed this mitzvah in their sedans and minivans. I was the only woman among the men playing that day and felt profoundly blessed to be part of the ceremony.
In short, while every Rosh Hashanah gives renewed hope, I believe it is the sacred mitzvah to blow shofar at this solemn time that gives me a richer, deeper connection with the miracles of the world.