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“Shofar,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

September 23, 2022 | 27 Elul 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat and then on to Rosh Hashanah. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

As we prepare to enter the Days of Awe and to hear and to hearken to the sounds of the shofar, I share with you a way to understand the blasts as a metaphor for the journey of T’shuvah taught to me by my friend and study partner, Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz.

What happens to us throughout the journey of these upcoming sacred days?

We begin with one long blast. We are feeling together, constructed. Or at least, we have convinced ourselves that we are.

That is the Tekiyah blast, the long steady note of the shofar. Strong, together, solid. Then comes the contemplation, the acknowledgement that our lives may not be what we had thought they would be. Perhaps, we have not acted in ways we know we can act. We have experienced sadness, loss, and disappointment. The long blast breaks apart—Shevarim—three short blasts, one after the other, “I have turned away, I have forgotten my best self, I want to be better,” we admit. So, we use this day to go deep, to spend the time in a soul searching, a soul dissecting examination, and we realize there are many broken pieces like the blasts of Teruah—short, quick, successive blasts, and a reflection of the fractured nature of our own soul.

The goal of the internal work we do is to effect the result at the end—Tekiyah Gedolah—a longer, stronger, sustained blast of the shofar declares the opportunity to repair and to begin again, to wipe the slate clean. Our souls are even more whole than when we began because our self examination and reflection enable us to have faith in the possibility of becoming more whole.

If we feel a big disconnect between the sharp, punctuated, brokenness of the numerous Teruah sounds and the long steady flow of the Tekiyah Gedolah declaring wholeness and repair, we know we have hard, yet holy work to do.

The path is blocked by so many burdens: fear, doubt, anxiety, imperfection, anger. The burdens have burdens. Look around. We all have them. The pain of life is universal. It is often unpredictable in its arrival, but it is predictably attached to the human experience.

Sorrow, suffering, and despair are our natural responses to these difficulties.  If life’s hindrances weren’t enough, the mistakes we make, the transgressions we engage in can be like salt to the wound. The wounds we bear color our world. They sit heavy upon our souls. We cannot make some of the greatest sorrows vanish. They speak truth to the pain many of us endure.

Would it, could it be possible to make it out of here in one piece? Is that long, smooth blast even accessible?

You already know the answer. Our awareness of our troubles and sorrow and an intention to face them may begin to move us, as Joshua Loth Liebman taught, “out of the tunnel of darkness to sit upon the mountain of light.”

May these holidays, the blasts of the shofar, and the presence of community bring you to new heights of awareness and sweetness, and may the journey of T’shuvah awaken your very being to all that is wonderful, beautiful, and beloved about your life and those who surround you.

(originally shared 9.7.18)

L’shanah Tovah!

Shabbat Shalom!

I truly value hearing your thoughts and reflections. Connect with me here.

  • If you are in town, come join us for Qabbalat Shabbat indoors with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and some treats to eat and drink. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or livestream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • A delightful Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. We begin with a short service and Torah reading and then jump into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Gather online for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Our weekly Havdalah ritual is a lay-led experience. Stop by, say hello, catch up from the week, and say goodbye to Shabbat together. Join on Zoom.
  • On Sunday, we share Erev Rosh Hashanah. Village Service begins at 4:45 p.m. Riverway gathers at 6:15 p.m. The Community service begins at 7:30 p.m., with a Family preneg at 6:45 p.m., and the Grand Homecoming Schmooze immediately after the service. The evening will end with a late night shofar experience at 10:00 p.m. Zoom links will be sent to all members in good standing. Services will also be available via livestream. Please visit our website for service descriptions.
  • We gather for Rosh Hashanah on Monday morning. Village and Family services begin at 8:45 a.m. Our community service will be held twice—once at 9:00 a.m. and once at 11:30 a.m. Zoom links will be sent to all members in good standing. Services will also be available via livestream. Please visit our website for service descriptions.
  • A lay-led second day service will be held Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher