Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated this year by Jews around the world September 9-10, 2010. One of the main special rituals associated with this major holiday is the blowing of the shofar or ram’s horn. During prayer services the shofar is blown like a trumpet, proclaiming a new year and pronouncing God as King. There are four different patterns of musical notes that are each given a name and called out during this ritual by the rabbi, cantor or leader of the congregation. Tekiah– a single note blast, Shevarim– three medium blasts, Teruah-nine staccato like blasts and finally Tekiah Gedolah– a single note very long blast. Jewish tradition prescribes that over the course of the two days of Rosh Hashanah that the shofar is sounded one hundred times.
One of my favorite explanations of this ritual is that the shofar is like a Jewish alarm clock, intended to stir our souls with its uniquely deep and eerie sounds. It is supposed to wake us out of our slumber to change our lives and the community for the better in the upcoming New Year. Rosh Hashanah, together with the holiday of Yom Kippur ten days later are an opportunity for each of us to pause and appreciate our wonderful world and then to reflect on where we fit into that world and how we can enrich ourselves and improve as individuals and as a community. The shofar is the instrument to help us with this spiritual work but it is incumbent on each one of us to follow up and take action.
There are several such opportunities here at the J for enrichment and self-growth in the coming year. Join us for a play in our fabulous New Jewish Theater program. Listen to an outstanding visiting author at the upcoming St. Louis Jewish Book Festival in November and participate in The Big Community Read. Celebrate with your family at a young family tot Shabbat or community holiday program. These are just a few examples among many here at the J of such opportunities that I hope you consider in the upcoming Jewish year of 5771. Each of us will choose a different path but the important thing is to wake up and do something, as the shofar reminds us to do.
May this year be for you and your family one of blessing, health, and happiness.
Shanah Tovah (Happy New Year),
Rabbi Brad Horwitz