Shofar Sounds and Jewish Unity


By Joshua Goldstein

The shofar sounds that we blow on the High Holidays take on a new meaning this year as we enter the holiday.

Traditionally, the notes tekiah, shevarim, and teruah represent different notes of cries. This idea of crying is meant to stir our conscience during the time of Rosh Hashanah to confront our past errors and return to God who is ready to accept our contrition. However, due to Covid-19, the shofar sounds can be seen as a comforting sound. It represents the comforting sounds of community, although incredibly smaller this year, will mark an act of unification. Wherever we can connect to a service, the sound of the shofar will link us to one another. This year especially, because we are not at our same old service, shul or temple, we have the power of a greater insight to see things in a different perspective. Because our routines are affected, we can see the importance of being unified by a shofar which is part of an ancient tradition, regardless of how one Jew practices over another. We can no longer be as apathetic to the fact that all Jews are important and like the shofar, need to be heard by our brethren.

Here are some novel ways to view shofar:

– All Jews throughout the world, whether in a basement, in a tent, outdoors, and for some even online such as a Zoom call, will be hearing the shofar. This uniting act of listening to the shofar’s sound is a beautiful act of solidarity with Jews everywhere in the world. Instead of a crying sound, the sounds of the shofar become the sound of unity. Joining in blowing the shofar means that all Jews who participate in the blowing will be doing the same thing. This gives us comfort and strength in a time when we are drowning in social isolation. The shofar sounds are unifying and saying, “yes I can hear you”. The shofar becomes a form of communication that goes beyond words and yet expresses the full gamut of emotion.

– Instead of looking at the shofar as a crying sound, the shofar is a consoling sound. The shofar sound shows the potential that all Jews have, if we can come together. The shofar is a sound that unites us.

– Just like the shofar blast, all Jews need to be heard and respected. The shofar’s steady sound reminds us of our higher purpose in life and directs us to act correctly towards all Jews. Listen to a Jew with whom you don’t agree with. Find commonality and camaraderie.

– Just like each shofar has its unique and special sounds, all Jews are special, yet different, whose voices should be heard, even if different from yours.

– Just like the shofar sound is stark and piercing, we can pierce through our biases that we hold against other Jews.

When you focus on the shofar this year, be reminded of the larger Jewish community that lives and breathes for you – the individual Jew. Feel the awe of the trumpet as it heralds in the New Year with its sound of unity, it’s the sound of community and it is the sound that makes us become more sensitized to other Jews. Remembering these things can help transform the shofar sound from a tragic heart-wrenching cry to a sound of connection.

Although the shofar is sounded only on the holiday, the experience can be enough to ignite within you the idea that Jews can work together. We can use the shofar sounds as a catalyst for revolutionizing the way we think of other Jews who are not like us. What great potential exists here! Instead of promoting the hate and the loathing that bristles inside of us when we see “those kinds of Jews,” let us start to challenge our biases towards other Jews. In one instance the shofar I believe is a healing sound, a sound that promotes love. From love comes acceptance. Let’s start to see all Jews as simply Jews, to be cherished and accepted, wherever they are on the spectrum of religious practice.

Instead of living in isolation, the shofar takes on a new meaning in this context of Covid-19 and can open a new chapter in inter-denomination relationships and community building of Jews everywhere.

Let’s come together and take on the “challenge” for Jewish unity as one of our commitments during the upcoming year. Covid-19 has shown that we cannot do it alone and the strains of isolation can make us feel alone and cut off. As a people, we can unite. Help us make this the year of unity. Will you challenge yourself this year? Can the shofar blasts open your heart? Allow its unifying sound to change how you view other Jews. To discover new ways to think about Jewish unity this High Holiday season please download Herut North America’s free eBook “The Challenge For Jewish Unity” at https://herut.net/jewishunitybook.

Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America’s US Division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Joshua will be a delegate to the 38th World Zionist Congress for Herut. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/

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