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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rosh Hashannah Reflections: Soul Jogged by the Sound of The Shofar

I'm a Torah observant Jew.  In the United States and Canada I'd be called strictly Orthodox.  In Israel I'm considered דתי לאומי dati le'umi, national religious, meaning that not only do I keep/observe the "standard" Torah commandments/mitzvot, I see my living in the Jewish Land, especially a place like where I live, Shiloh, to be observing the mitzvah, G-d given commandment to yishuv ha'Aretz, settle the Land.

some of my story
Growing up in the American suburb of Long Island in the 1960's I considered the greatest hypocrites to be the "armchair liberals," those who claimed to believe in certain ideals, like desegregation but told others to send their kids to those schools, and made every effort to keep their kids away in a "good" school.  The 1967 Six Days War happened at a very critical age for me.  Only a couple of years before I had taken on Torah observance and just a few months before it I had been introduced to Zionism.

Rav Goren's shofar
Those of you who heard the blasts of the shofar, ritual ram's horn on Rosh haShannah may have had been moved the way I had been.  Shofar blowing is a very difficult skill, and the shofar can been uncooperative.  That's what happened today in our local synagogue.  Suddenly the shofar refused to cooperate with the very experienced, competent and G-d-fearing neighbor who had been entrusted with the role of shofar blower.

There were many false starts, unplanned silence, and there were also some fantastic soul-shaking sounds that came out.  As he struggled and we patiently listened my mind went into some unexpected places.

First of all, I kept hearing myself saying in my mind how glad I am not to be a man.  I'd hate that sort of community responsibility.  I also have no desire to have to study to read the Torah for the congregations or lead the prayers.  I have enough to do.  It's not just the "women's work" of cooking and organizing the home.  There are many couples who split those jobs, and in some cases, the men take on the more traditional women's roles.  I would never give up my children, the pregnancies, nursing and raising them.  That's the role I had always wanted, and men are physically incapable of pregnancy.

And as my neighbor struggled to make the shofar cooperate, I thought of those women/couples who had dreamt of children and for whatever reasons, G-d didn't give them children.  As my neighbor blew into the shofar and nothing came out, I thought of those couples who suffer serious infertility.  Their empty homes are silent like that shofar. 

Not only are there couples struggling to have children, there are many people struggling to find the right ones to marry.  It's not a simple situation.  Just like it takes more than just blowing into a shofar to get the right sounds out, dating isn't always enough to find the right marriage partner.

There are things that just aren't in our control.  And we have to make the best of it.

I think I got the best "shaking up of the soul" from this year's blowing of the shofar than any other year, even though it may have seemed unsuccessful in the classic sense.  We learn more from difficulties than anything else.

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