Archive for the '8.1.1 Rosh HaShanah' Category

Wait for Me Until I Welcome: Further Reflections from an Orthodox Rabbi to his Gay Children

As a religious person I am moved by a sense of divine purpose. While we as Jews do not use the word “calling”, I do feel that I work in the service of realizing God’s will on earth. As a Rabbi and Jewish communal servant I have a sense of what it means to sacrifice happiness for a cause. How many nights do I spend away from my own children working to enrich the lives of other people’s children? Avraham is a model of someone who lived with divine purpose. Even if God directed Avraham, as a father it is hard for me to imagine that Avraham kicked Yishmael out and almost sacrificed Yitzhak. Did he not love his sons? If he did, why didn’t Avraham protest on behalf of his sons as he did for the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:23- 33)? In that case, God actually listens to Avraham and engages him in debate. Or even better, why didn’t Avraham just politely “take leave” of God for the sake of his sons?  At the beginning of the Torah portion, three strangers approach Avraham in the desert.  Commenting on this, the Midrash says that “he turned to God and said, ‘with purity of heart, Master of the world, let the Shekhinah (the divine presence) wait for me until I welcome these guests.’”(Midrash HaGadol on Genesis 18:2).

What was Avraham thinking when he drove his son Yishmael away and made him wander in the desert? What was Avraham thinking when he brought Yitzhak up to Mount Moriah to sacrifice him? In the case of Sodom, God is willing to engage in debate. In the case of the strangers, God understands that Avraham’s turning away is not disrespectful, but it is in service of another value. Is anything so sacred that we would be unable to welcome those who feel marginalized, are in danger, and need our help? What if they are our own children?

Since the publication of Promises for My Gay Children, Pastor John Pavlovitz and I have carved out some time to Skype. We have only begun to talk, learn, and reflect together, but we have much to share regarding how we decided to come out in support of people who might be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or  Transgender (LGBT). We realized that despite our differences of our faith, religion, and culture, we both share some fundamental things. The most obvious one is that we both have a profound love of our children as well as a deep love of all of God’s children. For both of us it is our faith itself that has lead us to where we are. We were also both moved to speak about the staggering statistics. Here are a few:

  • A LGBT youth is more than twice as likely to be homeless ( National Coalition for the Homeless)
  • Family rejection of gay and transgender youth often leads to attempted suicide. According to a 2009 study, gay youth who reported higher levels of family rejection in adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide than their gay peers who did not experience family rejection. They were also 5.9 times as likely to have experienced depression, 3.4 times as likely to have used illicit drugs, and 3.4 times as likely to have had unprotected sex. ( Center for American Progress)
  • A Columbia University study showed that roughly 20% of LGBT teens have attempted suicide, compared to 4% of straight teenagers. That is five times more likely.

Rejecting who our children are is tantamount to asking them to sacrifice themselves on the alter of our expectations. With these stark numbers, we cannot be silent. Shetikah KeHodaah Damia – Silence is Acquiescence ( Ketubot 14b).  We need to argue and debate as if our children’s lives depended on it.  Not being intentional and explicit about our unconditional love might drive them out of our lives.

In Vayera, this week’s Torah portion, we read all of these stories of Avraham’s trying to manifest his divine purpose on earth. We should humbly choose which narratives of Avraham to tell in order to ensure that our children are not made to feel like strangers. In the Midrash, Rabbi Aha depicts a speculative dialogue between Avraham and God at the binding of Yitzhak. There we read:

When I [God] commanded you [Avraham], ‘Take now your son,’ [to sacrifice him] (Genesis 22:2), I will not alter that which has gone out of my lips. Did I tell you, ‘Slaughter him?’ No! But, ‘take him up’ (Genesis 22:2). You have taken him up. Now take him down.  (Genesis Rabbah 56:8)

If we think our tradition demands we risk our children’s lives by not accepting them, like Avraham maybe we are misreading our tradition. God does not need our defense and God will most certainly be there when we get back. All of our children are angels who are just waiting to be welcomed into the tent.

In the Field – Thank You Camp Directors

According to Hasidic thinking the days of Elul are the time when “the King is in the field.” The metaphor follows that gaining an audience with the King during Tishrei is a whole to-do. We must travel to the capital city, arrange an appointment, and then get permission to enter the palace. It may be days or weeks before we are finally allowed to enter. And even then, when we do finally get to see the King, the audience is likely to be short and very formal. Lost among the throngs of people, it is hard to imagine it being a deeply personal interaction. Since very few of us actually live in the capital city, these royal surroundings we experience during the High Holidays makes us feel out-of-place. By the time we get there we might have even forgotten why we came to seek the audience of the King in the first place. It hardly seems like a good plan for a meaningful experience.

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Once a year, the King leaves the capital to visit the various constituents of the Kingdom. According to the Rabbi Schneur Zalman (the first Lubavicher Rebbe) during Elul “anyone who desires is granted permission and can approach the King and greet the King. The King received them all pleasantly, and shows a smiling countenance to all” (Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b) Now a King can’t just enter a city unannounced. This explains the shofar. Here in the field the formality is transformed into familiarity. We the common folk are allowed to come out to greet the King and receive personalized blessings. During Elul, with limited effort, the King is accessible. We just need to go out and greet the King.

When I try to imagine that space of meeting the King in the field I am transported to rich memories from my youth in nature at camp. Jewish summer camp is an amazing place where many of us had our first experiences of spirituality, community, and personal connections to Jewish life.

In my six years working at the Foundation for Jewish Camp I am consistently amazed by the senior leadership at camp. Each of them in their own way play an incredible role in setting the stage for joyous Judaism in their camp utopia. While most of the year they are running a business called camp, when the time comes to move up to camp they are transformed. You will see many of them walking around their camps picking up trash as if you were in their living rooms. They treat camp as their home and they invite hundreds of people to sleep over. Walking around camp they know everyone’s names, their stories, and how to make personal connections. They decide who stays and who goes. They are responsible for so many lives, but they are not cowering behind their desks. Rather, they are out there on the playing on the baseball field. In the environment of camp the senior leadership is king, but camp is special because they know that their power is making room for others and being accessible. Each camp is creating an environment in which their campers and staff feel that they belong, make a difference, and are part of something bigger then themselves. We all owe the camp leadership a great deal. Thank you. In these moments we can experience the majesty of Elul.

Have a wonderful New Year.

– Reposted from Canteen Blog

Room For Improvement

A couple of years ago I was walking to synagogue with my two boys on the morning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and I wanted to engage them in a discussion about the holiday. At the time Yadid was seven and Yishama was five. To get the ball rolling I simply said, “Another name for Rosh Hashanah is Yom HaDin. So besides celebrating a new year, it is also the time when we reflect on how we might want to improve ourselves in the coming year.” At this point I felt a huge urge to just tell the boys how I wanted them to improve. I know that I am not alone. I want my children to be the best they can be so if I love my children so much, how could I stay silent and not tell them how to improve? It seems so clear to me what they need to change to be the mensches I so desperately what them to become, so of course I should just give them a list, right? I decided that instead of going in that direction, I would shift the conversation and said, “So since today is the day we work on our improving ourselves, let’s start. Tell me what you think I need to be working on to be a better abba (father).”

Wow, what a difference! Not only did they give me amazing feedback that I use until this day, but without any additional prompting they started giving each other feedback. What a blessing to be part of this conversation. Holding back my own voice at this moment created room for us all to grow and improve. I know that this internal voice of the overbearing parent is coming from a good place, but I also know that it does not always get the desired results. So, where did I learn this?

Upon reflection, I realized that I learned this technique as a junior counselor at Jewish overnight camp. It was there in the context of managing a bunk of children that I learned how to create an ideal learning environment. It was there that I learned how I might get more bees with honey then vinegar (another important message for Rosh Hashanah). I also learned the important difference between being authoritarian and authoritative. Seeding power actually creates space for other voices. So years later as a father I knew that suspending my own need to share my love created space for us all to share our love with each other. I cannot say I got it right that year as a JC, but I deeply appreciate the space of camp and what it taught me. Someone else who was more experienced could have done it better, but in the spirit of Jewish camp, they got out of the way to make room for an 18-year-old to find his voice. I in turn learned how to make room for my campers and eventually my own children. Jewish camp is magical. Yesterday’s campers are today’s counselors and tomorrow’s parents. If it was not for camp I am not sure I would have been blessed with the loving, powerful, and thoughtful critique from a five-year old. Jewish camp has cultivated in me the desire, skills, and confidence to be a more accessible and loving parent.

Shanah Tova -May we all be blessed to make more space for more loving voices this year.

– Reposted from the Canteen

2nd Quadrant

As I prepare for Rosh HaShana I have been giving some thought to how I might better use my time this coming  year. I got to thinking about Stephen Covey ‘s Four Quadrants. I have found this concept of a time management matrix for prioritizing very helpful. The system asks you to use of four quadrants to determine the tasks you “need” to do and deciding what should be made a priority. For those who are not familiar with it, here’s a picture and a brief overview.

  • In Quadrant 1 (top left) we have important, urgent items – items that need to be dealt with immediately.
  • In Quadrant 2 (top right) we have important, but not urgent items – items that are important but do not require your immediate attention, and need to be planned for.  This quadrant is highlighted because this is the quadrant that we should focus on for long-term achievement of goals
  • In Quadrant 3 (bottom left) we have urgent, but unimportant items –  items which should be minimized or eliminated. These activities suck a lot of out time.
  • In Quadrant 4 (bottom right) we have unimportant and also not urgent items – items that don’t have to be done anytime soon, perhaps add little to no value and also should be minimized or eliminated.

In Covey’s words we should create habits that put “first things first to achieve effectiveness. Too often decisions are guided by the “clock” of scheduling and not by the “compass” of purpose and values. In Covey’s words, if people want “to live, to love, to learn, and to leave a legacy” they need to move beyond “urgency” . We need to strive to spend more of our time in the Quadrant 2.

So while preparing for the upcoming Jewish and academic years I get to reading the end of Nitzavim, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil, 16 in that I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep God’s commandments and God’s statutes and God’s ordinances; then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God shall bless you in the land when you go in to possess it. 17 But if your heart turn away, and you will not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I declare to you this day, that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days upon the land, when you pass over the Jordan to go in to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you may live, you and your seed. (Deuteronomy 30: 15-19)

It is interesting to realize that our lives are on a clock. We have no idea how long we have, but we do know that our time on earth is finite. It is also interesting to realize that the words “good and evil” are charged with meaning in the Bible. I am not sure that there is absolute good and evil after Eden. I would assume that good actually means that something is serving the expressed will of God. So instead of reading this as a simple choice of two paths, I prefer to see our Torah portion in the context of Covey’s Four Quadrants. While we hope to spend the most of our time doing things that are urgent and good, I have to realize that there are many things that take our time and are not mission aligned. I am not sure that they are false gods, but they are clearly a waste of the precious little time I have and de facto bringing me closer to death.

And more importantly, how much of this upcoming year am I going to commit to doing the things that are not urgent, but are good? Spending our time in the 2nd Quadrant  is clearly the divine way. There is much I hope to accomplished in my life, what am I doing to do this year to prioritize my time to achieve it?  May we all be blessed to have a year in the 2nd Quadrant.

Shanah Tova– Have a wonderfully sweet and mission aligned New Year.


The Subtle Sound of Purpose

With Rosh Hashanah behind us and Yom Kippur right around the corner I am sure that I am not alone in trying to start this year in a meaningful way. It is hard to escape the haunting language of the un’taneh tokef. There is one line from that prayer that I just could not get out of my head. We read time and again, “uvashofar gadol yitaka, v’kol d’mama daka yishama – The great shofar will be sounded, and the still small voice will be heard.” To quote P.D. Eastman “Big dogs need big beds and little dogs need little beds.” I would have assumed that a big shofar would be used to make a big noise. What are we to make of this little sound that is coming out of this big shofar?

According to Jewish Law, every fifty years we celebrate the Jubilee in which we release all slaves, land, and debts. The sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah last week announced the jubilee year, and the sound of the shofar on Yom Kippur will proclaim the actual release of financial encumbrances. It would not be so bold to claim that this great Shofar sound itself was the freedom we experience on this Jubilee year spiritually and physically.

And this “still small voice: is an allusion to the revelation Elijah experienced at Sinai. After traveling for forty days and forty nights, Elijah is the first person after Moses to return to Sinai. When he got there he took shelter in a cave and God asked him what he is doing there. Elijah evaded the question. God asked Elijah to go outside the cave and “stand before the Lord.” A terrible wind passed, but God was not in the wind. A great earthquake shook the mountain, but God was not in the earthquake. Then a fire passed the mountain, but God was not in the fire. Then a “still small voice” comes to Elijah and asks again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:13)

In many ways the essence of these High Holy Days is our being able to answer Elijah’s question. Why are we here? Whether that is in synagogue, at a family gathering, or on this planet, all of us need to think about why we are here. Even if you do not have an answer to this question, can we imagine what it might feel like to have one? How liberating would that be? Living a life with purpose might not be flashy or make a huge noise, but it will surely free us from a meaningless existence.

Seeing that this is the time of year that we are all doing our personal accounting, I have to ask myself why I work for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. This past summer I asked a camp director how we might measure success for his campers after spending the summer at his camp. He responded, “Well I am not sure this is what you are looking for, but many parents have reported that they are getting more hugs from their children.” As we get ready for Yom Kipper we are all thinking about being accountable. I think we should hear the sound of the great Shofar and listen up for the small stuff. For many campers, camp is the first time in their lives that they have the feeling of belonging. Camp is where they will discover their purpose. While it might seem subtle, as a parent I can tell you that knowing my children live with purpose is profound and resonating sound of freedom.

Gmar Chatima Tova – Have a good and significant ending.

-See Foundation for Jewish Camp Blog

By Any Other Name- Happy New Year

Tonight starts Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. It is interesting in that there are many names for this holiday.  It is known as Yom Harat Olam – The Birthday of the World. Tonight we commemorate the day that the world was created. Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom Teruah – the day of sounding the Shofar for obiovus reasons in that we are commanded to listen to the Shofar as the coronation of God as King. Rosh HaShanah is also known as Yom HaDin – the Day of Judgment. We can discuss if this is the end or the beginning of this process of Judgement. And of course we could not forget that tonight starts Yom HaZikaron– the Day of Remembrance. What else might we have to remember?

So we clearly have the creation of the world. We also have a personal accounting for the year our personal histories, and particularly our behaviour over the last year. Some claim that it is in memory of the Akedah. This binding of Isaac represents the first of a our long history of national existential crises. We read this portion on Rosh HaShanah and it is the tradition that the binding happened on this day, first of Tishrei. While Abraham was the first Jew by choice, Isaac was the first person born Jew. This not being sacrificed in some ways represents the recreation of the first Jew. This Shofar itself reminds of the Ram sacrificed in Isaac’s place on the altar. In an interesting way it also serves to announce Isaac. While God is the true King, we too connect to our royalty on this holiday.

So one question I have is if  tomorrow is really Yom Harat Olam? According to the Talmud Rosh Hashanah there are two opinions as to the date of God’s creation of the universe. According to Rabbi Eliezer, “The world was created in Tishrei,” that is the sixth day of creation, which is the day of which Adam and Eve were created, was the first of Tishrei, celebrated each year as Rosh Hashanah. According to Rabbi Joshua, “The world was created in Nisan.”(Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a) Which isYom Harat Olam, Rosh HaShanah or Rosh Hodesh Nissan? Some mystics resolved this question by claiming that the physical world was created in Tishrei, while the “supernal idea” of creation had emerged earlier, in the month of Nisan.

When the Torah is discussing Nissan is says:

1 Observe the month of Aviv, and keep the Passover for the Lord your God; for in the month of Aviv the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. 2 And you shall sacrifice the Passover-offering for the Lord your God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to cause God’s name to dwell there. 3 You shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt you eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. (Deuteronomy 16:1-3)

Which is Yom Harat Olam seems connected to knowing which is Yom HaZikaron? What are we trying to remember?  Tomorrow is the day we recall the sparing of the first Jew at the hands of his father. In Nissan we remember the sparing of the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians. I might feel differently come Nissan,  but for now with so many looming existential crises right now in Israel and in the rest of world, it seems not to matter. We could use as many reminders in a year or in a day as we can.  Regardless if we experience issues as personal, familial, tribal, local,  regional, state, national, global, we all need fixing. In the immortal words of George Santayana , “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. I hope that when we hear the sound of the Shofar we  find a way to return to a better relationships in our lives and in our own way be “reborn” and recreated for the coming year. May we all be remembered well and  judged favorably.

Shanah Tova- Gmar Chatima Tova

Serious Man

As we come to the close of the 10 days of Repentance and are gearing up for Yom Kippor it seems appropriate to share a reflection on the movie a Serious Man. When the film came out it was  lauded as the modern, or at least the 1950’s version, of the story of Job in the Bible. The comparison is obvious both Job and Larry Gopnik, the main character of the movie, seem to be punished despite not doing anything wrong. It clearly tests our notion of divine justice.

What is compelling about the film? For me it is the scene pictured above. Mr. Gopnik goes to his roof to fix the TV reception and ends up ogling his neighbor sunbathing. Mr. Gopnik does not cheat on his wife with this woman, in fact it is his wife who is cheating on him. It just seems to underscore the pathetic nature of his life. This image of him on the roof asks us to compare him to David for a moment. It was David who got into trouble when he went out onto his roof and saw Uriel’s wife Batsheva. David had an adulterous affair with Batsheva and is still remembered throughout history as the paradigmatic king and the for-bearer to the Messiah.  David is able to recover from doing sin because the sin itself becomes the platform for growth. Mr. Gopnik does nothing wrong, but he also seems to do nothing.

My grandfather used to say, “If you are afraid of making mistakes, stay in bed, then you have only made one mistake.” The shofar on Rosh HaShana was the wake up call to get us out of bed. Yom Kippur is our platform to repair ourselves and our relationships. We need to reconcile the fact that to act in the world means to make mistakes. We need to strive for excellence and repair those mistakes. We need to take our actions seriously, not ourselves. Gmar Chatima Tova

More on Woodcutters and Water Carriers

Last week marked our daughter Emunah’s first birthday and my first year anniversary of writing this blog. At the start of last week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim VaYelech we read,

9You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God—your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, 10your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodcutter to water carrier (Deuteronomy  29:9-10)

Every Jew was included in the renewal of the covenant, regardless of his or her socio-economic situation or the variety of his or her religious/ritual commitment. But, what can we learn from the Torah’s specifying from the woodcutter to the water carrier?

The Bible seems to be telling a story of a dynamic tension between these two vocations. Last year I explored how Adam and Eve might be understood metaphorically as the woodcutter and the water carrier. This year I wanted to suggest two more readings.

Soon after we celebrate Rosh HaShanah we will celebrate Simchat Torah and reboot our yearly cycle of Torah reading.  And then just after the creation of the world, we will turn our attention to Noah and his generation. While there are many stories in the Bible in which people are looking for water, in the time of Noah that is not their issue. God sent a flood to expunge the world of the poor behavior of the sinners of Noah’s generation. Noah saved humanity from the peril of too much water by following God’s direction to make and ark of gopher wood (Genesis 6:14) In this context we can see that the people acting like animals were the water carriers and Noah in hewing the wood for the ark was the woodcutter. This is to say that in last week’s Torah portion we were inviting everyone from the savior ( Noah)  to the sinner ( the people who caused the flood). We learn that no one has the monopoly on access to Torah.

For today’s readers the story of the flood seems like a Disney movie, but have evolved so much since biblical times. We think we are in control and that we have conquered nature. But it is obvious from the recent flooding  in Pakistan and Katrina here in America that this is far from the case. As much as we try we cannot transcend nature. Even Noah the person who survived the flood by becoming the woodcutter did not know when to leave the ark he built. There we read,
The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the waters had decreased on the earth.( Genesis 8:11)
There is a sweet irony in that we almost went extinct in acting like animals in becoming the water carriers and it was an animal that became a woodcutter and saved Noah and his family.  In this sense the invitation of the woodcutter to the water carrier  is a reminder of the famous words of Rabbi Simcha Bunam. He said,
Every person should have two pockets. In one, [there should be a note that says] bishvili nivra ha’olam, ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, [there should be a note that says] anokhi afar va’efer, ‘I am dust and ashes.’
It seems that control itself might be illusory. I hope that Emunah has another wonderful year perfecting her walking and learning how to navigate her “two pockets”.

Reward Beyond Reward and Punishment

Reward and PunishmentAs I get ready for the High Holidays, I go back to my yearly struggle with the popular understanding of reward and punishment. As we will diligently read the prayers of U’Nitaneh Tokef, “On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning.” By definition, we cannot know the answers to these questions, so I often ask myself, who cares? And even if I did know, I do not feel that this way of thinking is what motivates me to follow Halacha. And even worse than that, if I really assumed that my perception of reward and punishment was supposed to motivate me, I would need to undertake an unbearable theodicy. How else could I interpret the suffering of innocent children? God forbid God be unjust.

So there I am in me yearly quandary, and my wife tells me that she got a lovely call from Yadid’s teacher. Yadid, our eldest child, just started Kindergarten last week. His teacher wanted to tell us that he is a pleasure and a real Mentsch. Whatever we are doing as parents she wanted us to keep it up. But what are we doing as parents?

So the next day as I was walking Yadid to the bus stop I asked him about his day at school. He reports back to me about his class trip to an orchard to go apple picking for Rosh HaShanah. I tell him how happy I am that he is enjoying his new school and how proud I am to have gotten such a nice call from his teacher. I asked him what he thinks he did to make the teacher want to call us. He recalled that the Kippah of one of his classmates had blown off and he had run to retrieve it. I asked, “Why did you do that?”. Yadid responds, “It’s a Mitzvah”. I push, “Why do you do Mitzvot?” Yadid responds, “Because I get treasures”. Evidently his teacher gives out prizes for good behavior.  Unsure of what would come next; I asked Yadid, “Why do you think Abba does Mitzvot?”

There was a pregnant pause, during which I ponder sharing with my son my seasonal theological crises. And then I look at my five year old son who is just now on his way to school. His heart and mind are even more open than his eyes curious for me to answer my question. “Yadid, you know that you, your brother, and your sister are my treasures, I do Mitzvot so that I can get you in my life”. And with that I caressed his cheek and he gave me a hug.  Was I dishonest to hide from him my issues of reward and punishment? Was saying the “truth” for him or for me? In the end  (or at the least at this point in my life) it was a lie.  I can only hope that one day Yadid will read this blog that he inspired and see a deeper truth. One day he will become my Philosopher King. Parenting is complex, tiring, and often thankless, but a moment when my son knows that he is treasured is its own “reward”.

The Ruckus of Rosh HaShanah

blog shofarAs we get ready for Rosh HaShanah (FYI-it is this Friday night), we get ready to hear the blasts of the Shofar, which is associated with the Jewish New Year. In comparison, we make a lot of noise on Purim to blot out the name of the wicked Haman, but it does not come close to significance of hearing the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah. What is the meaning of all of this noise on the Jewish New Year?

For some of us, it might be a new thing and strange sound. For some it might remind us of growing up and hearing it at synagogue. For some it might remind us of the way we aspire to live our lives. Some might hear the walls of Jericho tumbling or the coronation of the King. For some it might be a blast to the past hearkening back to the ram at the binding of Isaac when Isaac was almost killed by his father Abraham. For some it might be the sound of Sisra’s mother at seeing the death of her child. And yet for others, it might just be an annoyance. I imagine the Shofar blast is supposed to evoke a combination of all of these feelings and more. In my mind the noise is supposed to comfort the uncomfortable and discomfort the comfortable.

Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar Movement, commented that the loudest sound in the universe was the breaking of a bad habit. If we listen closely to the sound of the Shofar this year we might just hear that we are indeed ( and in deed) in a groove or a rut. While on Purim we were trying to blot out the name of the wicked Haman, on Rosh HaShanah we are trying to blot out the wicked associated with our own names.

Gmar Chatima Tova– May your name be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good. After all of the Rosh HaShanah ruckus, I hope that you have a wonderfully harmonious New Year. For me it will be filled with the sweet sound of our new born daughter Emunah.

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