On Shofar Blowing and Racism


מִן-הַמֵּצַר, קָרָאתִי יָּהּ;    עָנָנִי בַמֶּרְחָב יָהּ

Out of the tight place I called to the LORD; God answered me with great enlargement.

-Psalm 118:5

Rosh Hashanah is more than a New Year.  It is the beginning of the Aseret Y’mei Teshuvah, the 10 Days of Repentance, or Return, during which Jews traditionally take an inventory of their own actions, and make apologies for misdeeds both to other people and to God.

When is Rosh Hashanah? Click here to find out!

 The Shofar, the ram’s horn, is sounded on Rosh Hashanah to awaken each person’s soul to its state of disrepair, and its work of repentance.  Each time the Shofar is blown, it sounds 9 notes, in 3 units of 3 calls each.  Each “sandwich” begins with a Tekiah, a long note, followed by one of three sorts of short notes, and ends with another Tekiah.  Many Jewish communities have a custom to blow 100 Shofar blasts for each day of Rosh Hashanah, divided into several sections, of which one is during the Torah service and another is during the Musaf service, the additional service for Shabbat and holidays.  The final blast of each full set is Tekiah Gedolah, a Big Tekiah- one that lasts as long as the shofar blower’s breath can hold out.  

This year has brought us to an awareness of how much work there is yet to do regarding race and racism in our communities and ourselves.  The sound of the shofar breaks us open, and shows us where we need to process and heal.  Moving through a set of Shofar blasts that includes all the different sounds of the shofar, this meditation brings us through the process of Teshuvah, of Return, focusing on difference and unity.  

May it be your will G-d that you hear our prayers.

Tekiah: The first sound of the shofar blasts us from our complacency.  We thought we were all united, unified, undistinguished.  That first, single note breaks down our illusions.  We are not whole like that one piercing note is whole.  We know that we are separate, broken-apart from each other.

Posted on September 26, 2016

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