It was wonderful to pray with everyone who joined us for Rosh HaShanah services this year. Below is the excerpt that Dr. Gary Pomeranz shared before expertly sounding the shofar. Please take a moment to read it in case you missed it. You can also read both Rosh HaShanah sermons I delivered this year here. We hope to see you for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur services next week. Wishing you cheshbon hanefesh, soul-searching and soul-accounting, and teshuva, repentance during these intervening Yamim Noraim, Days of Awe. See the link to Rabbi David Bernstein’s Preparing for Yom Kippur: A Practical Teshuva Exercise on p. 2 of the Pardes Companion to Yom Kippur, for a simple step-by-step guide to on how to “do teshuva.”
G’mar chatimah tova ~ Rabbi Bair
Shofar-Praying With Our Breath 2016
by Moshe Braun
Normally, during the entire year, we pray for our physical needs. In so doing, we pray with our physical being: our throat, tongue, teeth, and lips. But on Rosh HaShanah we use our breath, our spiritual essence, and blow into the shofar. On Rosh HaShanah we pray in the purest form for spiritual guidance and understanding.
The shofar sound comes from a pre-verbal, deeper place, in our being. With words, we take sides, we categorize, we accuse. When we use words, we are forced to classify others as enemy or friend. And others, using words, would categorize us in a similar way. The pure, non-verbal sounds of human pain or loss transcend those categories created by speech. These non verbal sounds speak to us from and about our basic shared humanity. Thus with the Shofar, we defend ourselves against the structures that speech has created. With the moan of the shofar we simplify, and strip down to essentials. When we blow the shofar, we are asking to be seen not as Jews or non-Jews, good people or bad people, but as simply human: in pain, moaning, crying, and asking to be understood, and judged, as such.
The shofar sound is our Rosh HaShanah prayer to God: “May this year be one in which we seek the path of spiritual benefit, and not purely physical needs and lusts.”
If we take the time to construct a sincere, realistic model of how we’ve fallen short in the past, and what we expect to change in the future, then God doesn’t need to “wake us up” to what we already know.
The Talmud says: “When there’s judgment from below, there’s no need for judgment from above.”