The shofar is a fascinating ritual object. It is a throwback to a different time. A time when rams horns were used for communication. Some blows from the rams horn would signify the start of something, other blast would signal warning of some impending danger. However, today that sound serves a very different purpose. Today the sound of the shofar serves as a way to bridge the gap between us and "the other".
The fact that we celebrate holydays by the Hebrew calendar is an interesting phenomena. By connecting ourselves to two different methods of keeping time, it makes our relationship with time very unique. Our two different timetables send a message that our bodies operate on the American/Gregorian calendar, however, our souls operate in a different sphere of time. A sphere of time that is captured through our connection to a calendar that is not our daily one.
We all remember the saying when we were little that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I would like to offer an amendment to that phrase. I offer that we should change the but to an and.
As many of our younger congregant's head back to school I am reminded of a favorite teaching of mine about the different types of learners. This teaching comes from Pirkei Avot a collection of Jewish wisdom compiled by the first Rabbis between the first century BCE and 200 CE:
Last Sunday night a rally was held in front of town hall. It was a rally against racism and in support of Charlottesville. About 40 people were there with signs including children. As drivers passed by, they honked in support. All except for one car that yelled something undiscernible out the window. While the words could not be made out the tone was angry and hostile. It temporarily shattered the holy space that had been created. After a moment, the group returned to singing and cars honked more support.
Dear Temple Beth David community,
The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past week-end where white nationalists spewed their hatred are both tragic and deeply disturbing. Both my parents and grandparents are natives of Virginia, and members of my family are graduates of UVA. These events therefore touch my life in a very personal way.
Tisha B'av reminds us that we can mourn or we can act.
Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate in physics was once asked, ''Why did you become a scientist, rather than a doctor or lawyer or businessman, like the other immigrant kids in your neighborhood? My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: 'So? Did you learn anything today?' But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. 'Izzy,' she would say, 'did you ask a good question today?' That difference - asking good questions -made me become a scientist!''
I was once at a day school doing a report on the students there. It was time for the morning services and everyone began to pray in Hebrew. About halfway through the service I asked a fourteen-year-old boy if he understood what he was saying. What he said next has stuck with me to this day.