Cantor’s Column – September 2018

The Blast of the Shofar

Cantor Ilan Davidson

As I am typing this month’s article, I can still hear the echo of the shofar blast in my head, resonating from our recent Shabbat service. It tells me that Rosh HaShanah is near and announces the newness and opportunities that each year brings us. Truly, when we hear shofar, it is an abiding reminder that there can always be a NEW song in our lives.

While we choose to celebrate with shofar on Shabbat at Temple Beth El, tradition seems to forbid it. If the sound of the shofar is such a joyous thing, then why is it that tradition restricts us on Shabbat? Tradition says we should blow the shofar every day other than Shabbat, starting from Elul 1 and ending on Elul 28. We do not blow on Elul 29, the day before Rosh HaShanah. We do this in preparation for the sounding of the full shofar service on Rosh HaShanah. We celebrate and search our resonant souls for the newness we look forward to in the coming year.

I researched this restriction and the only forbiddance which I was able to find is regarding the carrying of objects on Shabbat. The shofar itself does not break any Jewish law, not needing any kind of tuning, the hearing of sound on Shabbat is not forbidden, but our joy in celebrating shofar is restricted, because we might have to carry it outside of the home or the synagogue? At Temple Beth El, our shofarot live here within the building and are part of our Jewish family, so we invite them to be a part of our Shabbat tradition each and every week of the month of Elul. While we do not hold a responsibility to all Jewish law as Reform Jews, we do have the responsibility to understand Jewish law and tradition, and the choices that we make surrounding those.

As 5779 approaches, may we all find it in our souls to study, learn, and understand the choices that we make within the fabric of Jewish law and tradition, and may we celebrate those choices with the same yearning for newness in our lives that the blasts of the shofar represent. Each Shabbat, as Rosh HaShanah approaches, may we listen to those blasts and consider all of the new opportunities that the coming year might bring us—in our homes, in our lives, and here at Temple Beth El. May we as a community celebrate more, learn more, and spend more time in sacred relationship with each other in this New Year of 5779.