Rosh Hashanah: New Year & Transformation-time

The Shofar: Awake! Sob! Breathe! Transform!

Rosh Hashanah – the New Year and (in another translation) the Beginning of Transformation -- begins tonight.  It comes with the glimmer of a reborn moon, the sacred seventh New Moon from the rebirth time of spring.

One of the profound practices of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the Shofar, the Ram’s Horn.

We blow our breath into the small end of the Shofar, and out of the other, larger end emerges a blast of uncanny, eerie, untuned sound –--  or a music we train ourselves to shape.

This is a metaphor for every human being. The Breath of Life, the Interbreathing of the world, blows into us –--  and out come breath, words, actions, lives  that may be untuned , discordant  --  or a music of  loving care.  The music of a loving future, calling from our children to ourselves.


The different notes we learn to sound out on the Shofar have different meanings.

One calls out, “Alarm!”  --  “Awake!”

Another evokes sobs of grief as we realize how far we have wandered off the path of a loving life, the hurt we have caused others and ourselves.

Still another is a series of deep breaths as we begin to heal ourselves by healing those around us.

And still another is the joyful news of Transformation. We are taught that at Sinai,  the sound of a Shofar flooded the world  as the Breath of Life breathed words and music of Transformative Teaching.  -- And we are taught that the Shofar will sound again when we enter the Messianic days of peace and justice.

 It is a Jewish custom to wish that the Year ahead, the Transformation ahead, be “good and sweet.”

I am writing to send all of us –-- all of us, whether we celebrate these particular holy days or not --– this blessing:

That the year ahead will be sweet & good for a reason:

Because the glimmers of Transformation we are seeing within us and around us grow into a glow. And that even some of the darkness we see on the path teaches us how to keep moving

And above all, the blessing that we ourselves, each of us,  take a hand in growing that light within us and around us.

Although the holy days on which we are about to embark have been enriched by layer on layer of Jewish wisdom and practice, the underlying point is universal:

Face our mistakes, our misdeeds, the ways in which we have aimed the arrows of our actions toward lives of justice, peace, and healing but have missed the mark --- and turn ourselves in a new direction that, deep within us, is the “old” direction --- love.

That goes for us as individuals and also as members of a society.  When a whole society turns in an unloving direction, we call it a systemic failure – systemic racism, systemic militarism, systemic materialism, to face the “deadly triplets” that Dr. Martin Luther King named in a speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death.  (This new year we are beginning includes the April that will be the 50th anniversary of that speech; April 4, 2018, will be the 50th anniversary of his death.)

When we recite our misdeeds on these holy days, we deliberately say “We.”  “We have slandered, we have cheated, we have stolen, we have murdered.” I myself have not done all these things, but as a member of society, I have been complicit in them all.

This year, as the new year begins, we are hearing the Shofar-note of “Awake!” more deeply than for generations. We can hear the grinding, clashing sounds of a chasm in American society,  one that has been widening and sharpening for years but has been made far more visible and audible by an extraordinary election campaign.

And it is not only Americans who face that chasm, but all human communities and all the life-forms on our planet.  

So may we all, this Beginning–time, turn the Shofar-call of Alarm into the response of Transformation.

May all of us  -- Board, staff, members, friends of  The Shalom Center –-  bless each other: May the coming year be filled with goodness and the sweet taste of loving Transformations.

Site Placement: 

Universal: 

Jewish and Interfaith Topics: 

Add new comment