Friday, September 08, 2006

370. Shofar

I'm back from an unplanned but much needed blogging break, necessary not because I couldn't write, but because I had to take care of all the stuff I put off this summer in order to find time to write--paying bills, cleaning my apartment, fixing holes both physical and virtual. I seem to always want to do one more thing than there are hours in the day, or space in my brain.

I can scarcely believe Rosh Hashanah is in two weeks. (I've yet to have any rehearsals; presumably I'll be contacted soon. So different from the past two years, when I didn't know what I was doing and clearly needed all the practice I could get. Either the folks in charge have confidence in my abilities, or someone forgot to send an email.) The other day I went to a class all about the shofar, blown every morning during the month of Elul and at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. In Biblical sources, its sound is associated with triumph and the heralding of great events; in rabbinic commentary, that same piercing blast is compared to wailing and groaning. The Talmud recounts debates about what sort of horn--straight or twisted--is most appropriate to each different way of hearing the shofar.

We all agreed that a curved shofar--circuitous as life itself, requiring great effort to make a sound--fits this holiday perfectly. We're not just announcing the new year, but screaming to heaven and earth that we promise to expend the effort to change. The shofar's sound is, at times, as messy as that change; the blower's face turns red, he gasps for breath, his struggles are apparent for all to see and hear. As are ours during the Yamim Nora'im while we pray, cry and, in full sight of our community and of God, promise to do better. At the end of Yom Kippur, cleansed and exhausted, we take a new, deep breath and are ready to make another year of imperfect, occasionally beautiful sounds.

It occurred to me after this class that my vocal struggles last Rosh Hashanah, although miserable, were not inappropriate. I did, at the end of the day, sing rather than go back home and crawl into bed, and am here again to make more sounds. I hope they'll be a little more pleasant to hear, but the cycle of new years will continue even if they're not--and with it, infinite chances for me to try again.

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