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Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Shofar as Sound and Symbol

Throughout the month of Elul the daily prayer service concludes with a single blast of the shofar. The shrill sound serves as a daily reminder that the New Year is coming and seeks to spur worshipers to engage in the difficult work of cheshbon hanefesh, personal accounting. With its raw, piercing cry, the shofar calls us back to find our authentic self.

Today I want to suggest that the message of the shofar extends beyond the sound. The shofar itself often has a smooth, shinyoutside. Shofars don’t come with such glossy exteriors naturally; rather it takes many hard, laborious hours of work to achieve such a polish. The inside of the shofar, however, is not polished. It remains rough and natural. This shiny exterior doesn’t affect the shofar’s sound. The natural, howling call shofar emerges from a coarse and unfinished place.

I believe we are all, in some ways, like the shofar. We devote much time and energy to creating smooth exteriors. Inside, however, we all have our course patches. In the year ahead let us not only hear the shofar’s call but also internalize its symbolism. Despite our roughness and unfinished interiors, we all have the power to send forth into the world our own powerful, authentic call. As we approach the New Year, may we all find our own voice and seek to share it with the world.

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