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The Rosh Hashanah Survival Kit

Prelude to the Shofar

Psalm 47: To He Who Grants Victory

There are only two ways to build the tallest building. One, start building, or two, tear down all the others. The challenge of life is not unlike that of fashioning a majestic structure. In Jewish thought, this challenge is a forty-nine step process.*

* The forty-nine days that elapsed between the exodus from Egypt and the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai serve as a paradigm for this forty-nine step growth process. These are the forty-nine days that link the holidays of Passover and Shavuos and are known as the Sefira. Each day during this period is identified by a unique element of potential for personal growth and character development.

There are only two ways to reach our goals and realize our potential. One is by good old-fashioned dedication and persistence. The other is to redefine our potential as being what we have already achieved. Simple, game over.

We read Psalm 47 seven times. In doing so we mention God's name forty-nine times. We are reminded to set our goals in life high and to keep them there.

A Call for Clarity

The shofar is the most recognizable of all the Rosh Hashanah symbols. The sounding of the shofar plays a central role in the day's service. Young and old alike gather in a hush to listen carefully to the cry of the shofar.

1. The commandment on Rosh Hashanah is "to hear" the sound of the shofar. From the Shema we learn that "hearing" in Judaism means to understand. The call of the shofar is the sound that wakes us up so that we will make a choice for clarity, for awareness, for a fully constructive and purposeful life.

2. The blowing of the shofar consists of three sets of three different notes. Thus the minimum number of shofar blasts one is required to hear is nine; however, the accepted manner of blowing actually results in many more sounds. Each of the three notes (Tekiah, Teruah, Shevarim) is designed to evoke a particular idea and feeling.

Tekiah (long note): This note calls us from the routines of day-to-day living, from a dissipation of our creative energies, to refocus on who it is we truly want to be. The Tekiah challenges us to feel the power and the potential of our innermost selves—a part of ourselves we may have lost touch with over the year—and then dares us to commit ourselves to the pursuit of our awesome potential.

Teruah (short note): This note is more comforting. It softens us, allowing us to integrate the thoughts and feelings of the day. The Teruah says; before you rush headlong into the new year energized by your rekindled convictions, pause for a moment. Let the sense of inspiration settle in. Let it fill your soul.

Shevarim (medium note): This is an anxious, longing note. Feel the tugging, the yearning to somehow start again, this time accomplishing what we want in life. 3. On the simplest, most basic level the sound of the shofar is the muffled cry of an injured soul. A soul crying for freedom. Free to be its own uninhibited self. The homing signal in every Jewish heart.

This article is an excerpt from "Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit". This book masterfully blends wisdom, humor and down-to-earth spirituality. It's like having a knowledgeable friend sitting right next to you in the synagogue.



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