The past year has passed rather quickly. As one thankfully becomes older, time seems to start racing by. Maybe that is part of what Einstein meant when he declared that time is relative. It certainly is relative to each individual person and to each differing circumstance and experience in life. There are long days and shorter ones depending on the occurrences in that twenty-four hour period of time.
This is indicated to us in the sounds of the shofar that we are privileged to hear on Rosh Hashanah. There are long smooth sounds that are vaguely comforting and steadying. There are many days in the year that are like that. It is the ordinary, uneventful day that we so treasure and long for. Then there are also more broken, sharper sounds that the shofar gives forth. These are the sounds of tension and confusion, of problems unresolved and disappointments and frustrations, of long lines and wasted times, of unfulfilled goals and unaccomplished errands.
I would imagine that there are many days of the year that correspond to these broken sounds of the shofar. These are the days of raising children, of career and work, of medical appointments and taxing traffic jams. Finally there is the sound of staccato warning, of the sirens of danger and feared destruction and loss. These are usually caused by things that are not under our particular control. Financial reversals, wars and violent conflicts, megalomaniacal national leaders, illness and accidents are the stuff of life but we are not happy to have to suffer or witness them. These circumstances make for a very long day.
The cliché is that we should not only count our days but more importantly make our days count. In spite of its being a rather trite cliché it nevertheless is a true and most valid one. Days are precious and should not be needlessly squandered. People who have worked and been busy and occupied for most of their lives often find it difficult to fill the days of retirement with meaningful and satisfying experiences. It is as though no sound of the shofar exists for them any longer.
The shofar of Rosh Hashanah serves as a wake up call to all of us. This is the famous statement of Maimonides in Mishna Torah explaining the commandment of sounding the shofar. It is to rouse us from our slumber of inactivity and lethargy and to encourage us towards acts of spiritual, social and national worth and value.
It bids us to become productive with our lives in a meaningful way. Rosh Hashanah becomes not only a day of calendar commemoration but rather a day of challenge and positive change – of goal setting and personal responsibility. No matter how long and short the day is for us, it should not be allowed to be an empty and silent one. The wise person has his or her ear attuned to hear the sound of the shofar every day in one’s heart and mind. It is the key to purposeful living.
Rosh Hashanah is also the day of memory. We all sense that memory is the greatest of all gifts granted to us. Memory impinges on all of our present actions and behavior. It is the coloring to our lives and the true guide to our goals and hopes. It decides for us who are one’s heroes and villains. It helps us make correct choices and to ignore previous errors and pitfalls. We are charged with remembering God and God, so to speak, remembers us on that holy day. In His omniscience, everything is remembered and recalled, judged, weighed and inscribed.
The sound of the shofar is also the sound of memory. What has gone before us is now restored to us once more. The shofar is a most powerful instrument of human recall and validation. In its sounds we hear our past, both personally and nationally. It serves not only as a wakeup call but also as documentary recording of our lives and events.
Its varied notes parallel the days of our years. The holiday heralds the beginning of a new good year but it also initiates within us the review of the past year and other previous years and times. We pray for better times, for health and healing, for successful endeavors and meaningful accomplishments and lasting achievements. So, the shofar is also the sound of hope and eternity, of improvement and redemption.
A very happy new year to all.
Ktiva v’chatima tova