The high holidays are just over a month away. But in our tradition we do not wait until the last minute to begin preparing for the High Holy Days. In fact, we start beginning with the first day of the month of Elul which will begin on Sunday. Starting Sunday, and for the next forty days until Yom Kippur, we will be engaged in deep personal and communal introspection. What have we done right over the past year? What good have we done for ourselves, our families and our communities? Where have we failed? Where have we hurt others or harmed society? What are we going to do to try and improve for the next year?
One of my favorite traditions of this time of year is that we actually start to sound the shofar on the first day of Elul. Each morning at the end of Shacharit (the morning prayers), we sound off a series of blasts of the shofar as a physical reminder of the important task at hand – to prepare ourselves spiritually and emotionally for the holidays.
Maimonides, the great medieval rabbinic commentator suggests that the shofar acts as an alarm clock to awaken us to repentance. That familiar music emanating from the ram’s horn elicits very specific and unambiguous memories in our minds of time spent in shul on the High Holidays. The music of Tekiah, Shevarim, Teruah, Tekiah Gedolah are as recognizable to us as the sounds of our mother’s voice or our child’s cry. We know the meaning of the call of the shofar. We understand our mission for the next many weeks. Are we prepared to take it on?
May your self-examination be true and may your reflection be contemplative.
Wishing everyone a sweet, happy and healthy start to the holiday season.