The Shofar, Change and Teshuva

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Campus Chaplain, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living

The shofar is described as the instrument to wake us up from our slumber. The shofar reminds us that it is time for introspection and change as we walk before G-d, “like sheep before the shepherd.”  Does this really work, awakening within us the desire to improve, the desire to change? Or are we so desensitized to the sound that we remain asleep?

On the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, we read the following verses in the Torah: “Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor it is beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (Dev. 30:11-14).” While most commentaries consider these verses to be a general explanation regarding the Torah and its commandments, I would suggest that these verses can teach a lesson about change, about Teshuva. It often feels that when we try to change, change doesn’t happen. These verses suggest change is something always close by, ready to be undertaken.

These verses also explain the shofar’s message. The shofar is an instrument that operates on one’s breath alone.  The sounds come from the depths of a person. It acts as natural alarm, acting as a wake-up call from one’s humanness.

May we hear the sound of the shofar and feel the stirrings of our hearts for another year of joy, another year of life.

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