By Ezra Rich
As we enter the final Shabbat of 5781 and look toward Rosh Hashanah, we all have a lot to reflect on from another unique year impacted by COVID and the passage of time, from the start of the new school year to the upcoming 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.
Amidst some of the silence during the past year, many have reflected on their lives, their families, and what really matters to them. This introspective theme is a hallmark of the High Holiday season. Indeed, Zichronot, remembrances, is one the three core themes of Rosh Hashanah, sandwiched between Malchiyot, kingship, and Shofrot, the shofar (ram’s horn) sounds.
One of the Biblical verses cited in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy is, “On your day of joy, your appointed seasons, and your new moons, you shall blow the trumpets over your offerings… and they shall be a memorial before your God: I am the Lord your God.” (Numbers 10:10)
In the Talmud, Rabbi Abahu asks, “Why do we blow the ram’s horn? God said, ‘Blow a ram’s horn before Me so that I will remember you for the Binding of Isaac.’” (BT Rosh Hashanah, 16A)
Rabbi Yehuda Amital, ZT”L, the late founder of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Israel, cites these two sources and wonders why the Torah and the Sages emphasize the importance of invoking our memory before God. Does God need to be “reminded” like a human being? People may forget, but God does not. God certainly remembers the Covenant, rather, sometimes a person may run and hide, trying to escape who they are. Forgetting one’s identity is a scary thought. As Rabbi Amital remarks, one of the powers of the shofar is that it “expresses one’s deepest feelings, the most inward, profound, and unique point in a person’s heart.” The shofar’s simple sounds pierce our hearts and awaken us to Teshuvah, repentance.
When we hear the shofar blasts on Rosh Hashanah, let us have the courage to open our hearts as we pray for a happy and healthy year for Jewish Buffalo and beyond. As we say after the initial shofar blasts, “Happy is the people who know this sound, Lord, they shall walk by the light of Your face.” (Psalm 89)
May we all have a Ketivah V’Chatimah Tovah, may we be written and sealed in the Book of Life.
This Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of my step-grandmother, Natalie P. Schwartz, Z”L, (1922-2021) on the occasion of her unveiling earlier this week.
Ezra N. Rich is Marketing Communications Manager at Uniland Development Company and proudly serves on the boards of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, Temple Beth Tzedek, and the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association of WNY.