BLAST: Rabbi Block blows the shofar during Hashkama minyan, a reminder to the students about the importance of listening. (Ezra Fax )
BLAST: Rabbi Block blows the shofar during Hashkama minyan, a reminder to the students about the importance of listening.

Ezra Fax

The sound that calls the inner voice

September 23, 2016

Shofar blowing starts each morning of Elul, the Hebrew month observed as a time of reflection and growth in which we ponder how best to live our lives for the coming year.  Every weekday morning at the end of Shacharit, the baal tekiah gives four blasts, as everyone in the room stands still.

But at such a critical time in our annual calendar, why is there such a focus on the sounding of a ram’s horn?

Of all forms of possible rituals, why are we called upon to connect to this time of year in the form of sound?

In the Book of Genesis, after Adam eats from the etz hada’at, the tree of knowledge, God calls out to him with His mighty voice, and asks, “Ayeka?” (Genesis 2:9).

Where are you? Where do you stand in life? What defines you?

Challenged with this question, Adam is empowered to access the inner recesses of his own spiritual, emotional and intellectual self.

“I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I am naked; so I hid,” Adam replies (2:10).  

When Adam finally opens his ears, he not only realizes his connection to a higher power, but also acknowledges his insecurities and his failings in the wake of disobeying a Divine command.

We can open our mouths all we want to articulate our views and beliefs. We can scour passages of commentators and religious texts with our eyes to take a scholarly approach to religious growth.

But real change happens when we act from our ears. When we consciously and attentively take in meaningful insight from our teachers, our mentors, our friends, and God.

After all, the quintessential Jewish words recited multiple times daily are none other than Shema Yisrael, “Hear, O Israel.”  

In the Rosh Hashanah service, we recite, Ashrei ha’am sheyodeya t’ruah. “Happy is the people that knows the blast of the shofar.

Our ultimate happiness, this verse seems to indicate, is contingent upon our ability to open our ears to the voices of others and the voice of God.  

Philosopher Rene Descartes famously stated, “I think, therefore I am.”

But the shofar teaches us that the ultimate Jewish attitude is not one of philosophical thought or eloquence or even action, but rather, of listening.

“I listen, therefore I am.”

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