Listen to the Shofar

It’s a crisp, clear Friday morning. Autumn is announcing its official presence. But for me, Fall comes, not with the equinox, the weather, the foliage, or the sudden omnipresence of pumpkins and Halloween decorations. I know it’s Autumn when I hear the shofar.

The tekiya is an unambiguous sound. It is loud and raucous – there’s nothing smooth or beautiful about it. Maimonides said it best: the sound of the shofar is an alarm, a wakeup call.

  1. Hey! Guess what? You are mortal. You are finite. That means every day is a gift. That means what you do and say should not be nahrishkeit, Yiddish for foolishness. Everything counts.
  2. You’re not perfect. In fact, you blew it this year. You hurt people’s feelings. You hid behind the “I couldn’t help it” banner. You didn’t always do the best you could do. Own it! Acknowledge it.
  3. Say you’re sorry. Not like a little kid forced by parents to say the magic words, but like an adult with a heart and soul. Find the people you knowingly hurt and ask their forgiveness. Your partner, parents, kids, associates… whoever in the world you injured.
  4. What about now? Make some decisions about where you’re going from here. How will you try to do better? How will you change to adapt to the needs of the people around you?

This is the agenda for tonight and tomorrow. Not an easy one. But I can promise you that if you do this work, if you think about this during services, by the time you hear the shofar on Saturday night you will feel exultant. You will feel nourished and alive – and that’s even after fasting!

It is that time for me, too. I want to ask your forgiveness, too. For times when I was not sufficiently attentive to your needs. For times when I was late responding to your call or email. For times when I disappointed you. For all these and more I ask your forgiveness.

Twenty years ago I walked into our sanctuary for Kol Nidre. Everything was new and beautiful. That first Yom Kippur is a blur. But I do remember thinking, “This feels right, this new marriage.” Twenty years later I will walk into that same beautiful, blessed sanctuary. It still looks good with all of its various renovations and enhancements. And it still feels right.

My friends call me the happiest rabbi in America, because… well, because maybe I am. I consider myself lucky and supremely blessed to be with you after all these years. And it’s all because of you. It’s because of your love and support. It’s because I have a staff that is nonpareil. Thank you.

My shofar alarm is ringing: time to get back to that agenda. Have an easy fast. Please stay for the last part of the service, Neila. It’s one of the best things that happen here.

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