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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - August 2015
From the Rabbi - August 2015 PDF Print E-mail
 “Arise from your slumber, you who are asleep … Search your deeds and repent.”

 This is how Maimonides, the medieval Jewish philosopher, explains the purpose of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. For Maimonides, we sin because we are sleep-walking through life, ignoring our moral responsibilities, and the Shofar rouses us from our moral slumber.

But the Shofar calls us to face more than our sins.  During the rest of the year we loose track not just of what we have done wrong, but of what we hoped to do right. We all have in our minds an image of ourselves as we want to be – a kind, wise and just person - that fulfills our ideal vision of our better nature. And every one of us falls short of that vision. During the High Holy Days we have the opportunity to shake off the complacency of the rest of the year and face the gap between ourselves as we are and the better person we hope to be.

The Shofar also calls us to awaken to the sad reality of poverty, injustice and human cruelty.  It is easy to ignore these problems when they do not affect us, or affect us minimally. But the Shofar calls us to see the world around us and wake up to our responsibility - to make a difference, to do justice and to make the world better for our having been in it.

And the sound of the Shofar calls us to awaken to God’s presence in the world around us.  As Jews we believe that God is everywhere and in everything. But the mundane in our lives overwhelms us, crowding out the divine. While we can experience God’s presence anywhere and anytime, we rarely do. A Chassidic story tells of a rabbi who asked his students where God can be found. The answer was: “God can be found wherever we let God in.” The Shofar calls us to let God in, to open our eyes to see God’s presence in the world, to be more aware of the holy and sacred we can experience every day, and to recognize the spark of the divine in our fellow human beings.

May the Shofar’s call this Rosh Hashanah inspire us to strive for moral self-improvement, a better and more just world, and a deeper and more fulfilling spiritual life in the year to come.

                    Rabbi Emanuel

 

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