A Bisl Torah

Facing Mortality

Will you find your melody?

The beginning of the month of Elul forces us to come face to face with our mortality. In just weeks we will gather as a community, hoping to find prayers and words that match the brokenness that sits within our hearts. We can all name personal fissures: grief, insecurity, disappointment, emptiness, solitude. And the chasm grows when we feel as if our faith can’t identify or address or fix the problem.

In “Moadei HaRav” Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick gives voice to Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s lectures on the High Holy Days. Rav Soloveitchik analyzed why there is so much focus on the shofar during the Rosh Hashana liturgy. During Passover, we don’t pray about the commandment to eat matzah. What is so essential regarding the blowing of shofar?

He explains, “Just as there are different types of verbal prayers, so too, the shofar offers different prayers. When in danger, a human offers a primeval prayer, like the howl of the animal, begging God to save him. The shofar with its primitive sounds represents this type of primal prayer. On the other hand, the shofar also constitutes a song of praise, of hallel, a song that man, on the High Holidays, cannot offer with his voice because the Book of Life and Death is open.”

In other words, our faith does understand. The shofar screams when our bellows feel muted. The shofar cries when our stoicism refuses to break. The shofar sings when we tremble with fright and fear. In sanctuaries in which it feels difficult to let other human beings witness our peril, the shofar speaks for us, with us.

That shofar speaks every morning during the month of Elul. Perhaps as we hear the shards of its notes, we may feel compelled to share our own music. Broken melodies in need of healing.

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