We are commanded when we appear before God on the three festival holidays not to be empty handed. Give what we can give, but give we must. While this must be taken literally in the times of the Temple, it also must be a metaphor for the Judaism we wish to practice today.
Rabbi Bernard Berzon explains that an optimistic Jew looks at the rush of people to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and shouts, “Our future is here.” Yet when they leave they are empty, thinking the Jewish year can go on without them. The pessimistic Jew sees indifference in the Jewish world and exclaims, “Nothing can be done to help!” That person too comes up empty.
It is the person that sees both sides, that builds the Jewish community, that sees the need for a synagogue, a school, a camp. This person both fills a need and is full.
Sunday morning we begin to blow the shofar, one month before Rosh Hashanah begins, Rosh Chodesh Elul. What will that piercing sound remind us to bring to our community, to our home, and to ourselves? Will that sound fill our heart and soul, or will it go straight through, echoing faintly until we come up empty?
This year, let us not show up empty handed. May we bring what God has blessed us with. May we build a sacred community together.