Elul is an intense month! We’re gearing up for the High Holy Days, and in order to prepare ourselves, we have certain rituals that we carry out during this time.
We perform teshuvah, the process of making amends to our fellow humans whom we have wronged during the course of the year.
We undertake a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of our souls, where we assess how we measured up during the year.
We look inward to determine where we excelled and where we fell short. We read Psalm 27, in which the psalmist asks to dwell with G-d. And, of course, we hear the shofar.
Traditionally, Jews try to listen to the shofar every day for the entire month of Elul.
We listen for any number of reasons
Perhaps this is simply a way for shofar blowers to warm up their lungs in preparation for the t’kiah g’dolah. But there are other reasons for our efforts to hear the shofar.
The shofar blasts may sound to us like trumpets. Traditionally, G-d is seen as a sovereign, and these trumpeting blares are heralding G-d’s majesty.
This alarm clock wakes us up as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah. It’s our signal to do teshuvah and perform mitzvot.
Some may hear the shofar as an alarm clock. This alarm clock wakes us up as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah. It’s our signal to do teshuvah and perform mitzvot.
Others may connect the blowing of the shofar during Elul and the High Holy Days to the blowing of the shofar when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai.
As we recall this biblical use of the shofar, we remember the connection we share with our fellow Jews who were said to stand together for the giving of the Torah.
Practice awe and humility when we go out
The all-encompassing noise of the shofar may fill us with awe, which reminds us to practice awe and humility when we go out into the world.
There are other sounds we may associate with the blowing of the shofar. To some, the shofar sounds like crying. To some, it sounds like shouts of jubilation.
We are asked to look inward, and the blowing of the shofar encourages us to do just that.
Regardless of what we associate with the sound, Jews all over the world are coming together to hear the shofar’s blast during this month and during the High Holy Days. We are asked to look inward, and the blowing of the shofar encourages us to do just that.
I hope we are all able to hear a shofar during the month of Elul, whether in person or online.
I hope we are all able to make our own associations about what the sound of the shofar means to us, of what it reminds us, and what we are inspired to do because of the sound.
Student Rabbi Rocki Schy will serve UHC Terre Haute during the 2022-23 and 2023-24 academic years.