Sounding the shofar is a blast — and meaningful

By Carnie Shalom Rose

This story was originally published on Sept. 10, 2020.

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose and three additional Hadar fellows reflect on the calls of the shofar

In this unprecedented year when our High Holiday experiences will surely be modified to address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, below you will find a Kavanah (contemplative meditation) to be shared in your homes and in our Houses of Worship prior to the sounding of shofar. Penned by four Hadar Jewish Wisdom Fellows (three rabbis, including myself, and a hazzan), we hope these text based inspired ruminations will help in the introspective “work” that these Days of Awe are intended to catalyse. May the sounds of the Shofar help usher in a Good New Year and may 5781 herald the arrival of new era, one filled to overflowing with health, wholeness, happiness and holiness. Amen!

Four calls of the Shofar…Four texts that begin with the Four letters in the name of God…Four texts about God’s presence when we are in crisis…Four Klei Kodesh hear and feel God in the Shofar’s blasts – in the power, in the silence, in the chaos, and in the hope.


 Text: Genesis 1:27 / Midrash Tehilim 17:7

[The Rabbis taught:] when a person is walking, a procession of angels pass before them and announce “make way for the image of The Holy and Blessed One”

Reflection: On a day when we proclaim God’s kingship, we can’t forget the kingship and Divinity imbued within each of us. And when we align ourselves with God, we can tap into and reflect that Godly image even more. Let this Tekiah Shofar blast of coronation awaken the deepest parts of our souls, our inner Godliness, our inner kings and queens. And may it be a reminder that, if only we remembered to look, we could glimpse God in the faces of our neighbor — all of our neighbors. Amen!

— Rabbi Hart Levine


Text: Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sukkah 53a

This is what Rabbi Yocanan said: At the time when King David dug the drainpipes to create the foundation for the Holy Temple, he cracked open the earth and the primordial waters of the depths rose up and sought to inundate the world. Immediately, David recited the fifteen Songs of the Ascents and caused these flood waters to recede. 

Reflection: May our Shevarim Shofar blasts this New Year — our tripartite heartfelt plaintive wailings — embolden us to consciously crack-open the wellsprings of primordial creativity so that we might be flooded anew with inspiration…And may we thus be ever more open to forging religious and spiritual practices that meet the needs of these times, unprecedented as they are…And may these fresh outpourings of our limbs, lips, and hearts intermingle with those ancient articulations of your sweet singer of Psalms, King David, and thus firmly anchor us in Your Ways so that we are not be swept away in the Tsunami of capricious and perfidious faithlessness. Amen!

— Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose


 Text: Maimonides, Commentary on Mishnah Sukkah, 4:5

There was one among the Geonim that interpreted [this prayer]: “I and He are in trouble—Save us!” This is connected to the expression and idea that the exalted and glorified one is [also] “I am with him in trouble.” (Psalm 91:15)

Reflection: The sounds of Teruah are our cries of anxiety, sobbing for the overwhelming chaos before our eyes. Must we wait until impermanence floods our streets and our homes are reduced to rickety huts to feel God’s presence? Will you hear, Eternal One, when we, your children, weep before the ruins of our Templed lives? Redeemer of Israel, this year — redeem Yourself. Not for us, but for your loving Torah and holy name, make salvation something we can share. Let us discover it, and You, between the Teruah-ed cries of the Shofar, emerging from our broken hearts and troubled times. Amen!

— Hazzan Matt Austerklein


Text: Genesis Rabbah 39

The owner of the building looked at [a person wandering in the desert who saw a castle burning] and said to him, “I am the master of the castle.” 

Reflection: Ribbono Shel Olam, I know that You are the Sovereign of the world!  You created, You formed, You breathed into being all that is.  But did you intend even this, our beloved world to burn all around us?  Have You deserted us in this wilderness of pain and fear?  Is this one of Your famous false starts, in the process of being destroyed, only to start anew?  I hear Your call over the conflagration.  (At first I thought it was only background noise, but when I close my eyes I can distinguish it from the chaos.) TEKIAH GEDOLAHHH…! In the silence that mingles with that Shofar blast that stretches on forever, I see that You were here all along, waving frantically to get my attention from a window above, ablaze and aglow:  “Here I am!  We need to save each other!  Hang. On.” Amen!

— Rabbi Sharon Mars

What is Mechon Hadar? Founded in 2006 with a modest eight-week summer program serving 18 students, Hadar grown dramatically in response to demand for our programs and content. Hundreds of students have completed year-long and summer intensive learning programs, and thousands have joined for week-long and month-long immersive programs. Alumni of these programs return to their home communities ready to make a difference.