Jewish New Year - 'the joy is tempered with seriousness'
Rabbi David Mason, Muswell Hill Synagogue
- Credit: PA
This week, Jewish communities across the world have been celebrating the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. This is a time of reflection and introspection and a time of considering our relationship as individuals and as a people to God. The New Year is a celebratory time of the year, but is also known historically as the ‘Day of Judgement’, where God judges us for the deeds of the last year. So, the joy is tempered with seriousness.
We can all probably attest to these opposites in life. Sometimes we are celebrating something, something we are mourning the loss of something, or anxious about something. We carry these two dichotomous elements in our lives. Life can be exhilarating, and life can be vulnerable.
On the Jewish New Year, Jewish communities will be blowing a ram’s horn, known as the shofar. There are two basic notes that we blow a number of times on this shofar. One is a straight unbroken note, and the other is a broken, more staccato note. We blow in groups of three as well. First comes the unbroken note, then the broken one, followed again by the one unbroken note.
The purpose of the shofar is to plead with God for a positive and merciful judgment. But maybe it also shows God who we are. Sometimes we feel together, we feel resilient and positive about life. But sometimes we feel as if we cannot cope, and we break. Sometimes things get the better of us, things are just too much. At this point we may need help and support to pull ourselves forward and reach a more positive and integrated stage. And so, we blow a blast of togetherness, brokenness and then togetherness.
My wish is that as we move on from the depths of this Covid pandemic, we will not be ashamed of breaking, and will look for ways to get us through to a renewed sense of togetherness.