Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life


The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » High Holidays

High Holiday Season: A Time for Prayer

Submitted by on November 2, 2005 – 2:59 amNo Comment | 2,722 views

Turning To G-d

The High Holiday season is observed throughout Jewish world with fervor, reverence and awe. To Jews, it is a time for prayer and supplication, repentance and return, and most importantly, judgment and justice.

We hope that our entreaties are heard and our needs fulfilled, that our sins are pardoned and our iniquities forgiven, that our past is erased and our resolutions accepted. We plead with the almighty for lenience and tolerance and make a marked effort to improve the general state of our spiritual awareness.

This period represents an upward mobility from below to above. For the Jew submits to G-d, the body bends to the soul, the heart is harnessed to the mind and the material acquiesces to the spiritual. Worldly pursuits
are, for the time being, curbed, and in its place the pursuit of G-d, Torah and mitzvot are intelligently and enthusiastically adopted.

It is a spontaneous outburst that is generated within. It sparks within the core of our essence on the first day of the preceding month of Elul. It mushrooms and grows throughout the month until the flames of spiritual passion can no longer be contained; they finally burst forth from within us on Rosh Hashanah day.

The Passion of Shofar

This is the outburst of passion that Jews invest into the clarion call of their Shofar. The Shofar is taken from a ram’s horn that is specially treated to produce a plaintive and soulful sound, strikingly similar to the infantile cry of a newborn baby.

The Shofar is sounded during the somber days of awe that characterize the Jewish high Holy days. Its cry originates in the innermost chambers of the Jewish heart; it arises from the very essence of the Jewish soul. It symbolizes a general sentiment of penitence that is inherent in devotion to G-d.

It is a plain, homogenized sound, neither rich in tone nor colorful in nuance. Sophisticated instruments are not required, symphonic choirs are not desired. Music alone cannot produce the desired effect. This is a melody that belongs to the soul, a tenderness that is penned by the heart. It is the wholesome cry of a child; beyond the point of verbal expression it emerges as a vocalized pain, starkly pristine yet pure and direct in ithe season of prayerts simplicity

The Shepherd’s Whistle

The story is told of a shepherd boy who wandered into the synagogue of the famous Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (17th century scholar and saintly miracle worker affectionately known as the Besht) during High Holy Day services. Though he sat amongst the worshippers he felt isolated and unable to join. He was unable to read
Hebrew nor could he adequately articulate thoughts in the vernacular.

He sat with growing consternation when an idea occurred to him. He produced a shepherd’s whistle from his pocket and proceeded to blow the simple instrument with all his shepherd’s strength. The worshippers
turned in indignant surprise but the Besht calmed them and explained that this simple, unadorned whistle blast emanated from the depths of the boy’s soul, as such, it had pierced the heavens and were accepted
on high.

This, concluded the Besht, is the true meaning of the Shofar’s call. It is a simple cry that emanates from below but has the power to unlock the greatest gates on high.

Indeed, on this day we call out from below, and indeed on this day G-d awaits us on high. Resplendent in his royal entourage, cloaked in the robes of merciful compassion, adorned by a crown, majestic and divine.

On this day he listens and is touched. He is moved by our sincerity and believes in our integrity for he has an infinite reserve of forgiveness and forbearance. On this day, he smiles upon us in kindness, he heeds our
cry and generously grants our wish for he is proud of his children and responds to us in love.

Indeed on this day King Solomon’s words ring loud and true “I Am To My Beloved And My Beloved Is To Me”

May we all be granted a year of happiness, fulfillment as well as spiritual and material prosperity.