The Shofar: Symbol of Tishrei, Symbol of Judaism

Tishrei 5772 begins at Sundown on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The shofar is not only a symbol we all associate with Tishrei, but it’s also a symbol of Judaism.  Many of us only think about the shofar at the High Holy days, but in ancient times it was used regularly in religious rites.

Blow the shofar at the new moon, at the full moon for our feast-day.
(Psalm 81:3)
In Psalms, we see the order to blow the shofar at both the new moon, Rosh Chodesh, and the full moon feast days. Historically the shofar would have been used to call us to prayer and attention for a myriad of reasons and events.  The shofar was also the sound of G-d/dess’ voice we hear at Sinai.  Is it any wonder that this ancient relic is one we still treasure today?  When considering the shofar, also remember that it is a sign of our history as a nation of shepherds.  I’m exploring purchasing my first shofar, and finding that I not only want one that is beautiful and playable — but also that I know comes from an animal that is not just kosher, but was also raised with respect and given a good life.  I also want it to be local.  Why should I import a shofar from a foreign country, when there are so many sheep right here? I would like to learn to play the shofar, but I also want to incorporate it into my fall altar, or spiritual focal point if you prefer. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of having a Jewish personal altar, here’s a post  about the practice.

Tishrei: The Lessons of Ephraim

Pomegranates - CC copyright Ketzirah
May you be doubly blessed this new year.
May you be doubly blessed this new year.


The tribe most commonly associated with the month of Tishrei is Ephraim. Ephraim is not a son of Jacob, but a son of Joseph. He is “adopted” by Jacob in Genesis 48:5, and they are given birth-right blessings. In a moment that reminds of Jacob stealing the birthright from his own older brother Esau, Jacob gives the younger son (Ephraim) precedence over the older (Menasseh). Joseph points out the error, but unlike Isaac blessing Jacob in error — Jacob shows us this is intentional (Gen 38:13-14).

What is the lesson of Ephraim for Tishrei? What can we learn from this patriarch and Tribe of Israel? In my research on Ephraim, I found an unexpected lesson. The lesson I learned is that Ephraim teaches us to strive to accept and work with contradictions. Truly, I found the message of Ephraim to be one of defying expectations.

Ephraim is presented in the traditional blessing of children as a model of what a Jewish boy should be. Little girls are told, “May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.” This makes sense. We want the girls to learn the lessons of the matriarchs and be blessed. Why then are boys told, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” Why these two and not “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David”?

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Tishrei: Finding Our Spiritual Balance

Photo (c) Pink Sherbet Photography.  Used via creative commons attribution copyright permissions.
Photo (c) D Sharon Pruit. Used via Creative Commons Copyright.

~ Excerpt from Rosh Chodesh Guide for Tishrei.  Like what you see?  Subscribe! ~

Tishrei is the head of our spiritual year.  It is one of the four Jewish New Years, but over the generations it has become the Jewish New Year. According to the Talmud it is the new year of Kings.  Like so many things in Judaism, Tishrei has layers within layers and microcosms within microcosms to explore.

This month is a challenging one for some many reasons. The number of holidays alone presents a challenge to our organizational skills. But in the modern world the number of holidays so close together also presents a challenge to our ability balance home, work, and our spiritual worlds. The sign of the month, the scales, I think is not only related to the concept of Divine judgment between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but also asking us to weigh what we value in the world.

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Rosh Hashanah Drosh 5769

This is the drosh, more or less, that I’ll be giving at Rosh Hashanah on Tuesday night.  I’ve invited several people to speak on the topic of being Called to Sacred Service.  Usually I just speak from my heart, with only a little preparation, but then I never really know what I said.  I thought this year I would try writing it out in advance, so I can share it.

L’shana Tova.  May you find abundance in the new year.


Rosh Hashanah 5769

A lot of people talk to G!(d)dess, but very few actually hear the response.  People pray and pray, and only if what they asked for is given in the way they expected it do they say their prayers were answered.  But what happens if you are one of those who are in conversation with G!(d)dess?  What if you are someone who hears the response, even when it’s not the one you wanted?   That’s a major part of how I’ve experienced being “called.”  I think that anyone who is in conversation with G!(d)dess finds that they have no choice but to share what they learn, even if it is indirect ways.

The problem is that there isn’t usually a map provided when you are called; you act based on the best information you have.  There are so many stories of prophets and holy men who just seemed to be jerks.  Look at Abraham, twice he basically whores out his wife to Kings despite her objections.  Not really a nice thing to do.  Plus he kicks out his concubine and first son, and, of course is willing to sacrifice his second son. It seems like callings drive you nuts or drives everyone around you nuts.

So what I wonder is how do I answer the call I’ve received without alienating everyone around me?  Is that even possible?  Can I answer the call without sacrificing material comfort?  That’s a lot less to ask than sacrificing my son, but I’m still not okay with it.  How can I spread the message I’ve received in a way that people will be wiling to hear, but that is not so soft and fluffy they don’t feel compelled to act?  How many people do I feel the need to reach at once?  Is it okay if I just reach a few people in my lifetime, and maybe count on the ripple effect?  Is that enough?  Should I be out protesting and railing against things?

R’Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

I think this is the new model of someone called to sacred service.  It’s a model that I can try to follow.  I can do my best to lead with compassion and love, not anger.   Too many of those called to service seem to act out of anger and frustration.  But if I deeply feel this calling, then I have no choice but to act from love, compassion, and joy.  I will lead with deep, heart-felt joy.

So with joy, let me share the kernel of my calling.  Quite simply – care about what you eat.  Respect yourself enough to reject food as a commodity.  Know that a meal is more than “fuel.”  Know that your body is a temple and that food is a Divine offering.  You are worth taking the time to cook and have a satisfying meal.

When you eat, and you are satisfied, you are to bless YHVH your G!(d)dess for the good land that s/he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

How can we bless if you don’t eat a satisfying meal?  How can we remember how good this land is, if we don’t eat the fruit grown in its soil?  What happens when we eat but are no longer are satisfied enough to bless?

You shalt eat, but not be satisfied; and your sickness shall be in your inward parts; and you will conceive, but not bring forth; and whomsoever you bring forth will I give up to the sword. (Michah 6:14)

Do not fight hunger.  Join me in striving for abundance.

And you shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and you shall praise the name of YHVH your G!(d)dess,  who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be ashamed. (Joel 2:26)

Let the lowly eat and be satisfied; let all who seek G!(d)dess praise him.  Always be of good cheer! (Psalm 22:27)

Eat.  Be Satisfied.  Bless.

[tags]eat, satisfied, rosh hashanah, drosh, sermon, 5759, food[/tags]

Yartzeit Rachel Imeinu & Veteran’s Day

Good Shabbos. May the blessings of Rachel Imeinu be with you all, and especially those who have served their country with honor.

Guardians of the Fire

Poem copyright Carly Lesser (Chava Chai)