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Rosh Hashanah: No Distractions

September 6, 2015 | by Emuna Braverman

When we hear the shofar, all distractions fade away. It’s our moment to choose life.

Going to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah can be a distracting experience. There is so much going on around you. There’s the newly married couple who are beaming at each other, bedazzled, and there’s the long-married couple who are also looking at each other with – shall we just say, less than bedazzlement. There are people we haven’t seen in a year and we are all looking each other over – who gained weight or lost, who got more wrinkles or used Botox, who turned gray or dyed their hair…the very opposite of lofty thoughts seem to take over our minds.

We notice who’s wearing new clothes and we evaluate the quality, style and fit. We notice new jewelry and overhear talk about new cars and new houses. We notice who has a newly married child and whose cute grandchildren are running around the shul disrupting all those praying (wait a minute! I think they’re mine!).

We glance around the synagogue and remark on the fraying carpet, the grape juice stains and the need for a paint job. The flowers are beautiful but there’s a few dead ones spoiling the effect. And when was the last time the windows were washed?

Our ability to concentrate is so weak; we are so susceptible to distraction. It’s very difficult to concentrate.

And yet it’s Rosh Hashanah. We are pleading for another year of life. We are communicating with the King of Kings. How can we allow ourselves to focus on someone’s new skirt instead? How can we redirect our thoughts?

Just as an infant’s cry is impossible to ignore, so too the shofar blast.

The Almighty, ever kind, helps us out. He mandates that blowing the shofar be a part of the Rosh Hashanah service. The cry of the shofar is piercing. It goes directly to our hearts. It wakes us up. Just as an infant’s cry is impossible to ignore, so too the shofar blast. It is just not possible to close our ears.

When we hear the shofar, all distractions fade away. There is only me and my relationship with God. Nothing else is important. Nothing else counts. The shofar is my moment to choose. It is the one moment when all that exists is myself and my Creator, I affirm my relationship with the Almighty and the reality of His presence. I focus on my ability to create a relationship with the Almighty and my responsibility to nurture and foster that relationship.

In that moment I choose life. I choose reality and not a fairy tale. I choose to face the truth head on and respond accordingly. I choose to take responsibility for my choices.

For most of us kings only exist in our imaginations. They have long beards and are focused on amalgamating power. But our Father, our King in Heaven only wants our good, only wants us to thrive and grow. This is Rosh Hashanah.

Rebbetzin Feige Twerski frequently talks about her father-in-law’s unique way of reprimanding his children. He would say to them in Yiddish, “Es pacht er nicht” – It’s not befitting you. That’s how we should feel when we’ve indulged our baser selves and desires, when we haven’t lived up to our potential, when we let people down. It’s not befitting us. We’re the children of the King.

The shofar call reminds us to carry ourselves like royalty, to concentrate on living up to our magnificent potential, to use our days and lives to their fullest, to choose life.

We truly need to wake up!

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