By Laura Seymour
Too often, getting ready for the holidays means thinking about what to wear and where to go for dinner. Don’t get me wrong, all of these things are important if they get us ready and in the right mood for the holiday.
The Hebrew word “Kavanah” is usually translated as “intention,” which is a very interesting word. In the dictionary, intention means the following: 1) an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned action; 2) an act of intending; a volition that you intend to carry out. Of course, Kavanah also had the more spiritual meaning and connection not only to people but also to God.
So we approach these holidays reflecting on the past year and making a plan for the future. It is not like New Year’s Resolutions where the expectation is breaking them. It is making a deeper commitment to make changes in your life.
The mitzvah of the shofar is to hear it (not to blow it!). We blow the shofar each day for the month of Elul to get ready. But for the mitzvah to work, we must hear the shofar as a call to action.
This favorite Chelm story is a wonderful one for children of all ages:
Long ago there was a town called Chelm that was filled with foolish people. They didn’t know that they were foolish, but most of the things they did make us all wonder. Chelm was having a terrible time with fires burning down homes. A Chelmite went to a neighboring town to see how they handled the problem. When a fire broke out, a man ran to the center of town with a big bass drum and started banging away. All the townspeople rushed out with buckets of water and quickly put the fire out. The Chelmite decided to quickly buy a big bass drum for the town of Chelm. He returned to town and waited. When the next fire started, the Chelmite ran to the center of town with his drum and started banging away. All the people rushed out, listened to the drumming and watched the house burn down. They all wondered why the bass drum didn’t solve their problem.
This is just like the shofar. Hearing the sound is to make us remember to change our ways. If we hear the sounds and do not change our ways, we are just like the Chelmites. The shofar is not magic — it is a plaintive memory jolt!
The important step is to change your actions and work to be a better person. Good intentions only take us so far in life if there is not the follow through. We must hear the shofar, hear the individual and collective message to take action. Only then can we hope for a good year!
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.