Last shofar blast, new beginnings

Fresh for you from Kol Nidre: Here’s my postscript to this year’s pandemically unusual High Holy Days:

Many years ago, as a college senior, I was “pinned” (recognized in those fraternity/sorority days as the usual prelude to becoming engaged) by a pharmacy student who lived in my neighborhood. After my sorority sisters had formed our ritual ring around me and serenaded me with our “Sweetheart Song” (to which I myself had written the words!), I had no reason to doubt that my future had unrolled itself, like a new carpet, in front of me. But what did I know? Yom Kippur waited just around the corner…

As the service was reaching its climax, I was looking ahead to a festive “break-the-fast” meal at the home of my presumed in-laws-to-be when my boyfriend’s mother appeared at my elbow and told me it was time to leave, to go home with her and help put the oh-so-welcome food on the table. But the day was not yet over for me; I always stayed to hear that final shofar blast of the old year, the sound that carried me into the new. That was my personal ritual, and I was not going to change it for anyone — not even an assumed near-future mother-in-law who was standing next to me, with my assumed future husband at her side, saying nothing at all. In short: I just plain refused!

Afterward, after that harsh-but-sweet final sounding of a single shofar blast, I went outside to look for my intended and his mother, but neither was there; they had left for home without me. So I decided to go home also — alone, to my own parents’ house — where another fast-breaking meal would be waiting for me. That last blast opened the door to a different new year, shattering my future as I had believed it would be. But as it filled the air and my welcoming ears, it set me off on a brand-new, totally unanticipated adventure into a future far different from being a local pharmacist’s wife. (I don’t remember giving back my “former intended’s” fraternity pin, but I must have at some point, because it has never in so many years since turned up anywhere among my many things, and the pharmacist he became has never asked for its return…)

I learned later, as my life took a new and very different shape than I had ever expected, that it would lead me to adventures in formerly undreamed-of places with (as it turned out) two very different marriage partners! The pharmacist-to-be also left our hometown, marrying and settling down in another place himself, with another life partner who, as far as I’ve ever been able to determine, is completely happy with her role as a pharmacist’s wife. I am happy for her — but of course from a distance…

My life has taken me to homes in several states and visits to every one of them, plus many trips to other spots across the entire globe, before depositing me finally and firmly here in Texas. It has turned out to be far more than I ever could have imagined as I sat there in shul, waiting for the final shofar blast that would change and broaden my life’s trajectory forever.

To all who are reading this: May you, too, have found the last blast of this year’s shofar opening wide your life possibilities, and calling you to a happy, healthy, richly rewarding future! Like the old adage says: Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; but today is ours, to make our very own! 

Harriet P. Gross can be reached at

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