My favorite question after camp is, “What do you do the rest of the year?”
First of all, getting ready for 900 kids and 250-plus staff is a yearlong job. However, I do have many other wonderful jobs during the year. Being a Jewish educator is a year-round job or, rather, a wonderful calling.
The fall holidays are a busy time for rabbis and Jewish teachers, and with the holidays coming so early, this year has been particularly busy. Everything is new for our little ones in preschool, yet how to give something new to those who have been celebrating the holidays for their entire lives is always a challenge. So I read and study and think, and sometimes find that thought that is new to me. So I share.
I was a musician many, many years ago, before I became a Jewish educator, so it was easy to pick up a shofar and get a good sound. Jonathan Wittenberg in “The Eternal Journey: Meditations on the Jewish Year” wrote something that, as a musician, struck me:
“If one strikes the keyboard of a piano, it produces a note. But if one blows into the shofar – even though one has some skill and has blown successfully on a dozen previous occasions – there is always a doubt. Responding to the atmosphere in the synagogue, or the spirit of the service, or some hidden facet of the blower’s state of being, the shofar may simply refuse to produce any sound at all. There is always a mystery, always a question.”
What is the question beyond whether I will get a good sound? Do I question myself, my beliefs, my hopes, dreams and more? But making a good sound is not enough – there is so much to learn about the shofar. And, the mitzvah is not in the blowing but in the hearing.
Wittenberg continues, taking the command to hear the shofar another step:
“Just to overhear it is not enough. If one passes a building and happens to catch the sound of the notes, that is not considered proper listening. There has to be a partnership between blower and hearer, a shared attentiveness. For the shofar addresses each person individually. Its question cannot be heard by proxy or by the outer ear only; we have to listen to it in the fullness of our own being.”
Attentive…intention – what happens to me inside when I listen to the shofar? Why do we come to hear and wait for that moment in services? Those who may have slipped out for the sermon come back for the sound. Why?
So the challenge this year is to listen attentively and with intention. When the holiday is past, take that skill of “attentive and intentional listening” into your life for the important sounds in your world.