It is the month of Elul and we are getting close to the High Holy Days. I love the month of Elul because it is during this month that the shofar is blown daily. It is a fascinating custom and it reminds me of how practical Judaism is. If you are going to be ready to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, you need to start practicing. What a great idea! Those of us listening to the shofar are reminded to start “practicing” the changes we need to make in our lives for the new year. The sound of the shofar is a wake-up call; we know that we are commanded to hear it, but that isn’t enough. If we don’t make changes in our lives, then hearing the shofar has not done the job.
Judaism has so many wonderful and practical rituals. It is a perfect religion for young children because it is so hands-on.
Every rite has a deeper meaning but the observance itself is a reminder of what we need to do. We also have so many ritual objects — this, again, is perfect for children. Today you can buy pretend Shabbat candlesticks and even a stuffed Torah. These items are great for young children but it is also good for them to experience the real thing. Every year I recommend buying a real shofar for your child. It is very hard to break and, even more important, it is very hard to blow. If your child can learn to blow the shofar, that’s even better. Having the experience of owning and playing (or trying to play) one, brings a deeper connection to the High Holy Days experience. And make this Chelm story part of your High Holy Days preparations:
A long time ago in the village of Chelm, fire was a big problem and many homes burned to the ground. One Chelmite went to a neighboring village to learn how to solve the problem. When he arrived, a fire started in a home. One man came out and starting beating a big drum. Everyone ran out and poured water on the home, saving it from burning to the ground. Immediately, the Chelmite got a drum and took it back to Chelm.
Soon a fire started and the Chelmite ran out and started beating his drum. Everyone ran out and listened to the drumming. Unfortunately, they did not pour water on the home and it burned to the ground.
It is the same with the shofar sound. If all we do is listen and not change, it hasn’t done the job it was meant for. The shofar must wake us up and then we must act.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.