In some communities, the shofar is blown each morning of the 40 days leading up to Yom Kippur: a daily rattle, calling for focus, reflection, preparing us for a new year of possibilities. For me it’s a reminder to look in the closet, dig up the skeletons, the old myths that make me angry, my own shameful moments and regrets from this past year. Then take a look in the mirror, full length, taking a hard honest look at who I am now and who I want to become. Serious stuff. The shofar, ancient technology, is there to give this process a daily soundtrack. It’s the call of reckoning – and hope.
This call of hope was heard in Boston on another New Years day, over a century ago. On January 1, 1863 Lincoln freed the slaves. Emancipation Day was greeted with mixed reaction across the land, but Fredrick Douglas, at a church service in Boston, was jubilant. Hundreds joined him singing the hymn ‘’Blow Ye The Trumpet Blow’ and heard his speech that included a reference to the ancient Biblical ram’s horn, blown as slaves were freed on the Day of Atonement of the Jubilee year: “It was not logic but the trumpet of jubilee that everybody wanted to hear.. We were watching, as it were, by the dim light of start for the dawn of a new day….”
Not far from Boston, another abolitionist, Ralph W. Emerson, was also reflecting, dryly, on the role of trumpets in our lives, with a little less enthusiasm about the human condition:
“Melons and plums and peaches, eating and drinking, and the bugle, all the day long. These are the glorious occupations that engross a proud and thinking being, running his race of preparation for the eternal world. “
Emerson and Douglas, Abraham and Sarah, bugle, trumpets and shofars blow loud today: awake. 40 days to find your focus, clean up your act, free yourself from all those inner enslavements and glorious occupations that distract from life’s true purpose. Prepent, now.
I will blow a shofar in Denver this morning. You too can take a moment to quietly pause – or listen to a shofar, start the journey of a brave new year:
Here are some options: