How’s the year going so far? It’s a question we have been asked almost every single day. The answer – Shofar, sho-good.
Each day for the past month, we have blown the Shofar at school. We have learned about the customs, laws, sounds and blessings that are connected to the blowing of the Shofar.
We have also focused on the true meaning of the word Shofar. It comes from the Hebrew root, shin, pey, resh, which means “improve.” We blow the Shofar as a way to focus on the idea of improvement. We cannot be satisfied with where we are today. We need to continuously strive for improvement.
This year, more than ever before, the idea of improvement is essential. We are not perfect. We cannot project perfection. We can strive for it. We can set it as our goal. But each day, each week, we must work on improving ourselves.
As we have blown Shofar this month, I have thought about all of the improvements our school has made, since we first went to remote learning in March. We learned new technology. We discovered how to stay connected; how to teach content; how to show consistency; how to communicate, and most importantly, the value of community.
But there is another important aspect to the Shofar. The main mitzvah (commandment) on Rosh Hashanah is to hear the sounds of the Shofar. And it is these sounds that can have a lasting impact. The sounds of the Shofar are akin to the sounds of crying. At first, we let out one long wail (Tekiah), one sound of despair. As we continue to get emotional, our crying is broken into sobs (Shevarim, three shorter sounds), and finally as we continue to show emotion, our sobbing requires that we gasp for air (Teruah, 9 quick sounds). We have shed a lot of tears these past 6+ months. We have gasped for air. We have stopped and started and stopped again. We have cried out.
Much like the sounds of the Shofar, our year has followed a pattern. We began without much of a care in the world. Things were going well, much like the long straight uninterrupted sound of the Tekiah. Then we got to March. We started to feel the stress, the pressure, the anxiety. Much like the Shevarim, we started and stopped. We waited and then started and stopped again. As the year continued to progress, those starts and stops increased in frequency, with shorter intervals in between, much like the sound of the Teruah.
But in the end, we are all just looking for the Tekiah Gedola. A return to normalcy, a length of time that can go on uninterrupted and last longer that the moment before, longer than our first Tekiah sound.
We know the crying will end. We know that it will become a hum. We will think back on the sounds and moments of this past year and use them to improve who we are this coming year. It is why our students come to school each day. To take the knowledge of what they learned yesterday in order to improve their tomorrow.
Over the past five weeks, we have just begun to sound our Tekiah Gedolah. We have begun to put the pieces back together, for a year of improved health and happiness. Wishing you and your family a Shana Tova U’Metukah, a sweet new year, full of reflection and improvement.
Daniel R. Weiss
Head of School