The Shofar vs. the Vuvuzela

September 17, 2010 by J-Wire
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We are almost at the end of the first ten special days of the new year that conclude with Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Michol Gourarie photo: Henry Benjamin

The Shofar plays an important role during these special days. On Rosh Hashanah, the highlight of the service is the blowing of the Shofar. And at the very end of Yom Kippur, the piercing shrill of the Shofar signals the end of the fast.

The Midrash states that although many nations blow trumpets, bagpipes (or the modern Vuvuzela) there is something different and unique about the sounds of the Shofar. It is only the Shofar that causes G-d to “sit on the throne of mercy” and bless each of us with a good and sweet year. What is the secret of the Shofar?

Let us examine the essence of this special Mitzvah.

With the blowing of any instrument the skill lies in the ability to blow. The player is the skilled one who is able to produce musical, loud and beautiful notes. The greater the talent of the musician the more complex and musical are the sounds that he produces. Those that listen sit back, relax and passively enjoy the performance.

The Shofar is very different. The Mitzvah is actually not to blow the Shofar. The Mitzvah is to listen to the sounds that it produces. With the Shofar the skill is not with the one who blows. The real effort and talent are with those that listen, absorb and internalize its message. The notes that we produce don’t even have to be beautiful or musical. What is critical to the experience is to listen intently to those sounds, absorbing their power and intense holiness.

A few months ago in South Africa, listening to the Vuvuzela didn’t count. Unless you demonstrated that you could blow and make a racket you weren’t part of the culture. (The real talented South Africans even managed to turn the Vuvuzela into a musical instrument rather than just an annoying noise maker.) But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the skill of blowing doesn’t count that much. On these days there is an energy of blessing and opportunity that we can tap into. To experience the power of the moment we need to listen more than blow.

Each sound has a story and a message. Every note wakes us up, reminding us of our pure and pristine soul that is the essence of our identity. By listening and absorbing the sounds we are able to peel away our exterior and discover our true self.

So when you hear the last sound of Shofar at the end of this Yom Kippur close your eyes, listen hard and hold on to the experience for the rest of year.

All the Best for a great year full of happiness and sucsess

Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

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