Whose shofar are we blowing?

September 14, 2020 by Rabbi Chaim Ingram
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Harry Browne, chairman of the shul building fund, approached Jack Greene for a donation.

Rabbi Chaim Ingram

“Sorry,” said Jack Greene. “I give to UIA, JNF, MDA – but not to shules.  You see, I’m an atheist!”  “An atheist?” echoed Harry  “how come?” Answered Jack “you see, it’s a family tradition. My dad was an atheist and my grandad, G-D rest his soul, he was an atheist too!”

There are many Jack Greenes, Jewish and non-Jewish, who will tell you that G-D has no place in their lives – yet at times of crisis, they find themselves crying out to a Being beyond them.  Arthur C. Clarke, co-writer of 2001 A Space Odyssey (seems such a quaint title now!) recalling the historic Apollo-11 moon landing 51 years ago, revealed that  “at lift-off, I cried for the first time in 20 years and prayed for the first time in 40 years!”

Yes, man has an inbuilt need to pray, even if that need sometimes lies dormant for half a lifetime!

Recently, a leading scientist, Professor Abraham Loeb, wrote in a journal called Scientific American the following: Despite its celebrated accomplishments, science still remains sketchy on many phenomena that dominate our daily life. There are major aspects of life that remain unexplained ….This ambiguous state of affairs explains why today some of the best scientists are religious!

Today, in 2020, more than half the 7.7 billion inhabitants of the globe still acknowledge G-D.  Muslims call him Allah which is the equivalent of  E-Y-L.  No matter what ideological problems Jews have with Muslims (and vice-versa), we worship the same G-D.  And in Australia in recent times, we have seen the church suddenly assertive, demanding the PM provide safeguards, not just negatively from religious discrimination, but also positively for religious freedom.

And on January 1st, this year, a few days before the word ‘coronavirus’ entered the vocabulary of the world, 90,000 Jews gathered at the Met-Life Stadium in New York for the 13th global siyyum or completion of the seven-and-a-half-year cycle of Daf Yomi.  I am proud to say I am now a member of that ever-growing club of those grappling with a page a day of the Babylonian Talmud.   Don’t let anyone tell you that G-D and Torah are out of vogue when hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world are doing it too!  In the Jewish world too, G-D is standing His ground.  As they would say in the Big Apple: He’s not going any place!

And yet …. G-D doesn’t blow His own trumpet (or His own Shofar!)

Where is the name Rosh Hashana found in the Torah? The answer is: it isn’t!  Nowhere in the whole of the Bible is 1st Tishri, associated with the birthday of humankind, the start of a new year, a renewal of commitment to our Father and our King.   The only name given to Rosh Hashana in the Torah is Yom Teru’a.  And from the Oral Torah alone do we glean that these Teruas are meant to be on the Shofar. Nor is there mention in the Torah of Rosh Hashana being Yom haDin, the Day when G-D judges us and writes us hopefully in the Book of Life.  Why not?

The answer is startling.  It is found in the Talmudic tractate Megila (31a). “Wherever you find the greatness of G-D there you find His humility!”

We don’t normally associate G-D with humility, but if humility is a noble trait for mortal man to acquire then G-D must possess it!

Nowhere in the Torah where G-D is speaking does He ever say: love Me, revere Me, attach yourselves to Me, proclaim Me as King!  Moses says all that in the last book of the Torah, again and again, But G-D doesn’t blow His own Shofar! We do it for Him!  That’s the secret of Rosh Hashana.

G-D keeps the full significance of the day under wraps because He is humble!  And since we are to emulate Him, we must be humble too, like Professor Loeb who declares that the more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

Never has there been a year in living memory like 2020 when we have been brought to the realisation of how helpless we are by ourselves. We are simply not in control! We have been powerless to do anything about the bushfires, the floods or Covid-19, nor will we achieve anything globally in 5781/2021 without the agreement of the Global Operations Director – or G.O.D for short.

Let’s pledge this Rosh Hashana to emulate G-D. Let’s not be preoccupied with blowing our own trumpet (or shofar), imagining we, in the most technologically and scientifically advanced age there has ever been, can control everything or indeed practically anything!. Let’s instead empower Him to be our Ruler by letting Him into our lives big time! And let’s blow His Shofar for Him!

Wishing all readers of J-Wire a Shana Tova uMetuka, a year of healing, relief, reconciliation and wondrous salvation!


One Response to “Whose shofar are we blowing?”
  1. ben gershon says:

    some of us look at Talmud daily .because we like the insight into our culture and history .

    the nonsense that R.Ingram promotes and publicises. leaves us horrified



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