The classic story is told of the passenger in the Israeli cab who innocently asks the driver what time is it ?
To which the cab driver responds, I don’t wear a watch so I don’t know. The passenger is baffled by this response. How can you not wear a watch or even have a clock in the car, and no cell phone with the time on display – how can you tell what time it is when you need to know? Oh, that’s easy: when I need to know what time it is, I just pick up the shofar I keep on the front seat and sound a loud note. The passenger even more confused inquires, and how does sounding a shofar tell you the time. Oh, that’s the easy part. When I sound the shofar, invariably someone opens up their window and yells out, it’s two o’clock in the morning – what are you doing making such a noise ?! That’s how I know what time it is !
In the month preceding Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew calendar month of Elul, we sound the shofar daily (except on Shabbat) to remind us that the time is fast approaching to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and enjoy the deep blessings of a New Year and our capacity to create affirmative changes in our lives. A New Year offers us new beginnings and new possibilities of how we relate to ourselves, our loved ones and to the matrix of family, friends and those around us – and to cultivate new opportunities in relationship to our community and God and in our personal and professional lives. The sounding of the shofar, a truly primal sound, is a clarion call and a catalyst for change and transformation. An immutable truth of the natural world is that everything in the world grows and evolves until that growth and evolution ends in the finite journey of life. But until that moment, all life in nature blossoms and blooms, grows, and transforms as that IS the journey!
That is the trajectory of life and the sounding shofar, a natural hollow horn from either a ram or an ibex, is the seismic sounds that awakens us to the natural flow of life – and our response to living is to transcend who were are now and evolve to the best of our capacity guided by our traditions and faith in order to craft a better tomorrow. The shofar truly becomes a Divine instrument that helps us pause and clarify where we are now, and how we can begin to navigate ever the more meaningful tomorrows.
The art of living is never meant to be passive as each page in the Mahzor (High Holy Day prayer book) is a manual on how we are at the helm, crafting and guiding our lives by the choices we make – and God calls upon us to make wise, just and moral choices. The Yamim Noraim, the High Holy days from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur through Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah beckon us to be engaged in the soulful and intellectual gifts of Judaism. These fall festivals take us on a journey energized by the sounding of the shofar to reflect, respond, recognize our strengths and deficits, to recharge our souls, to rebuild and create a renaissance (as evoked by the sukkah) and to revel in the joy of Judaism as we choose to live more meaningful lives inspired by our faith, history, to avail ourselves of the opportunities provided in our DHJC community and the Torah scrolls we dance with on Simhat Torah.
There is one other time when we sound the shofar aside from the High Holy Days – and that is in the Jubilee Year. The Torah describes that every 7th year in the Land of Israel, there is a year of rest and restoration and a rebalancing of rights and redistribution of economic justice. The land lies fallow and indentured servants are freed from their debts, and similar to the rest of the 7th day (Shabbat) the earth itself in Israel rests and is replenished naturally without the soil being tilled. After a cycle of 7 sabbatical year, the year after is pronounced as the Jubilee Year as 7 years times 7 cycles = 49 with the year after being the most precious, the 50th or Jubilee Year ! The Jubilee Year commences according to the Torah with the sounding of the shofar ! The Hebrew for Jubilee is Yovel – to sound (the shofar) and this Hebrew word via Latin roots becomes the word Jubilee (50th celebration) and jubilant (to shout / sound out ) in JOY !
We are proud to proclaim to our DHJC family (imagine the shofar being sounded at this precious moment!) that we commence our JUBILEE YEAR – DHJC 50 YEARS STRONG ! And imagining Jewish tomorrows – today ! From our origins in 1968 as families banded together to create a Jewish presence in our community, to the small house of our first real shul on the corner of Deforest and Deer Park to moving into DHJC on Vanderbilt Parkway in 1974 – we are always growing, flourishing, engaging, building Jewish life and inspiring our community in Western Suffolk County. Our synagogue community is a beacon of Torah and traditions, of joy and Jewish life cycle events, of Holidays and Happenings, of life-long learning and Shabbat celebrations for 50 years and thriving into the future ! And we are infinitely proud that the heart and soul of our synagogue is prayer and that we are the ONLY synagogue east of Plainview until you hit Glasgow in Scotland (no exaggeration !) with a daily morning and evening minyan held in our majestic and beautiful Sandler Minyan Chapel – there is no other shul Orthodox, Conserative or Reform on the spectrum of Jewish practices that has a daily minyan – and our minyan is filled with camaraderie, friendship, spirited prayers, warm and open – and reliable 24/7 !
As we sound the shofar on Rosh Hashanah we not only commence the power and blessings of a new year, but also celebrate a DHJC milestone as we revel in 50 years of leadership in Jewish life that has touched and continues to inspire our entire community. This a banner year that will be filled with stories of our Mayflower (founding) families, of growth and weaving together communities to create the dynamism that is a hallmark of DHJC. We will have concerts and celebrations, tributes and wonderful events that seek to engage each of us in celebrating our JUBILEE YEAR and our mission as an engaging, joyous, open, welcoming and warm Conservative Jewish community. I encourage each of us to be involved all throughout this year in our celebrations and in our mission as well !
As we celebrate our Jubilee year, we also toot our horn (pun intended) sharing the way in which DHJC grows each year and responds creatively to deepening Jewish life in our community. Our Fun Fridays this summer attracted banner crowds, and our Summer Shabbat Scholars each Shabbat were delightful and powerful presentations by our talented team of congregants. Our first Shabbat at the Shore was attended by nearly 150 and a great success. We have new Jewish learning venues this year and a MINI-MINYAN twice each month for our youngest of children and their families on Shabbat mornings, and on Rosh Hashanah a new event: Rosh Hashanah & Me for grown-ups and children infant to 4 years old (and siblings welcome ).
Our Jubilee Year will include Jewish Journeys to Israel (Feb. 14-25, 2018) and Shalom Switzerland (plus a little of France and Northern Italy (August 2 – 14, 2018). Look for more joyous celebrations on Sukkot : apple picking and Pizza in the Hut. We salute our well deserving Simhat Torah honoree of Eddie Cohen, Lisa & Evan Mintz and Honey & Henry Pine – and our festivities will include a Cirque d’Simhat Torah with ice cream sundae making !
From Men’s Club & Sisterhood and Hazak events, to our Chai Institute of Jewish Learning and Life-Long Studies each day at DHJC to concerts and our youth groups, our Early Childhood Academy and our religious school, we are mobilized as one energized by the sounding of the shofar for a spectacular Jubilee Year at DHJC ! Be a part of our celebrations and the JEWbilation and jubilation will be magical, memorable and meaningful !
I trust that you have truly enjoyed summer with your loved ones. Our family is truly grateful to our DHJC family as we have celebrated together this summer the rich & beautiful blessing of Eliezer and Tamar’s wedding and the magnificent engagement of Hillel to Jaclyn Frankel and the sweet and joyous blessings that Laura and I share with Yael & Yair and our grandson Lev; Aviva; Hillel, engaged to Jaclyn ; Eliezer married to Tamar, and Noam – all of whom join me in wishing you a shanah tovah, a richly joyous and sweet New Year- and a joyous Jubilee Year for all of us as DHJC Celebrates 50 years strong ! May this New Year and every year bring to us contentment, good health, and gifted moments reflecting upon where we have been and the remarkable pathways of where we are going illuminated by Divine blessings !