“In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath, a commemoration with horn blasts, a sacred convocation.” (Lev. 23:24)
It is Rosh Hashanah we are talking about here, even though it says the seventh month; in Jewish reckoning the seventh month of the liturgical year is the first month of the calendar year.
A story: On Rosh Hashanah 5763 (2002), I sat next to D., a white haired woman with an oxygen tank . At the time, her doctors only gave her weeks to live.
D. has accepted this. She tells me, matter-of-factly, that she is at peace, and I believe her; it shows. But it is not a peace born of weariness or fatalism. She loves her life. If they found a “miracle pill” tomorrow that would cure her, she would take it. But she knows that they won’t. She is at peace.
We stood for the sounds of the shofar: the wake-up calls, the cries of brokenness and longing, and the last long blast that embraces the world. I had my arm around D. I noticed her tears. I thought, “She is thinking that this is the last time she will hear the shofar sound.” But neither of us said anything that day.
The next Sabbath she told me what that moment had meant to her. “I thought of all the times that the shofar has sounded in the past. And I thought of all the times that it will sound in the future. And it seemed to me that all of those sounds converged into one sound in the present.”
D. passed away some 14 months later. She taught me something about what it means to live in the present: not to detach myself from my past and future, but to hold them with me, to see the continuity of my own life and, in turn, its continuity of my life with the lives of others.
I always think of D. when I hear the shofar. May it wake me up to what’s right under my nose.