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Sounds of Rosh Hashanah

October 3, 2019


As I sat in the temple yesterday for Rosh Hashanah service, I was struck by the sounds. Rosh Hashanah is all about the sounds. I am more keenly aware of the surrounding sounds when I’m in a synagogue service because there are no screens to be watching, no projected text for all to see and follow along. Pages rustled across the sanctuary as guests, myself included, struggled to keep up with what page to look at in the siddur, the prayer book that guides the worship experience. Seats squeak and groan as worshippers stand and sit and stand and sit throughout the service. The strong soprano voice of the cantor explored every nook and cranny of the vast expanse of the room as she led the rhythm of the service. The curtains of the ark whispered as they were opened and closed throughout the service. The silver adornments of the scrolls clinked and clattered as the scrolls were carried around the room for all the worshippers to show their reverence. The precious old ladies next to me whispered, sometimes not too softly, periodically throughout the service. While all of these sounds contributed to and helped me understand the worship experience, none is as gripping as the blast of the shofar. In our service the shofar was sounded at three different intervals, from different places in the sanctuary throughout the morning. I noticed how different it sounded from the back of the room compared to when it was close to my seat. There’s really just no other sound like it in the world. Rosh Hashanah, also called Yom Teruah, literally means the day of the blast. It signals a new season, a new year, a new beginning. The sound of the shofar ushers in the new- the new moon, the new year, the coronation of a new king. A symbol and sound of both war and worship, the shofar was important in Biblical times and is still important today. It is the sound of victory, the sound Joshua and the Israelites used as they marched around Jericho. It is the sound of battle, as the Levites would lead the way against the enemy by sounding the shofar. It is the sound that gathers the people of God and calls for them to arise and be awakened! It is the sound that reminds us that God is fighting for us. It is the sound that calls Heaven to intervene here on Earth. It is the sound of God’s kingdom, and the sound of His people.

As we celebrate all the wonderful things God did in 5779, we know we can’t stay there. There is more work to be done. Yesterday’s success is not tomorrow’s victory, but rather a memorial of God’s faithfulness moving forward. We press on toward the goal, of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, as Paul says in Philippians 3:14. We hope you will join us! Why? Because in this current geo-political climate, Israel needs our help. Daily, Israel is facing delegitimization campaigns, acts of hatred and terror from her neighbors and economic boycott of Jewish owned businesses in Judea and Samaria. We believe that we have a part to play in flipping the script, in changing the narrative and in supporting Israel on the world stage. We believe you have a part to play in this story as well. We invite you to join us as we build a global alliance of Christians and Jews working together for a better future, and a stronger Israel.

Rachel Wimpey
ARISE Director of Development