Dear LA Teacher,
Today is Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year. All of LAUSD schools are closed for the holiday. I would like to know what universal message does this day off have for all of us—Jews and non-Jews?
LA High School Student
Dear LA High School Student,
On Rosh HaShanah the shofar is sounded. It is a ram’s horn that makes a trumpet-like sound and is traditionally blown on the Jewish New Year.
Originally, the shofar was blasted in ancient times during the New Year celebration to scare off demons and ensure a happy start for the New Year.
In Jewish history, the shofar was used to announce the start of a holiday, to mark the beginning of a war, and it was even used by Joshua to cause the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down (Joshua 6:2-5).
Such an important part of the Rosh Hashanah service, the shofar is blown 100 times during the two-day holiday. (If the holiday falls on the Sabbath, it is not blown at all.)
The shofar has symbolic significance, which helps explain the meaning of Rosh HaShanah to the Jewish people.
First, it has to do with God’s request to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. When Abraham proved his devotion to God, an angel came to Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead. To those who hear the blast of the shofar, we are reminded of God’s forgiveness. We are also reminded to repent our sins to start the New Year clean.
Secondly, the shofar is sounded to announce the revelation on Sinai when Moses delivered God’s law to the Jewish people. The shofar reminds us that Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) provide us with moments of revelation to properly engage in repentance. This not only means requesting God to forgive our sins, but asking our friends, family, and community to forgive sins we may have committed against them during the past year.
Finally, the sound of the shofar signals the coming of the Messiah. Since no religion has claimed a messianic being for more than 2000 years, we must perceive this hope as a deeper message—within each one of us lays the Messiah. It is for the individual to live his or her life committed to good deeds, to help their community, and individuals in need. The shofar blast reminds us that the goal of all humanity is to turn weapons of mass destruction into missions of peace and to care for our children more than we are motivated to hate our neighbors.
The shofar is an optimistic sound signaling all of us—Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists that mankind possesses the power to make our planet a Garden of Eden.
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