Community Blog The Call of the Shofar

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
teacher sitting in a chair

Amidst all the noise of the world in which we live, we prepare ourselves to hear the call of the shofar, the call of the ram’s horn, on Rosh Hashanah morning.

I want to return for a moment to the ram’s appearance in the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Vayisa Avraham et eynav vayar v’hinei ayil achar ne’echaz bas’vach b’karnav. “Abraham looked up, and his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that site Adonai-yireh, whence the present saying, ‘On the mount of Adonai there is vision.’”

Up until the angel calls out, and Abraham looks up, up until the ram suddenly appears, caught in the thicket, the trajectory of the story — the tragic momentum of the story — seems irresistible, irreversible, inevitable. The sacrifice has to be offered. The child will have to die.

This is the power of the ram’s horn. It beckons us back to this moment in the story. No longer silent, it calls us back to the ram from which it came, and asks us:

Think about the thicket of your own life. What possibilities have you not seen? Think about a story you are telling yourself — whose outcome you think you already know. What alternatives have you not noticed? And think about the path we are all on together. The altars at the end of the road. The children we love but seem prepared to sacrifice.

Look up. Listen. Incline your heart, your ear To the hollow, bent ram’s horn Through which human breath becomes a summons and a blast. What might we hear? How might we respond?

May the call of the shofar this year make us pause, consider the path we are on, and open our eyes, ears, and hearts to new, life-giving possibilities.

Shana tova u’metukah.

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is President of Hebrew College and former Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.


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