The blowing of the shofar is also a call to take action for justice in the world.
Jewish advocates for social justice consider the call of the shofar a demand for righteous action in the world. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center has often used the shofar as a symbol of the call for communal repentance and the pursuit of justice.
The different notes we learn to sound out on the Shofar have different meanings.
One calls out, “Alarm!” — “Awake!”
Another evokes sobs of grief as we realize how far we have wandered off the path of a loving life, the hurt we have caused others and ourselves.
Still another is a series of deep breaths as we begin to heal ourselves by healing those around us.
T’ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, is led by rabbis and cantors calling all members of the Jewish community to work for human right everywhere, especially in the US and Israel. The organization takes its name from the blasts of the shofar. The Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement has frequently used the shofar image, as in this speech by Rabbi Fred Guttman on voting rights, in which he recalled that in ancient times the shofar was a call to liberty. Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization that focuses on domestic issues, blew the shofar at U.S. Senators’ offices and delivered comments from their constituents who sought justice for home health care workers. (Bend the Arc offers the Jeremiah Fellowship in California and in Washington DC, for young Jewish social justice leaders.)
Lift your voice like a shofar! כַּשּׁוֹפָ֖ר הָרֵ֣ם קוֹלֶ֑ךָ Ka-shofar harem kolecha!
This is the fast I have chosen: To loose the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke! It is to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor outcast home, to see someone naked and cover him, to stop hiding from your own kin.
Isaiah 58, Haftarah (Prophetic Reading) of Yom Kippur morning
Consider and comment: Based on a teaching of Rabbi Zalman-Schachter-Shalomi, as you hear the shofar calling on the Days of Awe, ask yourself, “What is the shofar calling me to do this year to make the world a better place?” For ideas, explore some of these great books on Judaism and Social Justice activism.
Featured Image: Shofar Blowers during Tashlich at Green Lake for Congregation Eitz Or, Seattle. Photo by Joe King via Flickr