At sundown this Friday night, the Jewish community here in the United States and all over the world will celebrate the start of the new year. Rosh Hashanah, literally “head of the year,” marks not only a time of prayer and self-reflection, but also a time of celebration, rejuvenation and hopefulness for the days and year to come.
For many, the sounds of the shofar serve as an emotional high point during the period leading up to and during the High Holy Days. The sounds emanating from the ram’s horn awaken our spirits and compel the listener to repentance and to action. In the first Presidential video message for the High Holy Days, President Obama describes how:
“[T]his sacred time provides not just an opportunity for individual renewal and reconciliation, but for families, communities and even nations to heal old divisions, seek new understandings, and come together to build a better world for our children and grandchildren.
“At the dawn of this New Year, let us rededicate ourselves to that work. Let us reject the impulse to harden ourselves to others’ suffering, and instead make a habit of empathy – of recognizing ourselves in each other and extending our compassion to those in need.
“Let us resist prejudice, intolerance, and indifference in whatever forms they may take — let us stand up strongly to the scourge of anti-Semitism, which is still prevalent in far too many corners of our world.
“Let us work to extend the rights and freedoms so many of us enjoy to all the world’s citizens – to speak and worship freely; to live free from violence and oppression; to make of our lives what we will.”