As we all wait for the time of Shofar blowing over Rosh Hashana, we must ask yourselves: “ what I should be doing or even thinking during the blowing?”
To respond to that question, let us reflect as to where the sound of Shofar is mentioned in the Torah. While it is mentioned in many parts of the Bible, let’s focus on the second instance which is in Numbers 29 (Pinchas). That specific part establishes Rosh Hashana as Yom Teruah (Day of the Sound of the Shofar) which is immediately followed by the sacrifice offering: וַֽעֲשִׂיתֶם (using the verb “to do'' in hebrew) while - for all the other subsequent holidays in that very Torah portion - the term וְהִקְרַבְתּם (you will sacrifice) is used. What do we learn from that?
According to our sages, Rosh Hashana is not a time to just assess what we have done but to “sacrifice ourselves” or atone hence the term וַֽעֲשִׂיתם, of course – it is not to take literally as the Torah is חַיִּים Chayim (‘life’) – but essentially to give ourselves to G-od through Mesirat Nefesh, which can be translated as ‘giving over the soul’.
Our sages, notably the Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, a Yeminite Mekoubalist Rabbi living in the 18th century) adds that we should achieve this through Mesirat Nefesh and doing Teshuva, repenting for our sins. Before hearing the Shofar, the Rashash indicates that we should do Teshuva by acknowledging our sins and promising not to do them again but also to act through a “small Teshuva”.
Is it realistic to think about all the sins we have done over the year and to be able to stop them entirely? Is it what we are being asked for? The Rashash emphasizes that when a Jew does a “small Teshuva”, that person is considered Baal Teshuva - a Master of Repentance'. Indeed, the Rashash gives us an amazing opportunity to explore a way to undertake something simple and one can enumerate a few examples of Mesirout Nefesh and Small Teshuva. One example could be Lashon Harah - Slander or nasty gossip.Would it be possible to stop it all in one go? Imagine Shabbat dinner…
The Gemara recalls “everyone says Lashon Hara” and as we exist, we talk. So, practically, one could do Mesirout Nefesh/Small Teshuva by taking upon oneself to refrain from talking for some time, especially during Shabbat Dinner.
One suggestion is: when we feel the urge to talk, we could instead just refrain for 30 minutes at any point or read something instead. In that way, we could accomplish that Teshuva. Another example: assume one is religiously observant, and acing all the blessings or prayers and can recite as fast as one can read! Instead of a 30-second Amidah, take 1 minute and read -- at a slower pace -- all the words. Instead of reciting the bracha over an apple in half a second, take 3 seconds by pronouncing all the words. Don’t be a consumer but a blesser. Final example (but quite important to me) is social media, news, notification and usage of all apps. How much time today did I spend checking the reels and scrolling down?
What does it add to our life? Worst, it takes so much time of our lives. Remember that time is finite, but our actions and good deeds last forever. How about this year - during the Shofar blowing - we take upon ourselves to limit social media browsing by reducing our screen time by 20 minutes and using that time every year to pray Shacharit/Mincha/Arvit or just reading a few Tehillim -Psalms - every day?
Imagine the lives we could impact positively by these prayers! I encourage everyone of us to find the courage and the will to “DO” this new year and to “LISTEN” to the shofar by “ACTING” on it right away. This is not an uphill battle, and it is within our reach!
Shana Tova OuMetouka – Gmar Chatima Tova,
David Rebibo, Parent of Noa G3, Lea G8 and Liora G10
This Dvar Torah is sourced from the weekly Monday night Shiur from the former chief Rabbi of France, Rabbi Joseph Hayim Sitruk, Z’L, of blessed memory, available on Youtube.