Jerusalem Gearing Up For Rosh Hashana’s Shofar Blowing
A central focus of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) is the blowing of the shofar(ram’s horn). And the central focus of the Jewish Nation is Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal unified capital. So, the most natural thing is to blow the shofar in Jerusalem on Rosh Hashana… this rabbi is working to ensure that every Jew in Jerusalem has a chance to hear it…
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Government Press Office (Israel) / CC BY-SA
One rabbi’s efforts to ensure every Jew in Jerusalem hears the shofar
Article Courtesy: JPost
Put a hundred Jews in a room and ask them what ritual they most associate with Rosh Hashanah. Whoever doesn’t mention dipping apples in honey will almost certainly cite hearing the shofar.
With Rosh Hashanah coming in mid-September, one Jerusalem resident is starting to think about how to help people hear the shofar blasts on the Jewish New Year.
Rabbi Moshe Silver and his wife Reza Green made aliyah in 2018 from Highland Park, New Jersey. For 40 years, Silver blew shofar for the Drisha Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur minyan in New York. Now he wants to make sure every Jew in Jerusalem has a chance to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah even when, due to COVID-19, many synagogues are limited to just a handful of worshipers.
On July 20, Silver put out a call for shofar blowers in the Secret Jerusalem Facebook group.
At this stage, it’s not clear how his vision will happen, but plans are still unfolding. Silver is in negotiations with Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum to see how the city can assist.
“During this crisis, we have seen many acts of kindness and solidarity and residents mobilizing to ensure we get through this together. The shofar project is an example of keeping community and custom in the midst of a crisis. I’m proud to say it comes from good residents and activists who have something to give to their neighbors and who want to make sure nobody misses this important mitzvah on Rosh Hashanah,” Hassan-Nahoum told In Jerusalem.
Silver’s first thought was to arrange for multiple shofar blowers to walk around the city, but having them stationed at the city’s various community centers and blowing shofar on a prearranged schedule, such as every hour, might be a better plan.
“I’m hoping the municipality can help with identifying places in neighborhoods for optimal access. I would love to have 50 to 100 ba’alei tokea (shofar blowers). We want it to be well-planned.”
He knows it’s not reasonable “to expect someone to walk around for six hours, blowing every 30 minutes. We will map a route. Everyone will start by blowing in their own neighborhood.” For example, near his home in Katamonim, Silver said “there are hundreds of apartments around a chatzer (courtyard).”
“The municipality and the community centers will help map out the best route for each person to walk for 20 minutes and then blow. People should be able to walk in a circuit. Each shofar blower can choose how much to do and every little bit will make a huge difference,” he explained.
Logistics are still being worked out. Silver sees himself as the person who lit the spark, but he needs assistance to make it all happen. There is a need not just for more shofar blowers, but for people to map out routes and put it all together in a spreadsheet. “It’s a grass toots effort,” he joked.
He knows it’s too big a job for one man. “I’m hoping there will be a team to help plan. It’s great that city hall wants to help with scheduling and wants to make it happen.
“If the community centers support it, then maybe that’s enough. The sound of the shofar carries. Maybe it’s enough to schedule shofar blowing at each community center every two hours,” he proposed.
“Everyone is trying to get outdoor space to have a minyan, to arrange seating under a tent with social distancing. People are freaking out that there won’t be a minyan for Rosh Hashanah. I fear that there will be thousands who will not be able to pray with a minyan this year. Those people need to know that they will be able to hear the shofar.”
Silver’s original Facebook post garnered over 350 reactions and was shared more than 40 times. At the time of this writing, he has already recruited a dozen other experienced shofar blowers and opened the brand-new Jerusalem Shofar Ensemble Facebook group to unite shofar blowers in Israel’s capital. He anticipates that it will be good, for occasions like the month of Elul or at certain types of state ceremonies, to have a cadre of skilled shofar blowers who can be called upon to enhance an event.
NOW THAT Tisha Be’av is behind us, Silver is planning a more aggressive campaign to recruit more people who have the skills to blow shofar for others. “We’re at the beginning of the project,” he noted, “but I hope it will be spontaneously replicated in other cities. It’s great for achdut (unity) for Jerusalem and for Jews in general.
“I want to emphasize that it’s important that as many people in Jerusalem participate in this and know about it as much in advance as possible. I’m already talking to people who are desolate because they won’t have a Rosh Hashanah minyan. How much more devastated will people be when they realize they have no minyan and won’t be able to hear shofar?” he asked.
Silver has a tentative plan to gather all prospective shofar blowers one morning in Sacher Park so that people whose skills aren’t sufficient for the task will exclude themselves. On the one hand, he doesn’t want to turn anyone away. On the other, “It would be chaval (a pity) to have a neighborhood relying on someone who can’t get a sound out,” he elaborated.
His dream is to have someone who can blow shofar in every neighborhood in Jerusalem.
“The main thing is transparency. We will list who will be where and people can choose who to listen to.”
The first goal is to get an expanded list of volunteer shofar blowers together. He’s hoping, based on his decades of experience, that the shofar blowers will gain at least as much as the community members.
“Baruch Hashem (Thank God), I have a gift. I’m a very good ba’al tokea. It’s a gift for me to be able to share. I’m about achdut. My tefilah (prayer) is that we can bring this light into the world in a way it’s never been brought in before and be a unifying force for Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people) and the city of Jerusalem.”
Interestingly, he added, “The high point is almost never blowing shofar during the minyan in shul. It’s always when there’s a unique need, being asked to blow for one individual at home or in a hospital.
“This is why God put me on this earth. Blowing shofar for people who would not otherwise have the experience elevates it,” he enthused.
Silver anticipates that “people driving by will stop to listen. It’s a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name) [to provide shofar blasts] for people who would not have heard it otherwise. “
In all the announcements about public shofar blowing, people will be asked to open their windows or come out to their porches and to not congregate or crowd around the shofar blowers.
“People can stay indoors and still hear it,” Silver emphasized.
“People will be able to hear this and it will be the most memorable Rosh Hashanah of their lives. To me it’s a tremendous bracha (blessing) to be able to do this for others. I want to offer this gift to help other people. People need to be reassured, whatever else happens, there will be shofar this year.
“I personally hope to be out on the road the entire day, but I would be happy if every shul or community center would announce that they are arranging a public shofar blowing. My victory would be if I don’t have to leave my mirpeset (balcony) and I would be able to hear other shofarot resounding from all around the city.”
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