a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Shofar Blowing 101

Posted on: September 15, 2011

Last year a friend of mine was heading back home to Israel for a visit.  Knowing that I was considering Judaism, she asked if she could bring me something from the Holy Land.  I thought about it, and asked for a shofar.  Dorin got back from Israel and maybe 7 months later I met my shofar.  It wasn’t for a lack of trying, when I made the request we worked together and when I finally got it we did not.  Manhattan is not a big island, it’s a busy one.

I received my shofar after Rosh Hashanah last year so it’s been sitting on my mantle next to my menorah for the better part of the year.  Sometimes it ends up on the floor because my cat is not a fan of the smell.  A few weeks ago I took it down and tried to figure out how the play the thing.  Several YouTube instructional videos later, I still need to figure out how to play the thing.  I have, however, learned a lot about the shofar.

The  Akeidah, or Binding of Isaac, is possible one of the most difficult pieces of Torah to read.  I think the parts that Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike pull out to condemn my sexual orientation are rough, but it cannot be compared to God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son.  When you first read the text, it seems that every thing is askew.  God says do it and Abraham does it.  Sarah who loves her child more than anything suddenly is not in the picture.  Abraham who argued with God to spare the people of Lot suddenly becomes mute.

If you tease out the text a little bit more you can imagine, just as the rabbis did, that Abraham did not just march up that mountain to sacrifice his child, that he, in fact, question God.  The Midrash that looks at this text reads, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac whom you love …” and interprets it as a conversation between God and Abraham. God says, “Take your son” and the rabbis taught Abraham answered, “I have two sons.” God said, “Your favored one.” and Abraham responds that he loves them both. God says, “Isaac whom you love” and Abraham knows which son he must sacrifice.  It is also taught that when Isaac asks his father where the sacrifice is to be burnt and Abraham answers that God will provide it, Isaac knows that he is the sacrifice.  So Abraham binds Isaac, places him an the alter and in the moment he is about to kill his own son, an Angel of God stops him and a ram appears in a bush, it’s horns tangled.  Thus, the shofar is born.

A shofar is traditionally made from a ram’s horn, but can be made from any other horn with the exception of a cow or bull.  The shofar is blown every day in the month of Elul, there is a Shofar Flash Mob happening all over the world, and the shofar is most commonly associated with Rosh Hashanah.

The month of Elul is a time for reflection, a time for repentance, and a time to make amends before the New Year and Day of Atonement.  It’s said that during Elul God is in the field, which is to say that God is among us and therefore at our “disposal” to talk with.  This imagery is hard for me because I believe that God is always in the field, always with me-I’ve just not taken a lot of time to see that.


In Please Help Send Erika To Israel! news I have until next Friday to come up with enough funds for a flight to Israel.  I want to take this time to thank everyone who has re-posted my blogs to their Facebook pages and liked the posts, it’s been spreading to so many people and my blog has been the busiest ever in the last two days.  I want to thank everyone who has Retweeted my Tweets to their followers, the impact has been tremendous in getting the word out.  I would like to thank everyone who has sent me encouraging words and who have kept me in their prayers and finally I would like to thank everyone who has donated.  I know that it is a difficult time to give money, without your donations this trip would not happen.

** UPDATE** After four months of sending out resumes all day every day, after going on interviews to not hear response, after praying, crying, drinking, and eating in misery I finally have a job 🙂  I’m so grateful to God.

2 Responses to "Shofar Blowing 101"

Are you going to go to the flash mob on Sunday?

I really want to! I’m debating about staying in BK or going to one in NYC but I’ve got a shofar so why not, right?

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