The Call of the Shofar

The CAJE Board & Staff  Wish You and Your Family  ShanaTova u’Metuka... A Sweet and Blessed  New Year!

The sound of the shofar is primal & ancient. It produces a strange sense of awe and reverence.  


Think back to that moment before the first blast is sounded; a hushed expectancy fills the synagogue. At the moment we hear the first piercing note, we are struck with an almost childlike wonderment.


And for most of us, it is one of our earliest childhood memories. 


The notes of the shofar are not beautiful by any musical standard, but somehow we find in their thin piercing blasts something that calls to us. We feel connected to the shepherds and kings who first heard these same notes in Eretz Yisrael/the Land of Israel more than 3000 ago.   


But what is the call of the shofar? 


In ancient Biblical times, it was a call to action— rousing us to battle or some kind of communal alarm. 


When the Second Temple stood, it was a call for preparation— alerting us that a holy day (Shabbat or Pesach or Rosh Hashanah) was soon arriving. 


Archaeologists excavating the Temple Mount area near the Davidson Center found a large stone engraved with the words: “L’Beit HaTekiah…” which are understood to mean “To the place of the trumpeting…,” the place on the southwest corner of the Temple Mount walls where the shofar was publically blown in the years before the Romans destroyed the walls and threw the rock (pictured here) into the valley below.

Photo by Andrey Zeigarnik from Raanana, Israel via Wikimedia Commons

And today, the blast of the shofar is a call for awareness— a wake-up call for change and teshuvah. As Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah:  


It is as if the shofar is calling out to us: ‘Sleepers, wake up from your slumber! Examine your ways and do teshuvah and remember your Creator.' 


In the world of Jewish education, there are many things to be proud and excited about, and many things that inspire worry.


Our early childhood centers are bursting at the seams in terms of enrollment, and yet, early childhood educators are still not paid a living wage and most do not have the professional education necessary to best do their jobs.


The numbers of children enrolled in congregation education (Hebrew) schools are declining, and yet, the programs themselves are becoming more innovative and creative every year.


Our Federation-funded day schools are mostly filled to capacity and correspondingly, there is a teacher shortage that constrains further growth and professional development (which requires substitutes so teachers can attend to their own learning).


Our teen programs are open for enrollment and filling up, but not as quickly as we need, so we try to find new ways to market to teens and their parents in this competitive, media-driven world.


Our adult learning classes (now online) are also open for enrollment, and yet, we still strive to find more learners here in Miami-Dade and around the country.


The Miami Jewish Film Festival is crafting an amazing program for January, and yet, is still struggling to get members to renew (if that’s you, just do it!).


This Rosh Hashanah, the shofar calls us personally— to awareness, to preparation, to action. 


We have to do the work of heshbon hanefesh, of taking stock of ourselves, where we are in our lives and our relationships, deciding what must change and then actually doing the teshuvah, the turning, to make those changes.

The shofar calls us to action, preparation, and awareness on behalf of Jewish education. But we— all of us who have made a commitment to this field -- must do the work of teshuvah, so to speak, to figuring out what should stay the same and what must change. 


As we read in the Mahzor [High Holy Day prayerbook]:  


The great shofar is sounded, and a still small voice is heard.   


May we hear that voice as it emerges and act upon it. 


As the only communal Jewish organization in Miami striving to improve the quality of Jewish education at every level, CAJE is aware, prepared and ready to act on the voice calling us to keep pushing for greater excellence, for further transformation, for lasting impact on behalf of the Jewish people.


And may the Holy One bless us with insight and wisdom for this community journey together and for our own personal journeys of teshuvah into the new year of 5784 ahead. 

Sara Bejar

Chair of the Board

Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar

Executive Director