This morning, I gave a short talk at the Lawrence Jewish Community Congregation’s Rosh Hashana service on Shafarot, a calling to live with greater awareness and purpose, to examine what we need to change or release or summon our courage and strength to do, and to be more of a mensch. I ended up, no surprise given the subject matter and how I grapple with things, writing this poem.
The Call of the Shofar
It is not just the old call in the bones
and quiet of memory, the temple
falling, the exiles returning,
the temple rebuilding itself
through our hands and acts, the readying
of whatever clearing—right outside
our front door on a hot September afternoon
—welcomes the presence of what
we cannot name but names us.
The call of the shofar is a question,
staccato as cicadas or long-necked arching
into the sunset tonight. What is here?
It asks. Who? We might answer,
or just as misguided, Why?
But all such music—part animal,
part wind, part invisible, part visible
even if we miss it—is always
a conversation. Did you hear that?
Each inhalation a slip of sound
we finally grasp, Each exhalation a surrender
to how little we know, especially about
the confluences of our own voices so far
behind us, around old bends that shape
our hours now, so far ahead of us into
the chatter of babies or birds, the rush
of storms through the fields of the future,
the sound of the shofar running
or stilling itself like water,
like this river of life.
Lightning maybe. Thunder.
A flash of clear blue again. Quiet.
Then the call and response we are made for:
Let your old temples fall.
Raise your eyes. Return.
Listen. Listen Listen.