Shofar Prayers and My Second Rosh Hashana
Last year I walked into Chabad Manila for Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) not really knowing what to expect. This year, I was a little more prepared to face the holiday. (I say this in the practical sense. For example, I knew to eat before showing up because the services can take … a while.)
On Monday, the first day, I found my plans popped as I was suddenly put on nephew babysitting duty for most of the day. I spent a while being slightly upset about the turn of events, that I would not actually be able to hear the shofar that day. But I sat back and thought about what Rosh Hashana was essentially about: crowning G-d as King. And as King, what did G-d want me to do today? Watch my nephew. Besides, as King, what role did G-d give me? That of a woman, and that of a non-Jew. Meaning, it probably would be forgivable for me not to show up at shul (synagogue), and do this act of chessed (loving-kindness) instead, even if it wasn’t my original plan for the day.
The second day came around, and I got my chance to go off to shul. Since the men were still praying, I found my rebbetzin and her kids and stayed with them for a while. My rebbetzin then told me that when I heard the shofar and during the pauses, I should really focus on and pray for what I wanted to happen this 5777. I started frantically thinking… what would I pray for?
As I thought, I realized how much courage it takes to pray. How much courage it takes to make resolutions and say that this year, I’m going to come out a different person and do these things. It takes a lot of belief in yourself, and your potential. How many people have stopped making resolutions and goals and praying for things because they thought that there was no point, they wouldn’t happen anyway? How many people have lost that faith in themselves and what they could accomplish? How many people have doubted that G-d would help them achieve what they wanted?
So I decided that this year, this moment, I was going to muster up my courage, and dare to believe in all those things. I came up with three things I really wanted, but wasn’t really sure how to go about. I dared to believe that I could change, that I can take my life to another level, and that I can do things I’ve always dreamed of but never dared to even try. But I also prayed to always remember the lesson I learned the day before: To pay attention to the specific tools and circumstances G-d put me in, and learn how I could best serve Him where He wanted me to. I want to do the job He gave me extremely well instead of trying to snatch my neighbor’s assigned task and do that instead.
It was in a lecture I heard from Reb. Esther Baila Schwartz a few days before Rosh Hashana that really drove this idea home for me. She explained how we’re all placed exactly where we need to be for our souls to reach our maximum growth. So for those born as women, she gave as an example, G-d knew that your soul did not need you to put on tefillin and tzistzis – you can do them, but they wouldn’t help you grow whatsoever. Your soul needs something else. And I want to know what my soul specifically needs, so that I can nourish it properly and perform my job perfectly.
So in short, I want to balance between two things this year: daring to reach beyond my potential, but also staying within the reality G-d gave me. And I hope that with this, I can give G-d plenty of nachas (pride).
And then before I knew it, it was time for the shofar blowing. We all stood, and listened. The first feeling that swept over me as I listened was one of utter awe, that what I was hearing now was also being heard by thousands of Jews all over the world – and have been listening to on Rosh Hashana for thousands of years. It was an incredibly humbling experience, being given this chance to be part of something huge.
And then I prayed. I first thanked G-d for giving me this opportunity to be where I was, physically and spiritually. And then I told Him the things I really wanted to have this year, and how much nachas I wanted to give Him. And then I prayed for His help – because none of my efforts will mean anything without G-d’s hand in it also.
I’d like to wish everyone reading this a beautiful 5777, and that it be filled with things that only bring you happiness, growth, and fulfillment. May all that you prayed for come true. May it be sealed on Yom Kippur that you and yours be inscribed for another year of meaningful life. And I also hope that you too dare to dream, and dare to believe in yourself. That you believe that this year, you can change, that you can accomplish this thing, and that you can have that thing – even if you don’t know the specific steps to get there. Just believe in the goal you want to get to, and trust G-d to figure out the rest of the details and the specific route for you to take. Have no doubt about it: the King can make anything happen.
This entry is dedicated for the refuah of Chava bat Chana, and Patricia Aisha Haya bat Shaba, and for the aliya of the neshama of Menachem Mendel ben Chaim. If you would want me to dedicate my next entry to someone you know in their memory or for their refuah, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernice is a Noahide from the Philippines who spends most of her time playing violin, being involved in musicology research, and writing about various topics (her favorite being Judaism). The rest of the time, she can be found drinking coffee, reading, and convincing herself to workout.