Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Shema, Israel!"*

*("Hear, O, Israel")

At Jewish High Holiday services, someone blows a ram's horn known as a Shofar. It's the ancient way of calling you to account for your misdeeds, to attention, to get you in the spirit to make amends and ask forgiveness. (Its history is more than that, but for the purposes of this post, it's for new year and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. If any sages want to add anything about it, feel free to comment).

The shofar blowing is a big event at most temples because it is a spiritually meaningful part of the service--and also because it's like playing bagpipes with no bag. It's all about the shofar blower just makin' it happen with all the respiratory prowess s/he can bring to bear in honor of the holiest days of the year.

This year we brought Bambina up from the kiddie care room to hear the shofar, to see the person blow the shofar, to experience this rite of passage for every Jewish kid. As always, the room got very quiet before the rabbi called out "Tekiah!," which is the first note the shofar blower must hit. You could hear a pin drop and a heart beat before the call. We had whispered to Bambina that the shofar was coming. And we waited.

And waited.
And waited some more.
It was only about two minutes of waiting while the blower got ready, but it was an eternity for a toddler (not to mention her mother). So I said, "Maybe soon we'll hear it," and "Maybe not long now," and "Maybe in the next 5 seconds it will start" to keep her occupied during the incredible silence of anticipation.

Just at the moment of deepest, most reverential silence, just as all the hearts were lifting themselves to God in anticipation of the shofar, just as I finished whispering, "Maybe soon, sweet girl, maybe soon," Bambina decided it had been quite long enough, thank you, and loudly announced into the holy silence: "Maybe NOT!"

"Hear, O, Israel" indeed.

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