the danger of narrowing vision

So. The new moon. One month until Rosh HaShanah, the new year. It’s very hard to wrap my head around it–I just finished my summer program, so I should be able to start. The days are beginning to get a little cooler; the nights are even a bit chilly; so I should be able to, right?

I asked the participants in my summer group to talk about how their experiences in the program will help them get ready for this new month and for Rosh HaShanah. The answers were as varied as they were, including one fellow who said point-blank, “Some people feel willing to talk about this to others; I feel it’s completely personal and private, so I will keep it that way.”


Next person, please!

So is this a time for introspection, or interspection?

Yes, I know it’s not a word. I mean, do we just do pupik-gazing or do we look outwards, from ourselves to our family to our community to our people to our country to our world?

What in particular brings this question?

We’re in the middle, mostly tangentially, of all of these cases of people out of control. Some of them it’s due to health reasons. Their bodies are under siege or their minds are attacking their bodies; either way, the “they” of them is not unified.

Others; well, I guess you could easily say they are out of their minds, also. But they are not in control of themselves while trying to control others around them.

Anger is a powerful motivator, apparently.


stemming from perceived lack of control in one’s own life?

(And another side question–is it really okay to let men get away with things because they are men? Can we put this to rest already? Can we evolve, please?)

Thus the narrowing vision thing.

We cannot afford to be caught in our own small space. We cannot afford to be caught by others who imprison us in their own small spaces.

So…while I cannot solve this problem for all of these people, just trying to stay safe and be vigilant for the crazies, But how do we release from them?

I can say that this is the image of the shofar.

This includes the visual even more than the sound. It’s the effort of watching someone picking it up, putting it to their lips, concentrating all their efforts at making it effortless, and pushing all the elements back out to the universe. In a primal scream.

But that’s for the person doing the action. What about all of us bystanders? After all, there’s a thing about having just one voice, just one shofar, for the sake of the mitzvah of listening to the sound of the shofar.

Maybe it’s about giving in.

Letting go.

Giving control over to someone else.

So I’ll quote from someone else (Rabbi Eliezer Melamed), who quotes from someone else.

The Redak (Rabbi David Kimchi) explains that the first shofar blast in every order of blasts expresses the souls natural goodness, it represents the newborn child, untainted by sin, clean and pure. When the child grows, he becomes exposed to the complications and the crooked ways of this world, he struggles and is tested, he also falls and sins. This is expressed through the teruah, through moaning and sobbing over the failures that taint our character and the transgressions we become entangled in. The order finishes with a final simple shofar blast, which again expresses man’s virtue and goodness, but this time after repentance, after requesting forgiveness.

Finally, at the conclusion of all of the blasts, we blow a single long blast that expresses the end of all struggles and hardships, the final rectification. The greatness of a penitent is that after sin and failure he achieves a state of consummation, as a person enriched by trials, and despite everything has succeeded in overcoming all obstacles to refine his soul. In this regard, the sages say, “In the place where penitents stand even the wholly righteous cannot stand” (Berakhot 34b).

Did I just completely contradict myself, saying it’s people who demand control who are in trouble, but we should release control?

You tell me.


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