#BlogElul 17 – Awaken



Since I don’t have to get anybody out to school in the morning during the summer, I’ve been going to morning minyan more often. That means that I’ve been hearing the sound of the Shofar, as it is blown every morning during Elul, at the end of the morning service.

What does the Shofar have to do with the theme of Awakening? Pretty much everything, if you’ve ever heard one being blown. Those things are LOUD.

To quote Maimonides again,

Maimonides writes in his Laws of Repentance, 3:4: “Although the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is a decree of the Torah [a law issued without an accompanying reason], there is a hint [of meaning] within it, as if it were saying, ‘awake, sleeping ones, from your slumber, and those napping arise from your naps, examine your actions and return sincerely to G-d, and remember your Creator.'”

What does it mean to be spiritually asleep? What does it mean to awaken from such a slumber?

The word that comes to me in this regard is “mindfulness”. A mindful person is awake and aware, paying attention to what is going on.

We talk about mindful eating – if we are eating in front of the computer or the TV, we have no idea what we have eaten or what it tasted like. We are, to all intents and purposes, asleep. We often tend to overeat when we do this, because when we don’t taste our food properly, it is not as satisfying and we do not pay attention to our satiation cues.

What about mindful parenting? How often do we zone out while our children are telling us something that they consider to be very important, even if we don’t? Are we parenting in our sleep? And how high-quality is the attention we appear to be giving our children, when our minds are elsewhere?

To return to Maimonides, the kind of spiritual awakening he is talking about is a manifestly religious one – return to G-d and remember your Creator. Important words this time of year. But I strongly believe that the Shofar calls us to awaken in an even broader sense – to be awake and aware every day of our lives, and to be grateful for all the many gifts we are given. Life is uncertain. Never take anything for granted.

Are you awake or asleep?

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