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There is perhaps no object that symbolizes this notion of history and relationship more than the Shofar, the ram’s horn, usually heard only on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. At that time, the sound of the Shofar is meant to awaken our hearts and souls and inspire us toward introspection and contrition. However, the Shofar also represents other seminal events in Jewish history, both past and future: The binding of Isaac, the Covenant made at Sinai, an allusion to the Final Days, a reminder of the Ingathering of the Exiles, and even a reference to the Revival of the Dead. Many have the indelible picture in their minds of Israel’s then Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren sounding the Shofar at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem when it was liberated during the Six Day War.
As a civil holiday observed in Israel, Yom Hazikaron has not managed to make significant inroads of identification – let alone observance – in the Diaspora community. Many reasons are touted for this: Distance, both physical and spiritual, from the country and the people; a lack of familiarity with anyone directly affected; discomfort and guilt from not being an active participant in the defense of Israel or the Jewish people; remoteness from the national ethos. They are all logical and understandable. However, when all is said and done, so many Jews from around the world, of all denominations, of all degrees of observance, of all levels of affiliation, recognize the State of Israel as the nexus of Jewish survival and resurgence. They also deeply understand the necessity of cohesiveness, alliance, and of unity, particularly in a world in which the Jew is a constant target.
The siren that will sound next week in Israel is certainly a Shofar. The tone that it produces is assuredly akin to the moaning ‘genuchay ganach’ and the mournful ‘yelulei yelal’ sounds we hear on the New Year. We know that to fulfill the commandment of the Shofar, we cannot simply blow it. Nor can we merely hear it. We must internalize it. It must move us. We must allow the sound to connect us to Jewish history, tothe Jewish present and to the entire nation of Israel.
Edward Jacobs is a principal at The Berenbaum Group, a museum design firm, through which he designs and develops concept and exhibition design for projects in the United States, Israel and Europe.