The Shofar: An Alarm Clock for the Soul

By Sarah Krinsky

Rosh Hodesh Elul always seems to carry with it some dissonance for me. This has been especially true this year, with Elul beginning before the start of the academic school year—the calendar that has the most practical bearing on my life. Celebrating Elul – announcing and marking the beginning of the Yamim Nora’im season – just didn’t feel quite right when the rest of my life was still so stuck in summer, so distant from the experience of contemplation, reflection, and repentance that I associate so strongly with autumn. 

I therefore find myself all the more appreciative this year of the shofar – the alarm clock for the soul – waking me from my summer slumber and reminding me of the spiritual journey that is ahead, and which has already begun. I find myself reflecting on a teaching of the musician Joey Weisenberg about what exactly the shofar adds to our preparation. The shofar’s sound, Joey teaches, is markedly and importantly different every time—its notes are unpredictable, its sound cannot be controlled. And that’s precisely its beauty; that’s precisely its power.

The shofar helps us realize that the task of the Yamim Nora’im is not just to notice our imperfections, not just strive to make them better, but also to grow to live with them—to accept the elements of our lives and ourselves that are beyond our control.

As I embark on this Yamim Nora’im season – a season that will usher in a year of tremendous personal change – this is a lesson that I seek to hold on to, and that I open myself up to being reminded of with the continuing shofar blasts throughout the coming days and weeks.


About Sarah Krinsky

Sarah is entering her fifth and final year of rabbinical school at the Jewish Theological Seminary, as she begins her second year as a BJ Rabbinic Fellow. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband Daniel.