The Blast of the Shofar
On the Days Leading to Rosh Hashanah
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the Holy Days is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Michael Sakash and Mrs. Channah Sakash, may they rest in peace.

The month of Elul is charged with electricity. It's full of excitement! Elul is the official call each morning to the much anticipated arrival of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is one of my most favorite times of the year. Shuls in general take on a different atmosphere as Yidden come for morning prayers. The sound of the shofar fills the air waves. It's a wonderful time as Jews worldwide begin turning their attention and hearts towards the High Holy Days. There is no way to adequately express the feeling when one hears the shofar's blast. It is a powerful yet gentle call to the urgency of preparing oneself to stand before the Judge. It is an awesome feeling!!!

Can you imagine standing before the Judge to give account for this past year's actions? It is indeed awesome. However, the greatness of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is that each of us can prepare for them. We know the High Holidays are coming. It is not a sudden surprise like the day of one's death, G-d forbid. It is wonderful to is comforting to be a part is a secure anchor for one's soul. WOW! When a Jew is truly anchored in the High Holidays, it means that Jew can drift only so far before the mooring of the Elul with the sound of the Shofar begins beckoning shuvah...shuvah...shuvah each morning. In Yiddishkeit we have a very definite boundary. It is lovingly set there by Hashem as a reminder to RETURN to Torah study! ...Return to morning prayers... ! Search your heart, the Commander is coming for an inspection... ! Think about where you're at. Are you pleased with your actions? Do you need to make things right?

There is no way to describe the powerful emotions of shuvah / repentance during the month of Elul.


Rosh Hashanah Many Years Ago

I remember many years ago in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah as a baal t'shuvah, (a Jew who has returned to Judaism / a Jew who is on the road of return to Judaism) living outside of the formal Jewish community like many Jews do. Yet my heart was desiring to return like the Jews living inside the community. However the thought of attending a shul was just too stuffy. The services would be long. I had rarely attended a shul. I was a stranger to my own religion. It was difficult to connect with Denver's Orthodox community because of the environment I lived in at the time.

That year I went up into the mountains to pray on Rosh Hashanah. It was a great relief to take a vacation from business in an effort to relax, pray and connect with G-d. At that time, in my mind, going to the mountains was the closest I could get to G-d. Then it had the mental effect of climbing Har Sinai like Moshe Rabbeinu so to speak.

On Rosh Hashanah morning while praying Shacharis a beautiful, beautiful connection happened. There, where I was camped alongside a dirt road at the edge of the forest on a mountainside above Fraser, Colorado, G-d heard the prayers in the absolute stillness. This happened while I was praying Dovid Ha Melech's "Song of Praise" to Hashem, "Then the trees of the forest will sing with joy before Hashem," 1 Chronicles 16: 8-36. Just as I uttered the above words, a forest that had been frozen with stillness was immediately charged by an enormous Ruach sweeping the giant blue and green spruce trees, the aspens and lodge pole pines back and forth with one very powerful gust. The trees of the forest swayed back and forth, circling side to side then they returned to their still up right position as if they were unmovable. The forest returned to absolute stillness again.

Being there, experiencing this was possible like Adam and Chava experienced G-d's presence in Gan Eden in the cool of the day. This was not any wind that I have experienced before or after. It was like the introduction to the arrival of G-d's presence on the mountainside. It was awesome! My sons were fortunate enough to be praying there with me, experiencing this very special revelation of G-d's presence during that particular Rosh Hashanah prayer.

To this day when I reach this verse in Dovid Ha Melech's "Song of Praise" to Hashem, I remember that Rosh Hashanah on the still mountainside.

Each of us has our own way of connecting to G-d during this most important time of the year. Even though community is very important, CONNECTION TO G-D is more important. Make that connection!

Wishing you the very best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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