The first day of Rosh Hashanah we read the portion in Torah that tells us how Abraham sends away his son Ishmael from his home into the wilderness. We do not hear a word about Ishmael until Abraham dies and Ishmael comes to his funeral.
The second day of Rosh Hashanah we read that Abraham is ready to sacrifice his son Isaac and at the very last moment he stops himself and sacrifices a ram.
As Abraham and Isaac were walking towards Mount Moriah, the place of the sacrifice, the Torah says: “and they walked together”. This phrase is repeated four times. After Isaac is taken off the sacrifice altar Abraham goes back and Isaac is not mentioned again until Abraham dies and Isaac goes to his funeral.
Abraham cuts himself off from both his children. Isaac and Ishmael do not find a way or do not want to reach out to their father and repair a relationship that had been broken.
In our days it is not very unusual to have parents and children not talking to each other for long periods of time. Somehow people tend to explain this with what can be called “the individualistic mentality” that says: do what feels right to you and never let life be dominated by “shoulds”.
The process of t’shuvah – repentance-, the process of reconnecting to our highest self — “the spiritual mentality” tells us to put love and commitment above self-interest and above whatever feels good at a certain moment. It encourages us to think that the final criteria of goodness is not what “feels right” at this moment.
On Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur the Shofar gives us a good answer to this tension between the individualistic mentality and the spiritual mentality. The shape of the Shofar is bent. The wonderful sound of the Shofar that wakes us up and touches every cell of our bodies and soul comes from an instrument that is bent and curved over itself.
We tend to cling to our pride or to our unbendable principles, to the certainty that he or she should apologize, or call first, or make the first movement. And our life goes by, we stay unbent and we keep our loved ones far away from us.
The Torah tells us to listen to the words of God and listen to the unspoken words of our hearts, to listen to the call of the Shofar, and to return to our highest self.
May we remember these words to help us in our T’shuva process. To think about those we love and to give ourselves the opportunity to bring them back to our lives.
May we be blessed with a New Year in which we see children and parents coming closer together in real repentance for the ways that they might have hurt each other, a New Year of peace in which we see an end to terror of all sorts, a New Year of peace and love and reconciliation.
L’Shana Tovah Tikatevu Ve Techatemu
May we all be inscribed in the book for a good life
Rabbi Debora Kohn