Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Several years back, I was part of an experimental effort of Synagogue Transformation and Renewal (STAR) designed to help congregations in their spiritual preparations for the High Holidays. It was a series of discussions communicated electronically; we called it the Elul Project. You can still read about it online here and see my own contrivbutino to it here.

My colleague Neil Kurshan is doing a different sort of Elul Project with his Long Island congregnats this month, inviting them to submit personal reflections and recollections having to do with the High Holidays. I think that is a great idea and would like to try it here.

I'll post your reflections on this blog and on our website, with minimal editing.

Send me antything: One line anecdotes or entire chapters. poetry, thoughts about specific prayers, moments of history here at TBE (like the time the fire alarm went off during Kol Nidre) or at your hometown shul, or other favorite moments; recipes, theological insights, haikus, Tweets. personal thoughts about being Jewish. A travelogue from Israel or Jewish sites elsewhere. Comments are welcome from congregants or others in our extended family, relatives and friends, including college students and recent graduaates, Young Professionals and retirees who have moved away. Let's reach out across the cyber airways to share our thoughts.

Also, I'd love to hear about some special mitzvahs you or someone you know may be up to. We call them "signature mitzvot" and this will be a main focus for the year.

You name it. Let this be our way of preparing. I would love to hear from you!

All of this is a way of introducing our first Elul Reflection for this year. It was written by Matt Raskin, son of Irma and Dan (of blessed memory) and Dan is now a member of Rabbi Kurshan's congtregation. But he grew up here and this essay is all about that.

Thanks to Dan and Irma for sharing it with us.



I recall first sounding the shofar at my Junior Congregation at Temple Beth El Stamford CT in the mid 1960's. I had asked the principal of Hebrew School if I could try the shofar. I told him I think I can do it because I'm a trumpet player. I must have been around 10. Mr. Paul Lehman said "Ok, here is the shofar!" and he gave me a pamphlet that described the three notes. I went into the library and proceeded to blow. That Rosh Hashana I recall I blew for the Jr. Congregation, and my 4th grade Hebrew teacher. Mr. Abe Hecht pinched my cheek on the bima in front of all my classmates. That was the beginning. I repeated this performance each year and when the shul moved to our newly constructed synagogue in North Stamford, I was honored while in High School to share the honor on Rosh Hashanah sounding the shofar with Mr. Al Golin, the Shul's president. I used the shofar I hand picked in the lower East Side in 1969 when my mother and aunt brought me there that summer to purchase my Bar Mitzvah talit and the tefillin that I still wear today at Minyan.

I recall also during Elul attending Minyan while in High School with my father and uncle Oscar Gelb. When the head usher for the shul asked my uncle if he knew someone who could blow the shofar, my uncle exclaimed, “Matthew can do it!” I was up at the bima in an instant that morning of Elul sounding..tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah godolah!

While I did not sound the shofar during college, in retrospect I wish I had. When I moved to the small upstate town of Cortland NY, I had the opportunity to blow the shofar for the small shul there, and it was very much appreciated and such a deep honor for me as a young adult in my 20's. It really gave me a sense of who I was as a Jew at this time.

Then in 1987 when I moved back to the metro area to Huntington and attended Rosh Hashanah services with my parents and my wife, Darlene. After the holiday meal my mother prepared, my father and I would visit two nursing homes assigned by the cantor to sound the shofar for those who otherwise could not hear it. My father would say, “Let's blow it together.”, and I'd say, “That will sound dissonant...”, but I did anyway because my dad wanted it that way. We felt good about the good deed we did together

Then there was the shofar contest my dad and I were in at the Stamford Jewish Center hosted by our Cantor, Sidney Rabinowitz. My dad created a card board mock set of Walls of Jericho and when we blew, he knocked down the walls for special effect. We won a special prize. I got a wonderful recording of Jan Pierce chanting cantorial masterpieces, very inspiring.

Well, on the day of my father's funeral I found his shofar as I was allowed to blow shofar at his grave site. The funeral was only days after Rosh Hashana. When I found his shofar, I went over to the piano and sounded it and compared it to mine that I picked out in 1969. It was only then that I realized how these two shofarot were musically related. They were not dissonant at all. They were musically connected.. where one left off the other continued. I could explain this by demonstrating as I did during his eulogy. If I recall, mine started on G and went to C. His started at C and went up a perfect forth to F, ascending to heaven or to infinity spiritually I thought...

So you see the shofar has played a very important and significant part in my life during Elul and the High Holidays. I am so fortunate to be able to sound the shofar as I can, and to have the wonderful opportunity to continue my journey as a Ba’al Tekiah at HJC. TEKIAH!


Matt Raskin
Moshe Chaim ben David

No comments: