The Shofar plays a central role in the Rosh Hashana liturgy and invariably is one of the highlights of the synagogue service. Its primordial sounds are meant to awaken us from spiritual slumber; and to evoke thoughts and emotions relating to the Akeida story, the Revelation at Sinai, and the Messianic Redemption.
People with excessive recognition hunger are so worried about their own egos, that they are callous when it comes to caring about others. They want praise aimed at themselves; they are self-centered and self-serving. They will step on anyone and do almost anything in order to advance themselves and gain more recognition. The Torah urges us not to be this kind of person.
The Torah’s majestic opening verses give poetic expression to God’s creation of the universe. If we seek God without also seeking to understand the world, our religious vision is deficient. If we seek to understand the world without recognizing God as Creator, our scientific vision is deficient.
Our home base as Jews is Torah and mitzvoth. But for us to flourish fully in our humanity, we invite the beauty of Yefet into our home. We not only foster a “strictness of conscience,” but also a “spontaneity of consciousness.” Our goal is “to see things in their essence and beauty” while staying faithful to our spiritual natures.
Although the chronological aging process is automatic and beyond human control, the physiological, emotional and psychological aging processes can be influenced by human intervention. Humans can lower their physiological ages by exercising, staying fit, eating healthfully. Humans can lower their psychological/emotional ages by keeping alert mentally, by continuing to learn, by keeping focused on new goals to accomplish.
The Torah calls on us to think, to evaluate, and to act righteously. It challenges us to serve the Almighty with our intelligence and personal responsibility; not from blind obedience.The Torah is not an esoteric document that can be deciphered only by an elite group of prophets or sages; rather, it is the heritage of the entire people. Each of us has access to the truths of the Torah by means of our own intellectual and emotional efforts.
Whereas we generally think of Vidui as confession of sins, we need to remember that Vidui also refers to our achievements. Just as we are obligated to be honest before God and recite our many transgressions, we are also obligated to be honest before God and recite our many positive fulfillments of Torah.
How can we teach of love in a world filled with hatred? How can we teach that all humans are created in the image of God, when so many humans are actively trying to murder us? How can we preach the goodness of humankind, when so much of humankind is engaged in violence?
Our goal is not merely to be righteous—but to be pious. To be pious entails the qualities of empathy, compassion—and sincere love.
There are two basic paths to the Almighty: Torah and Nature. These are not mutually exclusive paths, but are complementary. When we study Torah, we study the word of God. When we experience the beauties of nature, we confront the awesome creations of God. A proper religious worldview entails proper appreciation of both Torah and Nature, and sees the ultimate harmony and unity of both.