Does hearing the shofar have any effect on you?

I’m fairly certain that I heard the shofar for the first time in my life this morning. Sure, I’ve been trying to listen to the shofar every Rosh Hashanah and elul for 25 years or so, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really heard it. Like clockwork, the High Holidays come around every year and I only get in the mood around Neilah time. The mussar, slichos and shofar blowing throughout elul never seem to do much to me or my soul.

I go to shul, make my yizkor donations, eat my round challah, say my yehi ratzons and spend days on end counting the number of pages left in the machzor. Here and there I have some divine inspiration, once in a while I read something powerful, hear something moving or get choked up in the moment, but rarely does it last. My High Holiday inspiration usually lasts about 1`0 seconds.

I’m sure those folks who’ve read this blog for some time can count on my High Holiday angst posts this time of year and I’m not sure this will count as one because this morning in most unlikeliest of settings I heard the shofar, if it was during davening I would have soaked my talis with my tears.

I was sitting at this Jewish Week sponsored conference called The Conversation (hence the reason I was in Baltimore for the last week or so) and we were having an ordinary breakfast, the token chabad attendee at the conference walked in with his talis and tefillin on and said he would like to blow the shofar. Like many divinely inspired moments in my life, my feelings were inexplicable, but I felt like the shechinah was right there.

Hearing the shofar has never done anything for me, I’m sure others feel my same qualms about it. We’re taught to feel these powerful feelings, stirrings of the soul and when we don’t feel them we may begin to question our faith or spirituality. I’ve definitely felt guilty about not feeling guilty about things I’ve done that I’m supposed to repent for and that folks generally feel guilty about.

This mornings shofar blast is still resonating with me, but who knows what it means or where it will take me. I do wonder how I can connect to the shofar over the actual holiday, but maybe my connection will remain solitary because seldom do I connect to God in any communal way beyond those revolving around tragedy and tzedaka.