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The Shofar and the Tears of Our Mothers

(from God Loves the Stranger)

We begin our Jewish year on Rosh Hashanah by listening attentively to hear shofar sounds. We conclude the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year, with a shofar blast. Jewish tradition equates the sound of the shofar with the cries of mothers: The mother of Israel’s enemy Sisera and the wailing of the mother of Israel, Sarah, are both represented in the sounds of the shofar. Mothers’ tears, filled with love, filled with grief, contain every conflicting emotion in the human soul. It doesn’t matter if these mothers are friends or enemies. Their pain knows no borders. It is the pain of the mother of us all, this Earth, as the glaciers melt into her tears. It is a feeling of compassion, for the mother knows no divisions and no judgments and no politics. We are not asked to resolve anything. We are asked to open to hear the pain, whether it is the pain of our own lives or the pain of the other; the pain of our enemy or friend; the pain of our tribe or the pain of the world. No matter. It is all pain; it is as wordless as the shofar and as raw. It is a series of oscillating cries— whole, broken, shattered, and whole again. It is our practice. Being with the pain, the sound— only this sound— as it reverberates in our own skin and the skin of the world. This is the healing work that engages us. It takes everything from us, and what does it ask? Most of all it asks us just to be near, to be quiet, to stand, to sit, to walk, to eat, to sleep— in kindness, faithfulness, and peace. We dedicate our practice to all who suffer in this world of endless beauty and glory. May the shofar blast of all the cries of all the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers awaken itself to the Source of Compassion that awakens the world to compassion.


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