Rabbi Avremi Zippel: How I’m observing Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year

There’s once a year when the soul issues out a call from the depths, from the truest sense of self.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Orthodox Rabbi Avremi Zippel of the Chabad Lubavitch of Utah pictured on Sept. 25, 2019.

On Sunday afternoon, I’m going to stand on a busy street corner in Salt Lake City, and blow a ram’s horn.

No, I’m not going through a mental health crisis of any kind. (Some might say that being a member of the clergy is one permanent mental health crisis. But that’s for another time.)

In fact, I’ll be surrounded by dozens of members of Salt Lake City’s Jewish community. Together, we’ll be partaking in the central observance of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, as we traditionally sound the shofar, continuing an unbroken chain of thousands of years of our tradition and heritage.

There have been countless words printed and much ink spilled on the topic of why we herald a new year with the shofar. For a nation that has so much beautiful music and melody as part of our observance, why do we mark such a seminal moment with such a simple sound?

The Kabbalists, the Jewish mystics, several centuries ago, likened the simple wail of the shofar to a cry that comes from the soul; the true human essence. There is an outpouring of human emotion that can be expressed in coherent thought and borne out in words, and then there is a primordial call from the essence, far too intense or painful to find expression in spoken language.

Our souls go about a multitude of feelings throughout the year. Ups and downs, waxing and waning, ebbing and flowing. There are times when the soul feels more expression, times when the soul feels more suppressed and everything in between.

And then there’s once a year when the soul issues out a call from the depths, from the truest sense of self. As global Jewry marks the beginning of a new year, a recommitment to continue to make the world a more Godly abode, and to accept God’s kingship upon us for another year, our soul truly shines on center stage. The call of the shofar is meant to encourage us to find something ever more powerful beneath it — namely, the call of our own souls. Listen to the timeless and simple wail of a ram’s horn, and use that opportunity to tap into the timeless and simple song of your soul, yearning for a year when it can truly shine.

I invite you to join me this Sunday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m., as we sound the shofar at Liberty Park (corner of 700 East and 1300 South). Feel free to extend the invite to any Jewish friends or colleagues you may have as well. And should you be walking, running or driving by, I welcome you to not gawk awkwardly. Instead, listen to the shofar and listen to your own soul shining proudly.

To all of the readers of The Salt Lake Tribune — Shana Tovah U’Metukah, may you be inscribed and sealed for a year of health, happiness, peace and prosperity!

Avremi Zippel

Avremi Zippel is a rabbi at Chabad of Utah and the director of Young Jewish Professionals. He is the first rabbi raised in Salt Lake City to come back and serve the local community, and he lives in Sugar House with his wife, Sheina, and their three boys.