During the month of Elul the Shofar is traditionally blown daily as a reminder – a wake-up call – to prepare oneself for the holiest of days. Yet how are we to reflectively and repentantly approach the coming holidays when so much of our world seems in painful disarray? In an Elul overshadowed by dark clouds of pain and injustice, the blowing of the Shofar should ring out like a siren, compelling us to face these times with urgency and earnestness.
It’s a sad habit of history that those who devote their lives to fighting injustice so rarely get to experience the fruition of their labors. Like Moses on the Mountaintop, many have seen the Promised Land only to have been denied entrance. In difficult times one wonders whether the Promised Land can even be glimpsed, let alone reached. When injustice appears insurmountable, merely envisioning a better world seems impossible. Yet it is the very act of envisioning which allows light to penetrate the darkness of injustice, and lead us out from our own wilderness of inaction.
Envisioning a better world means thinking about injustice and oppression within our communities and beyond. Such activity is not passive. It is an exercise in developing within our heart, an authentic empathy with others; an empathy which transcends liturgical exhortations and prompts us to impact the real world. Thus prepared, we enter the High Holidays not merely as solitary penitents but also as individuals who will cross through the gates, ready to collectively build a better future.