[At]…the final shofar blast at the close of the Yom Kippur fast, …the six disparate synagogue voices coalesce in brief shared characteristic prayers.
So let me recall for you one moment of recurring spiritual grandeur each year—the shofar blowing at the end of Yom Kippur in my unorthodox imagined synagogue.
I stand at the bimah with my friends. We are cleansed of our food and drink, and of our sins. After a day of prayer filled with compassion, we have let go of those negative habits, ideas and actions that separated us from one another. We see each other for who we are, separate personalities with diverse values and goals, united under a roof, in a community, sharing a past and future, and alive together in a productive, vibrant and respectful present.
The performer holds the shofar as the sun has dipped low in the west. He is ready to blow one great victorious blast, not to symbolize a triumph over external foes but to herald the start of a new year of greater optimism, free of the baggage that held us back, that kept us from seeing each other for who we are and that stopped us from respecting the integrity of that individualism.
The mystic begins to chant the Kaddish, not plaintively but, now, with the quick and upbeat tempo of the holiday season. He stops between each stanza, adding happy ay-ay-ays. He imagines the joy of the chant of the angels as they see the face of God, looking pleased that his worshippers are renewed and united with clean slates. They will try again this year, simply to do it all better. And, then, the performer stops toward the end of the prayer and turns to the scribe.
One time, the scribe sings out the Shema. Together, all join him with great clarity: Our God is one. Love god, love his Torah, perform his commandments. He turns back to his friend, the mystic.
Three times the mystic recites aloud with her friends the utterance that the angels sing before God, “Praised be the one whose glorious sovereignty is forever and ever.”
Her fellow davener, the celebrity continues. “God is the God,” the monotheist intones with the conviction, certainty and the daily persistence to face the world of adversity, to rise out of any setback, to transform suffering into sanctity, to perfect humanity, to bring a better age. Seven times, he repeats it for the seven days, for the constant vigilance that he must have. And, rising in intensity, they proclaim together, “God is the God.”
The performer lifts the shofar and blows—not one-hundred times as they did in the services on Rosh Hashanah. Here, just one long blast will suffice. Tekiah Gedolah. This time, it is not an alarm to wake us as on Rosh Hashanah. It is an Amen, to send us forward to the new year together with loving-kindness as friends.
The friends join hands with the priest and begin to dance in a circle, singing, “Leshanah haba—this coming year in Jerusalem.” May we be together in our new Jerusalem, a temple of shared worship, of service to ourselves and to each other and to God. Baruch shehecheyanu—blessed be God who has brought us to this time. The meditator recites this blessing to herself. We are alive, God has given us the gift to see ourselves mindfully in this moment, not in the past or the future. She looks from friend to friend and sees that they, too, paused to be in this moment, to celebrate together with thanks and compassion.