By Akiva Lane

The central symbol of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar. The shofar can’t be straight; it must be bent and curved. Why? This is to emphasize that life is not a straight line. Life is full of twists and turns, ups and downs.

The sound of the shofar is not the triumphant blast of a trumpet. Its alternating sounds are cries for help, cries of hope, and cries of sobbing. Our sages say that it is reminiscent of the cries of Sisera’s mother when she realized that her son was not returning from battle.

Why at the beginning of the New Year do we listen to a shofar that is symbolic of the twists and turns of life, and the cries of hope, sadness, and struggles of life? It’s because we are called upon to change, to examine ourselves, to figure out where we can improve. The main obstacle to change is pride and complacency.

A person who is full of himself, who thinks he’s got everything solved, cannot change. Change — or teshuvah — begins when we realize how much we need to fix, how much we need to grow to fulfill our potential.

There is a second reason that it’s important at the New Year to be mindful of the struggles of life: To have compassion towards others who are struggling, to forgive the imperfections of others in our multifaceted relationships. To forgive others is to let go of anger and to open ourselves to love. To see and feel the pain of others is to spur us to be generous.

On Rosh Hashanah, as we listen to the cries of the shofar that represent struggle, sadness, commitment, and hope, let’s look inside ourselves in the spirit of self-evaluation. When we look at the curved and bent shape of the shofar, let us have compassion towards others and ourselves as we experience the twists and turns of life, and sometimes feel bent by the burdens that we experience.

Let’s become firm in our resolve to face our deficiencies and improve. Let’s hear more clearly the calls of help of others, and become more determined to help them and be less judgmental. Let the curves and cries of the shofar open our hearts and minds to the spirit of change, growth, humility, and compassion.

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