Julie Andrews made it into a famous song – the notion that whenever I feel afraid I make out that I don’t fear the future.
In “The Sound of Music”, Julie’s response to fear was to hold her head erect and whistle a happy tune so that no-one would suspect she was afraid…
In my case, there hasn’t ever been a Rosh HaShanah when I didn’t feel afraid and uncertain about what to do. You probably always felt as afraid as I did.
This Rosh HaShanah is no exception. How can we not feel afraid when health crises have not been overcome, the war in Eastern Europe shows no signs of abating, the cost of living is skyrocketing and inflation is rampant, the climate is zigzagging, crime is surging, racist attitudes abound, Israel is menaced, and the earth alternates between fire and flood?
When the air is anguished, and the clouds are dark, when we feel it is Un’tanneh Tokef all over again? When we wonder who will live, and who will die? Who will be born into the world, and who will not reach old age? When even the sheep are distressed, even the ministering angels are ill at ease, and God probably shakes His head in anxiety about the state of His creation.
What did Julie Andrews do when things were not going well? She pretended. She put on a show. She wanted people to get the impression that all was well. She whistled a happy tune.
How wonderful, but how unrealistic. Surely it is better to face facts. The Midrash (Pir’kei d’Rabbi Eliezer 31) suggests how. It says the world’s problems need the shofar. The ram which Abraham found in the thicket and sacrificed in place of Isaac yielded two ram’s-horn shofarot.
One shofar was for the here and now, resounding at Mount Sinai to arouse hearts to the Torah. The second horn is for the future, resounding to announce the day of redemption.
We blow the first shofar to know how to build a moral society, seeing in the other person the face of a brother or sister and looking after each other and dealing with the world’s problems one by one in a constructive way.
We blow the second shofar to say that human redemption will come through faith, and not fear; hope, and not hatred; forgiveness, and not folly; practical effort, and not pretence.…