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Blow Your Horn Now
The secret to the season is in the supplemental booklet.

by David Holzel

"If you grew up, as I did, with the hunch that we live in a godless universe, and you believed, as I did, that Bruce Springsteen was the nation’s only home-grown prophet, then a live concert was about the only place you were going to have a religious experience. It’s a whole lot like a prayer service, actually, since everyone knows the words and you leave feeling uplifted. I had far more epiphanies in the Providence Civic Center than I ever did at Temple Emmanuel [sic].”
– David Segal, “Memoirs of a Music Man,” The Washington Post Magazine, August 28, 2005

First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect and
Genuflect. Genuflect. Genuflect. Genuflect.
– Tom Lehrer, “The Vatican Rag,” 1965

- - - -

For the high holidays to work, to really work, something has to be at stake. Everything would be optimal. The fate of one’s soul, say. Or life and death. But any little thing will do. The fear that one’s tribal affiliation may lapse could be what brings out those who only make their annual appearance at synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (It doesn’t explain why davka it has to be these holidays and not, say, Shemini Atzeret.)

If everything is at stake for the average Jew, there’s even more riding on the Days of Awe for the average rabbi. This is the guy or gal, once merely considered a teacher, but more recently elevated to Spiritual Leader, who must lead the congregation in services that are meaningful, and which demonstrate that Judaism is relevant, not too taxing, and, even, fun.

And the series of sermons the rabbi delivers during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is where he or she must sell the product. What the rabbi says is expected to be enlightening. Important, even. It’s sweeps week, but unlike television viewers, the high holiday audience hasn’t splintered. Everyone is tuned into the same show. It’s still 1950 at Temple Emanu-El and Uncle Miltie is in his dress.

Crowded into the expanded sanctuary are the synagogue regulars, of course. But the rabbi also must consider The Future – i.e.. the congregation’s teens and young adults. These are people, one must remember, who have little or no experience with direct human contact or communication, having spent most of their lives interacting with the world through electronic intermediaries.

And the rabbi must be sensitive to The Masses. They are making their annual pilgrimage to the synagogue. They could easily go somewhere else. Out for pizza, for example. Or to “The Da Vinci Code on Ice.” And many are known to flinch at the sound of words like rabbi, synagogue, Talmud, Torah, Hebrew and Judaism because they’re just so Jewish.

There isn’t a rabbi I know who doesn’t feel this burden as the high holidays approach. There is a standard recipe for the Days of Awe. Take a half-dozen original sermons, mix in a handful of wise yet bittersweet folk tales and poems, a pinch of quotations from Joseph Telushkin and Harold Kushner, and a dash of responsive readings that end up sounding as flat as a Gregorian Chant. Something for everyone. Yet each year the anxiety returns.

Oddly, for all their desperation, no rabbi has ever approached me for suggestions on how to handle their multifaceted multitude. This year appears to be no exception. And yet I am about to sketch the makings of a high holiday service filled with spirituality, meaning and relevance. (Your results may vary.)

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

These words, spoken by Burt Reynolds in “Cannonball Run II,” are just as true today as when he first uttered them in 1984. And it is, perhaps, appropriate that he said them in a sequel. For are we not all gathered here... again? A sequel to last year’s High Holy Days, which were a sequel to the year before, and the year before that. A continuous spool of meaning unwinding back to a time long before moving pictures when the main attraction was – unquestionably – God.

  "...On this day we should imagine, as Angie Dickenson has noted, that our good and bad deeds are in perfect balance..."

This oft-repeated quotation implies that we are, all of us, seeking balance. Between ourselves and others. Between patience and impatience. And, most importantly at this season, between sin and atonement. On this day we should imagine, as Angie Dickinson has noted, that our good and bad deeds are in perfect balance. Just one additional good deed will guarantee our inclusion in the iBook Of Life. One more bad deed and we will find ourselves in a situation that Coldplay described so well:

We live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world,
Bones sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
Homes, places we've grown,
All of us are done for.

Text message appears on cell phones:
Dude, dis is the time of yr to apologize & try2 mend relations wif friends & fam :-)

RABBI CONTINUES Yet, as Suzanne Somers wrote so movingly in her book “Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away,” “Repentance, prayer and good deeds can avert the severity of the decree.”

This is the hope of These Days of Awe. That we may turn in penitence to the One Who Melts Fat. In that spirit, let us now turn to the supplemental booklet... page 4... And let us read together – responsively – “Keep on Singin’ My Song,” by Christina Aguilera...

Oohhh, Yeah, Oooh, Huh
I woke up this morning with a smile on my face
And nobody's gonna bring me down today
Been feeling like nothing’s been going my way lately
But I decided right here and now that my outlooks gonna change

That's why I'm gonna
Say goodbye to all the tears I've cried, and
Every time somebody hurt my pride, and
Feeling like they won't let me live life
And take the time to look at what is mine

I see every blessing so clearly
I thank God for what I got from above
I believe they can take anything from me
But they can't succeed in taking my inner peace, from me
They can say all they wanna say about me

But I'm gonna carry on
I'mma keep on singing my song

I never wanna dwell on the pain again
There's no use in reliving how I hurt back then
Remembering too well, the hell I felt when I was running out of faith
Every step I’m about to take, well it’s towards a better day

And let us say...


Bert Convey tells the tale of the man who was walking through the woods to his home, when he became lost. After hours of futile wandering, to his surprise he ran into another man coming the opposite way on the path..

“I am lost,” said the man. “Can you point me the way to my home?”

  "...And so, to prepare us for the blowing of the shofar, the cantor will interpret this meditation from Eminem..."

The second man replied: “I, too, am lost. But together, perhaps, we can find our way.”

Well, we’ve received some responses to the text message we sent out earlier. Let’s see... Megan Rosenblatt writes: “wtf?! mend relations? wateva man. u had yr chance!!11" And here’s one from Kayleigh Horwitz, who says, “u 1st beyotch.” Trey Winkelman says, simply, “w00t.”

It occurs to me that w00t is not unlike the sound of the ram’s horn, or shofar, which we blow on this day as a wake-up call to us, to put closure on our sins. And it is, some say, a humble attempt to get God’s attention and ask for Heavenly mercy.

And so, to prepare us for the blowing of the shofar, the cantor will interpret this meditation from Eminem.

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

Beautiful davening, Cantor. Now let us turn again to page 6 in the supplemental booklet as we read responsively this preparation for the blowing of the shofar, by Beyoncé.

Child, blow your horn now
Come on, Child, blow your horn now

child, blow your horn now
Come on, child, blow your horn now
child, blow your horn now
Come on, child, blow your horn now

I like it when the horn go
I like it when the horn go

I like it when the horn go
I like it when the horn go.

Except for lyrics and photo, copyright © 2006 by David Holzel

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