Attention! These Days of Introspection

By Rabbi Steven Bayar

We live in a practical tradition. We begin the New Year with ten days devoted to introspection. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we are asked to review our past; review our failures and victories; to evaluate our relationships and how we we can make things better for ourselves and those we care for. We take stock of our lives and try to put ourselves back on the right path.

Chet is the Hebrew word commonly translated as “sin.” It is derived from the term which means “to miss the target.” The assumption is that sin is a mistake — an action we would correct if possible. It is human to make mistakes — it is brave to try to correct them. This makes teshuvah, translated as “to return,” an attainable task. We are not expected to be perfect but we are expected to clean up the messes we have made.


A question often asked is, Why are there three sounds to the shofar — the single blast (tekiah), the three blasts (shevarim), and the staccatto (teruah)? Historically, we believe that in ancient cities a watchman would get everyone’s attention (tekiah), then if there was an emergency within the town (shevarim) or outside (teruah). This interpretation lends itself to our modern times: The shofar gets our attention and requires us to look inward to what we have done and outward to how we interact with others.

May the shofar this year bring us all to new understandings of ourselves and those around us.

From all of us in the Bayar family — Shanah Tovah!