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{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through}

This year I am fortunate to return to my childhood home for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. In addition to the good food and the company of my family, parents, siblings and even a nephew with a new baby, I will get to hear my father blow shofar at shul, as he has done for many decades.


My memories of Rosh Hashanah extend beyond the dining room table and synagogue. As a child, my father and I would walk around the neighborhood after prayers visiting people who were too ill to attend services. I carried the shofar and my father took a machzor, as we visited people before running home to have lunch with the rest of the family. I recall elderly and sick individuals who were so happy to see my father, to recite the prayer of listening to the sound of the shofar, and to be able to appreciate the beautiful deep blasts from my father’s impeccable blows. For many of those elderly people, it would be the last shofar blasts that they would ever hear.

Decades later, with my own household and community, I have continued that tradition of blowing shofar for people who could not make it to synagogue. Of those many visits, two episodes stand out.


A few months after moving with my family to our new community, I volunteered to blow shofar for homebound people. The rabbi gave me the name and address of a woman that I met some years earlier, but did not know that well. I had heard that she suffered from multiple sclerosis which became extremely complicated after she gave birth to her only daughter. She found it difficult to leave her house as she suffered from intense migraines.

I walked to her house after shul services concluded. I knocked on the front door and heard a voice yell from upstairs that I should come in. She was home alone as her husband and daughter prayed at a different synagogue that ended later than my shul. Upon entering the home I saw that the house was going through major renovations. She called for me to go upstairs, so I moved past the various building materials and climbed the steps to the bedroom.

The woman was fully dressed in everyday clothes, sitting upright in her bed under her covers. I had the sense that she had been in that same position for a very long time. On the covers was essentially everything one could imagine: books; newspapers; food; tissues; a dog…. The scene was not of a woman with a cold, but of someone who was homebound. When I wished her a happy new year and asked how she was doing, she replied that her migraines were incessant and not improving. She and her husband decided it was time to renovate the garage and convert it into a bedroom to make it easier for her. This young woman, who was not even 40, was creating a first floor suite not for parents or in-laws, but for herself.

I handed her the machzor and took the shofar in my hands. As I put the shofar to my lips it occurred to me that I was in an impossible situation: how was I going to blow the shofar standing right next to a woman whose migraines were so intense that she could not even stand or leave her bed? I attempted to blow as softly as possible that the sound was barely audible. She adjusted herself in bed and whispered “it’s OK – I want to hear the shofar,” and smiled.


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Paul Gherkin is founder of the website FirstOneThrough, which is dedicated to educating people on Israel, the United States, Judaism and science in an entertaining manner so they speak up and take action. In a connected digital world, each person can be a spokesperson by disseminating news to thousands of people by forwarding articles or videos to people, or using the information to fight on behalf of a cause because In a connected digital world. YOU are FirstOneThrough.