The Deepest Call

Video 4 – Understanding Prayer: Heart, Mind and Soul

In tIn this video, Rabbi Sacks focuses on the Shofar and how its sound is a prayer that goes deeper than words.

As we approached Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 2017, Rabbi Sacks created a series of ten short videos to delve into what prayer really is, and how it can change your life.

Each video includes subtitles in: English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Russian and Spanish (click on the 'Settings' icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the video-player to select your preferred language).

Is there such a thing as a prayer that goes deeper than words? On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, there is: the sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn. It’s a sound that takes us back to some of the most epic moments in Jewish history. It reminds us of the binding of Isaac, when God told Abraham, “I don’t want you to sacrifice your son,” and sent him instead a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.

It reminds us of the scene at Mount Sinai, the only time in history when God revealed Himself to an entire people, when according to the Torah the sound of a ram’s horn was heard long and ever louder.

It was heard in the jubilee year when slaves were set free, in the words engraved on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia: “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

It sounded fifty years ago when in the Six Day War the Kotel, the Western Wall, was once again united with the people whose prayers it had received across the centuries.

And sometimes it sounds at Auschwitz and Majdanek and Treblinka when Jews return to shed tears and light candles in memory of the third of our people murdered by a demented civilisation that judged Jews not to have the right to be.

Sometimes it’s a tekiyah, a clarion, announcing some great event like the arrival of the king. Or like the dawn of the Messianic age, as we say in our prayers: “Sound the great shofar for our freedom.”

And sometimes it becomes the sound of a broken heart, with its shevarim, its sighs, and teruah, its sobs as we remember all the things we did that brought us shame or guilt, and all the good we might have done but simply failed to do.

Whether the shofar is us calling to God or God calling to us, it comes from a place too deep for words. The shofar is quite simply the noise made by breath: reminding us of that line at the beginning of the human story:

“And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”

The shofar is telling us that though we may be mere dust, mortal and vulnerable, there is within us the breath of God. That ultimately is what the shofar is: the sound of soul calling to soul across the abyss between us and infinity.

This video was generously sponsored by Marion and Guy Naggar, in memory of their parents Albert & Majorie Naggar, and Harold & Edna Samuel.

We are grateful to our generous sponsors who helped enable us to produce this video series.