Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Making of the Shofar

The shofar is such an amazing instrument. Fascinating in it's sound and construction. Where do they come from? How are they made? Who makes them? Here is a video about a family in Israel who manufacture shofarim (shofars)

And then just for fun~ a Shofar Falsh Mob (of sorts)

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Happens When We Hear the Shofar?

We have listened to the sound of the shofar 100 times this past few days during Rosh HaShanah. The sound of this natural 'trumpet' is to awaken our hearts to the stirring of G-d, to assess our lives, motives and how we are spending the time He has given us. Over these next few days we continue to take an assessment, to ask for forgiveness where necessary and make the decision to follow Torah more closely and with a more pure heart.
The 2 Spies recently read an article that explains what happens scientifically in our bodies when we listen to the shofar. We thought our friends would find it interesting also. It comes from AISH.com
We will still have time to respond to the sound of the shofar as there will be one more opportunity on Yom Kippur.
Shana Tova

The Science of Shofar

The Science of Shofar

How our body’s reaction to hearing the shofar’s blast primes us for real change.

by Yvette Alt Miller

Each day of Rosh Hashanah, our synagogue services are punctuated by a hundred calls from the shofar, a ram’s horn that reverberates with a distinctive, alarm-like cry.
The shofar's rousing blast speaks to us more intensely than words ever can. It’s a personal call to each of us to wake up and use the opportunity of Rosh Hashanah to change.
Modern science has documented the physical responses human beings undergo when we’re subjected to loud, resonant sounds such as the shofar.
Sometimes called the “fight or flight” response, the physical changes we undergo when confronted with a sudden, urgent alarms helps us deal with immediate threats. During Rosh Hashanah, these changes can help us see the world differently, giving us a different perspective and helping us see areas where we need to grow.

1. Our senses are sharpened.

When we’re startled, the hypothalamus in our brain immediately starts producing hormones, altering our physiological state. One of the first is Neuropeptide-S, a small protein that makes us more alert. It decreases our need for sleep, and sharpens our alertness and feelings of energy.
Our brains also send a signal to our adrenal glands to start releasing adrenaline and norepinephrine, two hormones that increase our heart and breathing rates and sharpen our sense of concentration.
Within moments, we’re transformed into a new state of alertness, able to see dangers and details we overlooked before.
On Rosh Hashanah, these moments are invaluable. The energy we gain as we hear the shofar’s loud blasts gives us – for a moment – a new, sharper state of consciousness, and a different way of looking at the world.

2. Emotion grows stronger.

Another effect of sudden stress is simplification in our thought processes. When we’re startled, our brains release catecholamines, neurotransmitters which stimulate a part of our brain called the amygdale, a center that relies on emotional – rather than purely rational – thought.
This shift helps us to not overload on details or become bogged down as we make decisions: it’s the part of our fight-or-flight response that helps us decide to “run!” in times of danger.
It can also give us the clarity to see our behavior clearly, without the rationalization that’s part of more nuanced, everyday thought.
Thinking with our amygdale in the moments after the shofar’s blasts helps us to see ourselves more honestly, to perceive our behavior as good or bad, without the rationalizations. It can give us the courage to admit our shortcomings and the clarity to know what to do in the future.

3. Long-term memory is switched on.

At the same time our amygdale is stimulated, so is our brain’s nearby hippocampus, the region that stores long-term memories. It helps make sure we don’t waste these moments, that we learn from the stress we’ve just experienced.
This means that anything we’re about to experience in our newly heightened state will make a lasting imprint on us, remaining lodged in our memories longer than ordinary experiences.
This helps to ensure that our Rosh Hashanah resolutions have a more lasting impact. All our thoughts – our emotions, our resolutions and decisions to change – will all become a deep part of us, lodged in our long-term memory.
When we hear the loud shofar blasts, our brains become more sensitive; knowing this can help make sure that we use these precious moments to instill positive messages and resolutions to grow deep in our memories, to draw from all year long.

4. Our brain becomes more active.

While all these changes are taking place, during times of stress our brains become more active overall. Nerve cells in our brains receive more messages than normal, and we experience increased brain activity. We’re able to process much more information than during less-intense moments.

The period when we can hear the shofar's call  is very brief. Yet if we let it, it can stimulate us to think more deeply and make more lasting decisions than we’re accustomed to.
Judaism teaches that it’s possible to make even major decisions and change our lives in an instant. The extra capacity we have for thought and mental activity during this period makes change more possible.
As we listen to the urgent, loud sounds of the shofar, our bodies are perfectly calibrated to react to this loud, insistent call by giving us greater energy and focus. Let’s use it to analyze our past deeds and resolve to grow in the coming year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

L'Shana Tova !

 Allen West~ LTC (Ret), former United States Congressman (R) and current contributor for Fox News and PJ Media & Dir of Programming at Next Generation TV

 The following was posted to Allen's FaceBook Page. 

"For thousands of years, the shofar has called the Jewish people together for many reasons, including ushering in the new year. On this Rosh Hashanah, I pray the shofar will not be needed to sound an alarm of war for the people of Israel. Let it instead be used for all across our own nation (United States), as the philosopher Moses Maimonides suggested in the 12th century,
 "Sleeping ones! Awaken from your sleep! Slumbering ones! Awaken from your slumber! Examine your deeds, and turn once again to God."

 L'Shana Tovah to all, and especially the people of Israel. 
Rest assured there are many of us who will never abandon you."

(May the L-rd bless Allen West with the blessing from Genesis 12:3 ~ 

The 2 Spies)

"Who Will Live and Who Will Die"

Original Article
(This is a repeat from last year. The 2 Spies find it rather moving and timely. This Yom Kippur will be the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War)

The military has released a gripping video of an IDF Cantor’s recital of the “U-Netaneh Tokef” prayer with the background of soldiers in battle. The prayer’s central theme is “Who will live and who will die” and “Repentance, Prayer and Charity removed the evil of the decree”

The video of Lt. Col. Shai Abramson reciting the prayer was selected by IDF Facebook users as the last song on the Cantor’s new album and was produced with the video for the High Holidays.

The video of the prayer, along with a recital in the Great Synagogue on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv, revolves around the Yom Kippur War and a battalion commander and his armored brigade whose soldiers fought in the fierce and deadly “Valley of Tears” battle on the Golan Heights.

At one point, 40 Israeli tanks faced approximately 500 Syrian tanks.
The "U'Netaneh Tokef” prayer is attributed to Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, as related to Rabbi Klonimus ben Meshullam, according to the Orthodox Union.

The prayer, recited also on Rosh Hashannah and before the open Ark of the Torah, states, “The great shofar will be sounded and a still, thin sound will be heard. Angels will hasten, a trembling and terror will seize them - and they will say, 'Behold, it is the Day of Judgment, to muster the heavenly host for judgment!'- for they cannot be vindicated in Your eyes in judgment.

“All mankind will pass before You like members of the flock.  Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the fixed needs of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.

“On Rosh Hashannah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
“But Repentance, Prayer and Charity remove the evil of the decree!”