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    Fear & the shofar

    Saadya Ga’on says there are ten uses of the shofar. One is to announce danger.

    In the song from “The Sound of Music”, Julie Andrews says, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect…”

    Yet the final words of Adon Olam don’t go along with the notion of fear. They say one shouldn’t feel afraid.

    So who is right – Julie Andrews or the unidentified author of Adon Olam?

    It all depends on what one means by fear.

    It can denote being frightened. It can also indicate being awestruck.

    Amos 3:6 says, “Shall the shofar be blown in the city and the people not tremble?”

    Why would the shofar be sounded – to herald danger, from an enemy, from an earthquake or fire?

    The inhabitants want to live a quiet life, but now danger looms. The people are frightened, for good reason.

    The way to handle the fear is set out in Adon Olam. It says, HaShem li, v’lo ira – “The Lord is with me: I feel no fear”.

    The danger does not magically dissipate, but God holds our hand and we are not alone.

    That’s one type of fear. The other is awe in the presence of God. Jacob said at Bethel, “How awesome is this place (‘The Place’, HaMakom, is one of the names of God)” (Gen. 28:17).

    Fear of God is what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “amazed, wondering awe”. That is what we feel when we hear the shofar.

    It is as if the shofar proclaims, “Sense the awe of the moment!”

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