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Episode 45: Shofar in the Desert (Transcript)

Episode 45: Shofar in the Desert

[Theme music plays]

Nahanni Rous: Welcome back to Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive, where gender, history and Jewish culture meet. I’m Nahanni Rous, bringing you two special episodes for Rosh Hashanah. No sound is more iconic for the Jewish New Year than that of the shofar blast.

[Shofar sounds]

Nahanni: This year, many of us will be watching and listening to the sound of the shofar virtually. Our producer Sarah Ventre blows the shofar at Congregation Nefesh Soul in the Phoenix area, and she joins us now to share her thoughts on shofar blowing during the pandemic.

Sarah Ventre: There's something to me about being in the room when you hear the show for being played, even if you're not the one playing it, that it really does kind of stir you inside, you know, it's, it, it really is a spiritual awakening and there's something that can be a little chilling about hearing it in a room that is otherwise silent, but filled with people. And so I'm feeling like a little bit, like I'm missing that. This year, but I feel really honored that I still get to be a part of playing it and being a part of the service, even though it will be virtual. So you have been practicing and you recently actually went out. Two, I think you described it as an urban desert park in Phoenix to practice.

Nahanni: Can you, can you tell us about that? Where did you go? 

Sarah: I live in Phoenix, which is the urban desert, but I mean, I live in like the middle of central Phoenix around tall buildings and asphalt streets, but like about fifteen, twenty minutes from my house, is this. Beautiful park called South mountain park. It's just stunningly beautiful. I actually got married at South mountain, so it holds a special place in my heart. So I, you know, was originally thinking when I realized that we would be doing the same services virtually, I started wondering if there was a way that I could play the shofar and then to be able to do something that's such an ancient tradition in such an ancient space, felt like it would feel really, really meaningful to me. I was kind of right up next to a wash. So sort of like on a little, a small ridge, just out on a dirt path. 

Nahanni: When you talk about like the ancient tradition, I, when I hear a shofar, it really, there is something about it that feels like, this is like the call of the desert. Like you can picture somebody standing on a hill, in a desert and like blowing so that the person on the next hill and the desert will be able to hear it. 

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. I mean so much of our history and so many of our biblical stories take place in the desert and around the desert and I feel very spiritually connected to the desert. I do feel like it has spiritual quality. So there was something really beautiful about that, but you also hear construction and airplanes. And I kind of like after I was done, I sort of thought about this and realized that in some ways it's a little bit, it feels a little bit like a metaphor of 2020. So we are trying so hard, many of us to turn inward, to spend time with our families, to socially distance, to really take stock of what is most important to us and prioritize those things and sacrifice everything else. So as much as we love being around other people or going out, we sacrifice that because we want to take care of the people that we love. Um, and I think after it was over and I was reflecting back, you know, I was trying so hard to hone in on, you know, the sounds of the animals around me and the sound of the shofar, and to really think about what it means to be spiritually awakened in this moment, in time in our country, in our history. And also trying to block out these like, you know, intense, distracting things like airplanes and construction, but realizing that they are a part my life too. So it, there was, I think some interesting in a like unintentional symbolism there. And just thinking about like the way that our lives are kind of part of the natural world and part of the technological world, and we are constantly having to choose where our focus is, but right now at this time of year, you know, many of us are trying to make our focus in that spiritual realm.

Nahanni: You know, we talked about this a little while ago when your rabbi first asked you to like, do a virtual shofar blowing, and you said it seemed so surreal at the time. And now it kind of feels like, well, yeah, of course that's what I'm going to do. And, and I've just, I'm just reflecting on how all of those things that we just couldn't really imagine before have become a normal part of life. 

Sarah: Yeah. I think for me this year, probably more than other years, that kind of, um, T’ruah, that kind of sharp blast that comes like a whole bunch of like very quick sharp staccato blasts. I think that one feels like it resonates with me more even than the Tekiyah Gedola this year, the, the kind of long blast at the end, cause I just think the High Holidays are very humbling. If we think a little bit about what it means to be humbled by the situation that we're in and to really take seriously that, you know, we're in a pretty difficult spot because of things that humans did, then maybe we can get out of a spot by doing different things as humans now, more than ever, this is a call to say like, this is it. This is, this is our moment. This is our time to make the world what we want it to be.

[feet crunching on gravel]

[shofar blasts]

[Theme music plays]

Nahanni: Thank you for joining us for Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive. This episode was produced by Sarah Ventre and me. Our team also includes Judith Rosenbaum and Becky Long. Our theme music is by Girls in Trouble. You can find Can We Talk? online at jwa.org/canwetalk, and anywhere you get your podcasts. Please take a moment to review us on iTunes, and share your favorite episodes with your friends so that others can find us. I’m your host, Nahanni Rous. Until next time... shanah tovah.  Wishing you a sweet and healthy new year.

[Theme music fades]


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Episode 45: Shofar in the Desert (Transcript)." (Viewed on March 22, 2023) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk/episode-45-shofar-desert/transcript>.


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