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Coping With Loss on the High Holidays

These holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur can often be difficult days, especially for those who have suffered loss. These are days when we often reminisce about past years. It is also a time we look toward the future. We know how painful it can be when we reminisce to sweeter and happier times when our loved ones were with us. When we gather around the table to celebrate a holiday, we feel the pain of an empty seat.

Where do we find the strength to cope with our loss?

In anticipation of the last sounding of the shofar in the Rosh Hashana Musaf prayer, we say the following blessing: “You, God, hear the sound (of the Shofar) and listen to its call. There is none like You (ואין דומה לך). Blessed are you God, who in Your mercy hears the shofar sound of thy people Israel.”

The phrase: “There is none like You” is extraneous. When we speak of the of the sounding of the Shofar the words – There is none like You – appears to be a non sequitur. Why do we reference this description of God in the context of the shofar?

I believe the answer to this question lies in considering where else this phrase – There is none like You –  appears in our prayers.

Two other significant places come to mind where we describe God in this way:

1.In the second paragraph of the amidah, each day we say: “There is none like you.The King who brings death and brings back life, and makes salvation grow.”

2. Shabbat morning, prior to reciting the Shema, “There is none like You, our Savior – at the resurrection of the dead.”

In both cases there is a common theme. It is unmistakable. Namely, techiyat hameitim, resurrection of the dead.

When we speak of the particular uniqueness of God, we make reference in our prayers to a remarkable promise the Almighty has made to each of us. In the future, when God will bring redemption to mankind, He will bring back to life those who have been taken from us in this world.

When sounding the shofar, we utter this very meaningful phrase “there is none other like Him.” With these simple words we are meant to conjure up in our minds and hearts God’s promise of techiyat hameitim, something only God can do.

During these solemn days the shofar is to awaken within us not only a call to repent. Its melody is also meant to offer us comfort and hope for the future. Judaism teaches that the future day of Redemption will include being reunited with beloved family who no longer are with us in this world. A great song of the shofar will be sounded that will usher in a new time of peace and wholeness – Tekah be’shofar gadol  תקע בשופר גדול (daily amidah). Suffering and brokenness will be replaced with joy and serenity of soul. Loved ones that have tragically been separated by death will be together with us once again. The world will be made whole.

The blasts of the shofar, at its depths, are meant to lift our spirits and strengthen us and give us greater resolve to move forward and live with hope and with faith.

In the last moments of the solemn day of Yom Kippur, we will hear the sound of the Shofar for the last time of the season. We pray that its melody be a source of comfort to all of us who long for a child, for a loved one, who we so dearly miss having in our lives.

May the coming year be filled with only joy and blessing.

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