SHOFAR OUT OF REACH: chasing down an unhearable sound


Wake uuupppppppppp! It’s Yom Kippur. 

This week we present for your ears one of Judaism’s most powerful traditions: the shofar. We really like shofar season. The ear-splitting blast of the ancient ram’s horn is a wake up call to everyone who is slumbering through life (who me?) and would prefer to keep snoozing (can’t go to school today cough cough cough cough fever) and making up excuses (my dog ate my kavanah).

But what happens if you can’t hear the shofar? Can you still find a way to wake up? Temple Beth Solomon for the Deaf spends a lot of time thinking about these questions. 

The sound of the shofar is a mysterious, ineffable feeling even in the hearing world. But at a synagogue for the deaf, the unhearable sound might be almost entirely lost in translation. That’s why Rabbi Deborah Goldmann asks her congregants to focus on the shofar’s vibrations instead. In order to experience the haunting blast, she encourages everyone to hold on to balloons, the wooden podium, or even the shofar itself.

We talked with Rabbi Deborah, synagogue president Joe Slotnick, and congregant Florence Haberman about how to make shofar feelings resonate when you can’t even imagine what it sounds like. 

We are so grateful to Jan Seeley, the extraordinary interpreter at TBS. Many thanks to TBS shofar blower Pete Robinson for providing holy noises.  

Also: look out for an extended cut coming soon. There's a lot more to say.

PS. A big thanks to our BFF Amanda Siegel for this beautiful drawing. <3