Through the Eyes of a Messianic Jew
Sounding the Shofar
By: Messianic Rabbi Eric Tokajer
Brit Ahm Messianic SynagogueMessianic Times Website Manager
Saturday, September, 1 2012
Most Jewish adults would probably admit to childhood memories of the High Holy Days (Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) as a mixed bag of fun and torture. I was certainly no different. Year after year, I dressed in clothing my mother deemed appropriate to wear, but to me as a boy who wanted the freedom to roughhouse outdoors it felt more like a straitjacket. Scratchy starched shirts, clip-on ties that served no purpose I could see, too-tight shoes from last year, and for some reason the socks had to match—how mom could distinguish between dark blue and black was a mystery on par with Stonehenge.
The service was long and mostly in Hebrew which meant I didn’t understand what was going on at all. I knew we were supposed to be sorry for all the bad things we did that year and because we Jews were one people, we were all guilty of every sin even if we didn’t commit the sin ourselves. So that made it even worse—maybe it wasn’t just the tight collar that made me so uncomfortable.
Yet even with all of these “undesirable” features, Rosh Hashanah was my second favorite holiday of the Holy Days—following Sukkot, which won easily because . . . well camping and eating out was fun. The reason I loved Rosh Hashanah didn’t have anything to do with repentance from sin, it didn’t have anything to do with what I now know is wonderfully beautiful liturgy acknowledging God’s love and forgiveness of His people. It really had more to do with my love for . . . cowboys.
You see in every good cowboy movie, the heroes arrived with the blast of a bugle horn. Up until that horn sounded, the bad guys were winning: unfriendly Indians surrounded the wagon trains and were closing in; whatever army attacking the fort had breached the walls and who knows what they would do to the innocent men, women and children. Sitting in a dark movie theatre or in front of the television, I cowered in fear, waiting, hoping that help was on the way. When the bugle sounded and the accompanying horde of uniformed men riding on their trusty steeds came on the scene, I knew that help had arrived—the Cavalry was there to save the day!
Every year I endured all of the discomfort a little boy could handle, just to hear the sound of the Shofar (ram’s horn). I could picture the Israelites in trouble, surrounded by bad guys and just in the nick of time, the shofar’s unique, visceral resonance was heard by all. Enemies would shake in their sandals and run in terror.
Sometimes, I would close my eyes and listen to the blasts as they were counted off and imagined someone rushing in through the doors of the sanctuary to rescue me from the service; ripping off the tie and scratchy shirt, mussing my hair, and letting me escape barefoot to play outdoors.
Today, this grown man still has need of a “hero” who rescues and saves. That Savior is the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (Jesus); and 31 years ago He reached out and made me His. As a rabbi I treasure teaching about the beauty and wonderful symbolisms of Rosh Hashanah. But, that little boy is still there waiting in anticipation for the first blast of the shofar.
As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, I understand that when I hear the sound of the shofar, I don’t need to look to the hills for the sound of the cavalry I just need to look to a hill called Calvary.
Messianic Rabbi Eric Tokajer and his wife, Pam
Rabbi Eric Tokajer was raised in a traditional Jewish home. While serving in the US Navy, he was challenged to study the Scriptures where he found Yeshua. He has been ordained as a rabbi in the IAMCS and is serving in Pensacola. He and Pam have been married for thirty years.