September 21, 2007

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Musings at end of Jewish high holy days

Shirley Vogler MeisterOn the piano in our living room are many treasures, including an antique kerosene lamp, a crystal bowl with a candle and an area that honors the Blessed Mother.

There is also a shofar, a small animal’s horn that is blown for special times in the Jewish faith, a call to God and his people. Its use can be traced to the story of Abraham in the Old Testament.

I keep the shofar on the piano because it was a gift from my eldest daughter, Donna, and her husband, Roby. They purchased it in the old city of Jerusalem in 1999.

I also consider it a gift from their now 7-year-old son, Samuel, because he was “in utero” at the time. Now Sam can bring forth blasts from the shofar very well, which is not easy to do. Donna, who was reared in the Catholic faith, and her husband and son worship as Orthodox Jews. Before marrying, Donna studied Judaism as well.

Through Donna and her family, our extended family members better understand the religion that was an integral part of Jesus’ Jewish upbringing.

Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph, must have heard the shofar countless times.

According to Rabbi Shraga Simmons at, the shofar not only calls God, but “represents [among other things] the sobbing cry of a Jewish heart and an alarm clock arousing listeners from spiritual slumber.” (Another good Web site is

Coincidentally, when Paul and I moved to Indianapolis from Illinois before Donna was born, we lived in an apartment where, across the hall, lived a Jewish couple and their two young sons. They remain friends today. Our first experiences with Judaism were through them.

Never did we dream then that our daughter would be married and worship regularly in a synagogue.

Why do I mention Judaism now? Because the day this column is in print is the last day of the high holy days, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah began on Sept.12.

These two holy times are prefaced by a month called Elul, a time of introspection and a time for clarifying life’s goals and coming closer to God. It is symbolic of the 40 years that Moses and his people wandered in the desert, an Old Testament experience.

In the New Testament, Jesus fasts and is tempted by the devil when in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights.

The high holy days also require God’s people to personally ask forgiveness of anyone they have hurt in the previous year.

In the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus tells Peter that we must forgive others not seven times but 77 times (Mt 18:22).

How much more the mercy of God must be!

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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