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A Breath of Fresh Air

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

Maimonides writes that although the reason for the Mitzvah of Shofar is one that is beyond our comprehension, the Mitzvah hints “Wake up sleepers from your slumber.”

I would humbly suggest that perhaps the Mitzvah of Shofar has another hint, a hint that proves to be very useful for our daily lives. The Mitzvah of Shofar is fulfilled in a avery unique way. Essentially by the process of exhaling – after inhaling of course. The Mitzvah is to hear the sound of exhaling channeled through an animals’ horn. So exhaled breath is what it is all about. The meaning of breath in Torah thought is the key to the undersatnding of this Mitzvah.

It therefore seems logical that the meaning of the exhalation breathing Mitzvah of Shofar is an expression of dedication of our very essence and lives to God. This takes place on the very day we commemorate God infusing man with the soul-breath of life. It expresses the willingness to dedicate our lives beyond our own physical bodies for the greater good – the giving of our spirits. We are reminded that our lives only have true value if we are net exhalers, if we give generously of our spirits to God and our fellow man.

I had the opportunity to hear Tal Ben Shachar, a happiness expert, speak about happiness. He said something that really caught my attention. He said that scientifc research has found that taking just a few deep, conscious breaths a few times a day has a profound effect on feeling relaxed, peaceful and happy. Furthermore, he said that this is most effective when the out breath is longer than the in breath. The mechanism of this technique can be understood with the Torah’s view of the spiritual meaning of breath. Breathing consciously, really sensing one’s breath, reconnects us with our spiritual soul essence and therefore promotes a feeling of wellbeing and happiness. The out breath should be longer than the in breath signifying that one is to give more of oneself than one takes from others.

In a similar vein Confucius once said, “When you breathe, you inspire, and when you don’t breathe you expire.” So I encourage us all to have a year full of breath and full of giving. May we all merit a happy, healthy and successful year, filled with breath of life.