On my way home from work this evening, getting off at the Nostrand Avenue Station, I found myself greeted by two cheerful young Orthodox Jewish men. "Happy New Year!" they called to me, and I wished them one as well. Then the slightly older of the two, asked me if I had heard the shofar yet. (Now, I should add, my immediate fear that I might be lulling these nice guys into thinking I was of their faith was greatly ameliorated by the fact that they had opened a similar conversation with an African-American gentleman who politely replied "Happy New Year," but kept on going.) Anyway, I replied I had not.
They explained to me that there would be a series of blessings to say first, and then they would play the 4 traditional shofar blasts for me. The elder of the two led me through the prayers, patiently saying them with me, after slowly reciting them so I could join him. After the blessings, he smiled, and told me that we had just shared prayers that we would be better men in this new year. Then, he played the first two blasts, and passed on the shofar to his colleague to do the last two.
I thanked them for sharing the experience with me, and I meant it. It's always an honor to be included in something that is sacred to the one who shares it, but the pleasure the young men had in imparting it to a stranger, and their very sincere reverence, touched me greatly.
Happy New Year, to all who celebrate!