In 2008 I blew the shofar for Rosh Hashanah morning services for the first time. I got to do it again today. My experience then was quite profound, and my experience today was profound in a different way. A lot has "gone down" in my life since 2008, particularly if you look at some recent blog posts, and the doubts I have been having concerning the importance of what I do (and by extension, who I am) in relation to my community.
Today I realized the idea of having a religious service where a sound is approached with the same reverence as reading a sacred text is rather unusual. The sound itself is set up with a series of prayers, and is then communally consumed. Because it comes from the most ancient and most unstable of instruments (particularly the one I was playing, and particularly with my non-brass-player's embouchure), the sound feels like the result of some kind of miracle. By the teki'ah gedotah, the final note that is held as long as it is possible for the player of the shofar to hold it, I was able to put all of my heart and soul into that little piece of ram's horn, and I did so until all my air was gone. My feeling of uselessness seemed to go away with that expulsion of air.
(I should add that the service was in one of the most wonderful acoustic spaces I know.)
After playing, I had the thought that each time any of us makes a sound on any instrument we happen to be playing, it is kind of like the playing the shofar for Rosh Hashanah. The day comes but once a year, but the act of making music (and hearing music) fills in the time between Shofar blasts.
The notes and instruments change, but the music functions much the same way.