Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Eitan Ash of Chabad-Lubavitch of Savoy in Johannesburg found a unique way to lift up spirits across South Africa.

“This can be a very intense time, and often everyone feels like we’re being judged,” Ash told Chabad.org. “But it doesn’t need to feel negative. Instead, we can find the positive inside ourselves and feel how much we have to give from a communal point of view and personal point of view.”

As Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, comes to an end, Ash is about to share his 25th shofar video, having posted one every day of the month, except for Shabbat, and plans to post one the day before Rosh Hashanah but without the shofar.


In each video, the rabbi is joined by another South African celebrity guest drawing from the world of business, sports, politics and other backgrounds. The guests then share an inspirational message about positivity, and Ash follows with a powerful shofar-blowing.

The most famous guest to join was the president of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, on day 17. The president, who in his youth fought against apartheid, stressed how important it is to spend time around people who are positive about the future, like Ash, he said. “What does it do for me? It strengthens me; it gives me even more oomph and courage and great ideas about where we should take our country. South Africa is a great country, and I want all of us as South Africans to be positive.”

On the second day of Elul, Ash met with South African rugby legend Bismarck Du Plessis. Standing in the stadium, Du Plessis shared his message: “Give more than what you want to receive.”

The most famous guest to join was the president of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The most famous guest to join was the president of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa.

‘Bringing Out the Positivity in Life’

On day seven, international performance consultant Richard Sutton said: “If we can go into this new year with self-awareness and self-control while reflecting on three things—how do I want to feel, how do I want to think and how do I want to act when I’m confronted with a challenge or adversity—we can shape the future we want for ourselves and create the reality that we all aspire to.”

It’s not the first time Ash has been sharing videos of the shofar being blown. During the Covid lockdowns of 2020, when people couldn’t go to synagogue to hear the shofar, he began sharing daily videos with his community, each one of a rabbi blowing the shofar in a different city. He did the same the next year, and then decided it was time to take it to the next step.

“Many people in South Africa are in a negative situation, economically, socially, financially,” he explains. "South Africa is experiencing difficulties, and people are feeling negative. So I thought we can get a positive message from well-known figures, Jewish or not.”

Mandy Wiener, journalist, author and radio host, joined Ash on day 10 and asked viewers to focus on the positive stories. “It’s also about the conversations we’re having at the Shabbat table, at shul; it’s the kind of stories we’re choosing to tell,” she said. “That’s my challenge to you: to share more positive stories about South Africa and to change the narrative around yourself. By making a difference in your community and being an active citizen.”

In the 12th upload, another South African rugby legend, John Smit, who captained Springbok, South Africa’s national rugby union team to a World Cup championship in 2007, spoke about positive teamwork. “The shofar starts with something simple and small and becomes something quite significant at the end from a noise point of view. When I look at rugby, it takes a bunch of individuals to come together, and create synergy and create something quite special in a product of success by winning a world cup.”

Ash uploads these videos to his popular Instagram and Facebook feeds, and they’re widely disseminated via WhatsApp groups as well. They often go viral across South Africa.

“I’ve received incredible feedback,” says Ash. “People tell me that they wake up in the morning looking forward to the new shofar video—that it gives them motivation during hard times. A student in Jerusalem told me that he was standing on the bus and overheard South African teens excitedly discussing the latest video.”

“I just wanted to let you know that the shofar-blowing videos you’re posting with celebs and the president are very inspirational at this challenging time for me,” one viewer wrote to the rabbi. “It reminds me anything is possible. … Thank you.”

Shaina Shishler, president of “A Kinder World,” can’t speak, so she used written signs to share her message.
Shaina Shishler, president of “A Kinder World,” can’t speak, so she used written signs to share her message.

Ash’s favorite guest came on day 21, and left him feeling very moved. Shaina Shishler, president of “A Kinder World” can’t speak, so she used written signs to share her message. Shishler explained that she has a rare condition called BPAN, which causes her many physical health challenges. But, she continued, “I spend my time spreading kindness. … We could teach the whole world to be more kind!”

And on day 22, Adrian Gore, Group CEO and co-founder of Discovery Limited, noted that while people tend to lean towards negativity and think it makes them sophisticated, that’s not actually the case. “A sophisticated emotion is to see positivity sequences. When you seek them, you find them all around you, and it turns out to be a wonderful place.”

The positive messages have had such an impact that come Rosh Hashanah, Ash doesn’t want to give them up. “I’m going to continue it, weekly. Just the positive message from anyone. It doesn’t need to be a celebrity figure. It could be a neighbor or friend, but so many around us have something deeply insightful and uplifting to share. We’ll bring out the positivity in life everywhere.”