Monday, October 10, 2016

The Stubborn Shofar

Well over fifty years have passed since I heard the story. Many of its details are fuzzy but it made an impression on me. It begins as the suns sets in the sky at the end of Yom Kippur. The rabbi rises, holds the shofar, puts it to his mouth, takes a deep breath, blows hard, and nothing happens. He tries again. Once more nothing happens. Another time and still no sound comes out of the shofar. Sheepish the rabbi hands the instrument to the cantor but he fares no better. The worshippers are anxious. Everyone is hungry. They want to hear the loud blast so they can go home and eat. The president of the synagogue tries and is no more successful than the rabbi and cantor.

Finally the shofar speaks. It tells the congregation it’s sick and tired of the same routine every year. Same sins, same confessions, same resolutions and everything happens all over again. Now it has decided. No blasts, no food.

Many try to reason with the shofar to no avail. Until one little girl is able to convince it that the coming year will be different.

Throughout the years I think of that story from time to time and I find I cannot agree with its premise. Most thinking Jews that I am acquainted with do not repeat their same mistakes and sins over and over. In the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur most examine their actions and strive to do better in at least one little area. Many are successful in their resolutions meaning that year after year they are just a little better than they were the year before.

Yet, I always wonder how, when that final shofar blast is heard and we joyfully dance and sing Next year in Jerusalem the rebuilt, can I really know that Hashem has accepted my repentance? How can it be that four days later on Sukkot I hold the lulav and etrog as a victory sign as if I left the courtroom acquitted?

The truth is that personally I cannot. I can only dance, sing, and hold the four species high because I know that the Jews, as a people, have been judged favorably.  I know this because I look at history. There is no other nation that has survived all the persecution we have and still exist after more than two thousand years.

So when I do hear that long blast of the shofar I know we will continue to exist. And I know that every year we are one year closer to hearing the blast that will herald the arrival of the Moshiach. Then the prayers that we say every year, pleading with HaShem to bring us to His holy mountain and gladden us in His house of prayer as it is written: And I will bring them to My Holy Mountain and I will gladden them in my house of prayer, their elevation offerings and their feast offerings will find favor on My alter, for My house will be called a House of Prayer for all nations will be answered.

The shofar will not be stubborn and Jewish people will no longer be tortured, murdered, and libeled. I pray this is the year it will happen.

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