Every day of Elul, the tzaddik would blow the shofar in his private room to the delight of his ainikel, and every time, little Hershele would ask for him to blow an extra tekiah, which the Rebbe gladly did. On the day before Rosh Hashanah, once again, the child was in his grandfather’s room, expecting to hear the shofar as usual, but he was disappointed to hear that today his zaide would not be blowing. The Rebbe explained to him that the minhag was not to blow the shofar today, but tomorrow they would fulfill this great mitzvah in the bais medrash.
The child started crying and wouldn’t listen to any explanations. He threw himself to the floor, sobbing hysterically. He couldn’t be reasoned with. He just kept on screaming, “Zaide, just one more tekiah. I only want one tekiah!” After a while, the Rebbe’s heart was softened by the cries of his dear ainikel, and he finally yielded. He took the shofar and blew one tekiah.
The next day, as was the custom in Munkatch, the Rebbe got up to speak before the tekios. He approached the aron kodesh, opened it up, and said, “Ribono Shel Olam, I must do teshuvah, for I have sinned. It is written that on Erev Rosh Hashanah, we don’t blow shofar, but I wasn’t able to adhere to this custom.” And then the Rebbe started crying bitterly. Choked with emotion, the Rebbe screamed,“Ribono Shel Olam, do You know why I transgressed this minhag? Because my little ainikel, Hershele, lay on the floor, begging and crying that I blow just one tekiah for him. My heart melted. I just couldn’t bear to see him crying like that, so I blew the shofar even though I shouldn’t have.
“Father in heaven, how can You bear to see that millions of Your children are crying and begging, “Tatte, just one more tekiah”? Teka beshofar gadol lecheiruseinu. Send that great shofar to announce our redemption. Even if the proper time has not yet arrived, Your children are crying and begging You for the geulah. How can You stand by and not listen to them?” (Otzroseihem Shel Tzaddikim).
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Oy, that shofar shel Moshiach. How many more millions have cried out to Hashem since the times of the Minchas Elazar? There were the millions who perished in Churban Europe, the many survivors who suffered in the aftermath of their horrific tragedy, haunted by the gehennom they went through, and the multitudes of faithful Yidden around the world who daven for the geulah three times a day. The shofar of Moshiach and the shofar of Rosh Hashanah – is there any connection between them?
Amongst the numerous reasons that Rav Saadyah Gaon cites for the mitzvah of tekias shofar is: “To remind us of the gathering of the dispersed Jews and to anxiously await that day, as it says, ‘It shall be on that day that a great shofar will be blown and those who are lost in the Land of Ashur, and those cast away in the Land of Mitzrayim, will come together, and they will prostrate themselves to Hashem on the holy mountain in Yerushalayim” (Yeshayah 27:13).
As a matter of fact, the Soton is very much afraid of the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, thinking that it is the shofar of Moshiach. Why do we blow the shofar before Mussaf and then again when we stand during Mussaf? In order to confuse the Soton (Rosh Hashanah 16b). How does this bewilder the Soton?
Tosafos quotes a Yerushalmi that explains that when the Soton hears the initial blasts of the shofar, he is shaken, afraid that this signifies the coming of Moshiach. But he reasons that it is merely the Yidden fulfilling their annual mitzvah of tekias shofar. When he hears it again during Mussaf, he says with trepidation, “This is definitely the sound of Moshiach coming. Knowing that this will bring his termination, he is in turmoil and cannot prosecute against the Bnei Yisroel. Apparently, there is something about the shofar of Rosh Hashanah that smacks of the final geulah. How do we understand this?
The seforim say that the blowing of the shofar signifies the most momentous occasion in the history of the world, for today, Rosh Hashanah, is when Adam Harishon was created. “And Hashem Elokim formed the man of the dust from the ground and He blew into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living being” (Bereishis 2:7). Before Hashem puffed the neshamah into Adam, he was merely a mold of flesh, similar to animals. But the moment man was endowed with this neshamah, he was transformed from being merely a mundane creature to one who has potential for great spirituality, from one who is limited by physical confines to one who can soar to the greatest of heights and elevate the entire briah with him.
Every Rosh Hashanah, in a more subtle way, we experience this creation of man, where Hashem breathes into us a new spirit, a revitalization of our powers. If during the year we have strayed a bit from the straight path, if we have been weakened by the tests of time, if we have become discouraged by numerous disappointments, Hashem blows new life into us for the coming year. As Chazal say, “Hashem Ori…On Rosh Hashanah.” That is when He lights up the way for us, clearing away the darkness from the previous year. All of this is symbolized by the blowing of the shofar. It is a remembrance of that initial moment when Hashem breathed life into Adam Harishon, and that we are presently experiencing a reawakening of this holy day.
At the same time, it places a great responsibility upon us. “Uru yesheinim mishinaschem.” Just as Adam Harishon arose with this breath of life, so must we awaken. We have unlimited potential, and with the arrival of this new year, we must resolve to strive for higher levels of achievement and kedushah.
This is a time to contemplate what this G-dly breath of life is all about. Surely it is not merely the physical functions of man, because animals have these capabilities as well. We ask Hashem, “Zochreinu lechyaim Melech chofetz bachayim.” The Chofetz Chaim explained this request to mean, “Remember us for life…the kind of life that You, Ribono Shel Olam, would like us to live. It is, of course, a life dedicated to Torah, mitzvos, and chesed.”
“Rabi Avahu said: The malachei hashoreis said to Hakadosh Boruch Hu: Why don’t Yidden say Hallel on Rosh Hashanah? Hashem answered: Is it possible that the King is sitting on the seat of judgment and the books of the living and the books of the dead are opened before Him and Yisroel should say shirah?” (Rosh Hashanah 32b).
That the books of the dead evoke fear in our hearts, thus constricting our emotions from song, is understandable, buy why would the books of life being open deter us from singing to Hashem? Rav Itzele Peterburger explains that because the Sifrei Chaim are open and Hashem sees that not everyone is doing everything possible to get themselves written into them, it causes Hashem great distress and He is not able to accept shirah from us at such a time.
The shofar of Moshiach will bring a true awakening for Klal Yisroel when we all gather together and are redeemed from the long and bitter golus. Then we will recognize that our lives until now were merely but a dream and realize our full potential and live our lives to their fullest. As Rav Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz writes so beautifully about the future redemption, “Wake up! Wake up! For your light has come, rise and shine; awaken, awaken, utter a song, the Glory of Hashem is revealed on you” (Lecha Dodi).
Let us hope that we merit to hear the shofar of Moshiach this coming Rosh Hashanah, and indeed we’ll be able to sing. But even if sadly we don’t merit this, we can still hear a smattering of this sound if we try hard enough to listen and tap into the tremendous segulos that it brings us. Kesivah vachasimah tovah.