Hearing the Shofar on Rosh HaShanah




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The Missing Shofar

By Elana Mizrah

Have you ever gone to the supermarket and seen two products that appear exactly the same, but are two completely different prices? This happened to me the other day. I had two boxes of crackers in front of me, one for 9.90 and one for 4.90. The cracker in the picture looked the same, the brand name was the same; however the price was drastically different. I turned the boxes over to look at the ingredients. "Let's see what's inside," I thought to myself.

The more expensive cracker had two ingredients and the cheaper one had five. Hmm, more money for less ingredients, what was this about? I looked at the ingredients. The expensive cracker had water and organic spelt flour. The cheaper cracker had water, wheat flour, some sort of extract, some sort of sweetener, and one more ingredient that I didn't recognize. Believe it or not, I put the cheaper cracker back and placed the expensive one in my cart. My motto is pay a bit more to eat healthy now and you'll pay a lot less in the future with, G-d willing, a longer, healthier life. And you do pay for what you get. The organic spelt flour is more difficult to cultivate and protect from pestilence and bugs. Its fiber, vitamins, and nutrients are carefully intact and it is easier for the body to process and digest. The refined product is stripped of its nourishing content and artificially sweetened. One is satisfying and nourishes, the other is filling while at the same time leaves you hungry.

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"They cried out and G-d listens, and from all their troubles He rescues them. G-d is close to the brokenhearted; and those crushed in spirit He saves." (Psalms 34:18-19)

"G-d supports all the fallen ones, and straightens all those who are bent. The eyes of all to You do look with hope, and You give them their food in its proper time…Close is to G-d to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely. The will of those who fear Him He will do; and their cry He will hear, and He will save them." (Psalms 145-14-19)

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There is a famous story about a little boy who went to synagogue on the High Holidays to pray. This boy didn't know how to read and he didn't know the formal way to pray. The only thing he knew was how to recite the aleph bet. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He lifted his voice in song and sang, "aleph, bet, gimmel…" as he directed his heart to Heaven. Those around him were very annoyed and wanted to quiet his singing, but the rabbi of the synagogue stopped them and explained to them that this boy's sincere and simple prayer reached higher spiritual levels than any of the prayers that they offered. He assured them that the letters of this boy's heart would be received as complete sentences.

I'll never forget what happened to me two years ago. It was my first year not going to synagogue on Rosh Hashanna. I was at home with my son. Even the previous year before that I had been able to go to synagogue because then my son had been a small baby who could easily be quieted with something to suck. But now he was too big, too active, and too noisy. I knew I couldn't take him with me and so I stayed home.

My husband and I had a plan. He went to a synagogue that prayed very early and he was going to come home during the break so that he could give stay with my son while I went to a different synagogue that started later. This way I could at least hear the blasts of the shofar. The time came for me to go and my husband hadn't come back yet. Little did I know that my husband had thought that we had agreed to meet by the park and was waiting for me there while I had thought we were to meet at home. I wondered where my husband was and thought that maybe I should go out and look for him, buy my son was taking a nap. Why did it have to be at that precise time that my son needed to take a nap? I debated, "Should I wake him up?" That also happened to be the year when getting my son to try to sleep and nap consumed me. It was always a constant battle and now here he was, napping at the exact time when I was supposed to hear the shofar.

The time past and there was a knock at the door, my husband. We both spoke at once, "I've been waiting for you." We realized what happened. I ran out to try to find a synagogue that hadn't yet blown the shofar but I couldn't find one and didn't know where to go. I felt absolutely horrible. It was the first time in my life that I hadn't heard the shofar blast on Rosh Hashannah. Tears streamed down my face as I returned home to my son and words of prayer poured out of my heart.

Without a doubt I am sure that those prayers were as dear to G-d, if not more, than any prayer I could have said in the synagogue. Due to circumstances I wasn't able to hear the shofar and go to synagogue, but I was able to offer up to G-d the best and purest ingredients of my heart. While my children are young I know that going to synagogue might not necessarily be an option, but as King David writes, "Close is to G-d to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely." In any moment and in any place He listens to the supplications of our heart, He hears us.


from the August 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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