There is a famous story about Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he approached Einstein, Einstein reached into his vest pocket. He could not find his ticket, so he began searching through all his pants pockets and the ticket wasn’t there. Einstein frantically looked in his briefcase but still couldn’t find the ticket. Then he looked in the seat beside him. Still, no ticket.
The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.” Einstein nodded appreciatively.
The conductor continued down the aisle, punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.
The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.” Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”
Throughout Elul, the Hebrew month that proceeds Rosh Hashanah, we sound the shofar in preparation for the Jewish New Year. The shofar is our daily wake up call, arousing our soul, calling us to repent, and change direction. The call of the shofar is a challenge to each of us, to ask ourselves the same question that Albert Einstein asked — “Where are we going?” — and if we don’t like where we are headed, now is the time to take steps to change the course. Thomas Edison once said, “I make more mistakes than anyone I know. And eventually I patent them.” The call of the shofar also challenges us to stop expecting that our paths will be straight and obvious. To stop feeling badly about mistakes and shortcomings, since they are not only inevitable, they are sometimes a necessary component of the journey.
Wishing you and your families a happy, healthy, sweet and meaningful New Year.
Rabbi Brian Glusman serves the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and is the visiting rabbi at Shearith Israel Synagogue in Columbus, GA.