Shofar Sets Us Straight
OpinionsRosh Hashanah 5779

Shofar Sets Us Straight

Rabbi Binyomin Friedman is the rabbi of Congregation Ariel.

Rabbi Binyomin Friedman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Ariel.

Rabbi Binyomin Friedman
Rabbi Binyomin Friedman

“G-d made men straight; they, however, sought out many calculations.”  — Ecclesiastes 7-29

Rabbi Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, N.Y., tells the following story. In Aish Kodesh, there is a boy with Down syndrome. With his natural and innate warmth, this boy loves to take two people and have them shake hands with each other. One time, at a shul event, he approached a man, took his hand and led him to the other side of the banquet hall. The man dutifully followed.

When the boy arrived at his destination, he had the man shake the hand of another man, who was standing on that side of the room. The two men shook hands and they began to converse. Soon, they sat down, and a lengthy conversation between them ensued.

After a long time, they stood up and hugged each other. The first man returned to the other side of the room, misty-eyed. An acquaintance asked him, “What was that all about?” He responded, “I used to be a good friend of that fellow. Then something happened, years ago, I can’t even remember what it was. One of us got upset, and we stopped talking. Soon, the relationship between us became icy, and we started avoiding each other. When this boy took me over to him, without knowing our history, we both saw it as a sign from G-d that it was time to repair our relationship.”

G-d made us straight. As time goes on, we become warped with our many “calculations.” Finding ourselves bent out of shape, we often overcompensate and become even more warped. The “straight” soul that was implanted within us becomes engulfed in the gnarled knot of our calculations.

At one point, not speaking to one another made perfect sense to the two men at Congregation Aish Kodesh. Some important issue, perhaps money, or perhaps pride, came between them all those years ago. They twisted themselves out of the brotherhood they shared, with calculations that convinced them that the loss of their friendship was appropriate, even a necessity. Then they overcompensated, by expending energy to actively avoid each other.

Their warped reality became their normal.

The men were blessed, however, because G-d sent his angel, in the form of the boy, to help them see the error of their ways. The calculations that had kept them apart melted away before the purity of the boy. We admire them for seizing the opportunity that was placed before them. Not everyone does.

The Jewish people are similarly blessed. Each year, G-d sends us the simple and pure sound of the shofar. It penetrates the calculations that have warped us and brings us back to our straight soul. It shows us that even without years of rehabilitation, it is within the ability of each one of us to regain our naturally straight life. We are blessed to have Rosh Hashanah, and the annual corrective benefit of the shofar. It is, however, up to us to seize the opportunity.

Not everyone does.

Wishing you a כתיבה וחתימה טובה May you be inscribed and sealed for good this coming year.

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