ROSH HASHANA SURVIVAL KIT
8 year old daughter came back from school and brought home a beautiful concept.Â Her Morah, her teacher, was displaying the Shofar to the class, showing them its shape, its colors. One end is thin, while the other end is wide. My daughter raised her hand from the back of the classroom. “Morah, didnâ€™t you teach us that when we do Teshuvah, Hashem says ×¤×ª×—×• ×œ×™ ×¤×ª×— ××—×“ ×©×œ ×ª×©×•×‘×” ×›×—×•×“×” ×©×œ ×ž×—×˜ ×•×× ×™ ×¤×•×ª×— ×œ×›× ×¤×ª×—×™× ×©×™×”×™×• ×¢×’×œ×•×ª ×•×§×¨× ×™×•×ª × ×›× ×¡×•×ª ×‘×• Â Â Open up for Me one Entrance of Teshuva the size of a needle’s hole , and I will open up for you entrances that wagons can pass through! (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 5, 3) My daughter asked the Morah, â€œCould this be a lesson that we learn from the shape of the Shofar, that Teshuva, for us, is just to start, to take the first step, and Hashem helps us out with the rest, opening up gateways to connect to Him?â€ Allow me to expound on this concept.
The Shofar is amazing, for, in appearance, it is quite unimpressive.Â It looks like a simple horn, but it is the strongest weapon of the Jewish Nation. ×›×™ ×—×§ ×œ×™×©×¨××œ ×”×•× ×ž×©×¤×˜ ×œ××œ×§×™ ×™×¢×§×‘ For the Mitzvah of the Shofar is a Hok, a Mishpat of the G-d of Yaakov. Hok and Mishpat both mean statute. But the difference is that Hok is a law whose meaning we do not know , while Mishpat is a law that we can understand. This sheds light on the Rambam…Â Â ××¢”×¤ ×©×ª×§×™×¢×ª ×©×•×¤×¨ ×‘×¨××© ×”×©× ×” ×’×–×™×¨×ª ×”×›×ª×•×‘, ×¨×ž×– ×™×© ×‘×• Â Even though blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashana is a Law for which we are given no reason, still, the Shofar comes to hint something to us.×¢×•×¨×• ×¢×•×¨×• ×™×©×™× ×™× ×ž×©×™× ×ª×›× ×•×”×§×™×¦×• × ×¨×“×ž×™× ×ž×ª×¨×“×ž×ª×›× ×•×—×¤×©×• ×‘×ž×¢×©×™×›×™× ×•×—×–×¨×• ×‘×ª×©×•×‘×” ×•×–×›×¨×• ×‘×•×¨××›× Â It is to wake us up from our spiritual slumber… (Rambam Teshuva 3; 4)
There is a self- help gem buried between these words. If the Shofar is intended to be a “wake-up” call for us, why does the message have to be hinted at? Why does the Torah not just go straight to the point and tell us that we are to wake up and do Teshuva? The answer to this question is the secret to waking up spiritually. A person can wake up spiritually only if he uses his brains, his creativity, expending effort to figure out what he should be doing, from the hints that life throws in his path. Only if he picks up the hints that G-d is sending him. If you tell someone off, they just do not listen. You’ve got to hint it to him. Let him realize it on his own. The Shofar does not have an explicit meaning. Because, there is nothing that can be more meaningful and powerful than an observation you come to on your own. My daughter came up with an eye-opening insight, her own meaning of the Shofar. So, I made my own observation about her observation.
It is annoying when we get “woken up”, and we find ourselves unable to change. It is something like when you wake up late and you have to catch a train,…. but you canâ€™t find your shoe. You’re awake, but you are jammed. You are so trapped in your behaviors that even if you wanted to change, you couldnâ€™t do it. You have been trying to “get things moving” during the whole month of Elul, but you seem to be, still, in the same place. You canâ€™t stop speaking Lashon Hara, even if you want to . You canâ€™t learn more Torah, even if you try. You are just like a person who is walking up a downward escalator. How sad.
But then, the Shofar screams out; it tells you that you’ve got it all wrong. G-d did not ask you to change. He asked you to try. Not even try your best. Just try. Keep trying, and He will open the doors of change for you. He will accept you, as long as you accept Him, and let Him into your life, even just a crack.
The Point of A Needle
Why does the Midrash talk about the hole a needle makes in a cloth? Why not the hole a nail makes in a piece of wood?Â Because in order for someone to repent, one needs to soften himself up, being as pliable as material, not stiff, like wood. Only then can one do real Teshuva. What does it mean, to be soft, like material, or stiff, like wood?
There is a great saying. From the moment I heard it, it has just been floating around in my head. â€œA person is always in one of two modes. Either ××™×Ÿ ×¢×•×“ ×ž×œ×‘×“×• , or, ××™×Ÿ ×¢×•×“ ×ž×œ×‘×“×™.â€Â A person is always in one of these two zones. There is nothing else in the world except G-d. Or, There is nothing else in the world except for Me.Â You cannot be in both zones simultaneously.Â Â We say, or are supposed to say, each morning in the beginning of Shaharit. ×•×ž×•×ª×¨ ×”××“× ×ž×Ÿ ×”×‘×”×ž×” ××™×Ÿ…. Literally, there is no way in which Man is superior to an animal, other than the fact that Man has a Neshama, while the animal does not. The Kotzker spices up this saying with his unique Hassidic wit. The only plus of Man over the Animal is the ability to be ××™×Ÿ, or “unimportant”. I.e., an animal is always thinking about its own survival, or ×× ×™, Me. Betsy the Cow, is worried about Betsy, and Rexie the Dog, is worried about Rexieâ€™s dog food. Humans can transcend themselves, be considerate, and let others’ priorities be a priority. Being considerate of others, instead of being self-centered, helps Man bring G-d into his personal world.
Now, letâ€™s play around with the letters of ×× ×™ , Me. If we bring G-d into Me, i.e., if we move the letter ×™ , the letter of G-d and the letter of the Neshama,(see Zohar in beginning of M.Ruth)Â into the center of Me, into the center of our priorities, into the center of the word ×× ×™, then we get the word ××™×Ÿ, Nothing. I am nothing, without G-d. This ability to make room for G-d in our lives, to put Him in the center of our priorities, is the greatness of Man over animal. But, if the spiritual part of Me is the last priority, the ×™ gets pushed to the end of the word, and all that is left is ×× ×™, and “he” is nothing better than an animal.
The difference between aÂ garment and a piece of wood is that a garment makes room for a needle and thread, it has room inside it for something other than itself. A piece of wood, has no room inside it for anything else, and so the nail is only wedged into it. One can do real Teshuva only by opening a crack just big enough for the letter ×™ to enter. As long as a person’s thoughts revolve around himself, his money , his fame and honor or his temptations, there is no room for â€œhintsâ€. There is no room for G-d.
The “latest” in psychology is that for an addict to overcome addictions, he has to recognize the factÂ that he is addicted. That he is not in control. He needs to pray to G-d to help him change. It is the only way to overcome habit. G-d. ××œ×ž×œ× ×”×§×‘”×” ×¢×•×–×¨×• ××™× ×• ×™×›×•×œ ×œ×• Â (Kiddushin 30b) The bent shape of the Shofar teaches us this lesson of humbleness. ×›×ž×” ×“×›×™×™×£ ××™× ×™×© ×“×¢×ª×™×” ×˜×¤×™ ×ž×¢×œ×™ Â (Rosh Hashana 26b) . The more a person humbles himself during Rosh Hashana, the better. This is the lesson that we are to learn from the bent Shofar. To bend ourselves, and allow G-d in.
And one last word about the point of a needle. If you have ever blown a shofar, you know how it feels to channel all the air, everything you’ve got, into that one point. If your strength is spread out over too much territory, you cannot change. You need to have just one point, that you want to change. You give all you’ve got to G-d by just changing one thing.Â That’s how you make an opening, an Entrance of Teshuvah, by directing all your energy to make a small change in your behavior, the size of of a needle’s hole.