This holiday season, do more than just listen to the shofar
As I wrote last week, we have entered the month of Elul. We have been blowing (or hearing) the shofar to begin the process of tshuvah, turning back or repentance. The shofar’s sound creates memories for our children, while bringing back our own memories as adults.
This year, as you fill your home with Jewish art and ritual objects, think about adding a shofar. You may not be able to sound the shofar — it’s a difficult horn to sound — but the horn’s feel and its meaning are so important.
In addition to taking your children to hear the shofar being blown, consider the following story for your holiday dinner table:
Long ago there was a town called Chelm. Chelm was populated with foolish people, though these people weren’t aware they behaved in a foolish fashion.
When Chelm’s people found themselves struggling with fires that were burning homes. In response, a Chelmite traveled to a neighboring town to see how the fire problem was handled there. The Chelmite saw that when a fire broke out, a man ran to the center of town with a big bass drum and started banging away. This was a signal for all the townspeople to gather buckets of water so the fire could be quickly extinguished. Upon seeing this, the Chelmite realized the solution was to buy a large bass drum for Chelm, and he did so when he returned home.
When the next fire started in Chelm, the Chelmite gathered his big bass drum, ran to the center of town and started banging away. Everyone rushed out to listen to the drumming, and while they listened, they saw the house burn down. As the house burned, the people scratched their heads, wondering why the bass drum didn’t solve their problem.
Listening to the beating of a drum while watching a house burn down is similar to listening to the shofar’s sound without taking steps to change our ways. The shofar, in and of itself, is not a magic device that will fix all of our problems, any more than a drum can help stop the burning of homes in Chelm. The drum is a signal to get water to put out the fire. In the same way, the shofar is a signal to obtain the right tools to help make changes in our own lives; to become better people. If we hear the shofar and don’t change are ways, we’re no better than the foolish Chelmites.
Laura Seymour is the director of Jewish Life and Learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.