Rosh Hashana 2nd Day 5764 Rabbi Moshe P. Weisblum Sunday, September 28, 2003
Professor Alexander was a well-recognized expert in English literature. He was a faculty member at Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as other Universities around the world. Although he was a brilliant English literature professor, he had one problem: Jewish Education. He used to have a column in the Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, which he used as a microphone to write vehemently against Jewish teachings and customs. One day on Rosh Hashana we saw him walk into the synagogue with his grandson. The sight of him surprised us all, because he was the type of person that never set foot in a synagogue. He used to say that there was really no difference between Jerusalem and Sydney, or Frankfurt and that the Jewish people should be the same as people of French or Indian descent.
Right after the service he came to my father and he said to him, "Rabbi, I decided that I will dedicate my life to Jewish Education." My father, shocked, asked him, "Are you for real, or did you just come here to make fun of me?" He said, "You know, all my life I was very much against Jewish Education. In the middle of the Yom Kippur War, there was a Rosh Hashanah service, and I walked away from the tent at the sight of religious people praying and blowing the Shofar. So I went out and while I was wandering in the desert I got shot. I was bleeding terribly. And you know rabbi, when you feel you are about to die, or to disappear, you look at the world in a very different way. I felt that at that time I had a very short time left to live. What did I do? Ok, I started thinking, I am a professor of English literature. Let’s think about Hamlet, something that made me happy. But in this situation, the Hamlet experience didn’t do anything for me. Let’s think about Bialik or Echad Ha’am, who was the famous Zionist philosopher. But, that didn’t work for me either. Suddenly my mind flashed back many years to when I was a child in Switzerland.
My grandfather used to take me to listen to the Shofar and to dance with the Torah. The memories stirred something in me and I started crying, sobbing uncontrollably, while also tenuously thinking about my own grandson. My grandson today knows nothing about the meaning of such Jewish traditions. Instinctively, I lifted up my eyes, and cried out to G-d, ‘If you lift me up out of this situation, I will dedicate my life to Jewish Education.’"
My dear friends, several days ago, I was teaching at the Daniel Rothman Consolidated School. I asked the little children, "What is Rosh Hashanah?" One girls answered it is the Day of Judgment, another, the Day of Remembrance. Then I asked them, "Why do we blow the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah?" The Shofar brings the sounds of tears and crying one child described, while a boy piped up that it was the sound of trumpets. You know, children are like angels, they are innocent still. Another little boy nailed it on the head when he said, "Rabbi, there is no right or wrong. Everyone hears a different sound and everyone has a different interpretation."
The Rambam said that the Shofar represented the past, present and the future. The first long blast represents the past, the middle part represents the present which is the brokenhearted and dispersion, the long blast represents the future-- the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, that we will all gather together. If you look at the Shofar, there is a very narrow entrance and it widens towards the end. In our history, if we only look at the narrow ways, we might get depressed. But we need to look beyond that, to the wider part. We have a hope, we have a future. Let’s hope and pray that this year of 5764 will be a year of prosperity, peace and blessing. AMEN