|Stories of The Baal Shem Tov: Rosh Hashana: The Secret of the Shofar|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
"You shall sound a broken blast on the shofar." (Leviticus 25:9) "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, there shall be a rest day for you, a remembrance with shofar blasts, a holy convocation." (Leviticus 23:24) And then there was the time that the Baal Shem Tov summoned one of his close disciples, Reb Wolff Kitzis.
“Reb Wolff, would you honor us with blowing the shofar in shule (synagogue) this year on Rosh Hashanah?” he asked.
"Of course Rebbe, even though I do not feel qualified for such a holy task," Reb Wolff immediately answered. "If you could instruct me on what I should I meditate on while I'm blowing the different blasts of the shofar, I would be most grateful.”
For the two weeks before the Yom Tov, The Baal Shem Tov instructed Reb Wolff on the kavanos (intentions) that he should meditate on. Reb Wolff began practicing blowing the shofar, and studied intently the kavanos that the Baal Shem Tov had instructed him.
To be certain he would not forget, Reb Wolff wrote down the kavanos - the mystical significance of the Divine Names associated with each of the blasts - on a piece of paper so that he could glance at them while blowing the shofar.
The Baal Shem noticed that Reb Wolff had written the kavanos down, and spoke to him about it. "Reb Wolff, do you really have to write out the kavanos? It is not wise to write down such secrets, and besides, I am sure you'll remember them when the time comes."
But, Reb Wolff was nervous. So he finished writing them on a small piece of paper that he carefully placed in his pocket.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, as Reb Wolff made his way to shule, a sudden gust of wind blew the note from his pocket.
When the time came for the sounding of the shofar, Reb Wolff carefully removed his shofar from its velvet bag, and walked to the bimah (readers stand). As he reached into his pocket he froze in horror! The piece of paper with the kavanos was gone! Reb Wolff frantically searched his pockets but the note was nowhere to be found.
The whole congregation stood ready to hear the holy sounds of the shofar. Reb Wolff was a nervous wreck, but had no choice except to start blowing. At this highest moment in the Rosh Hashanah prayer service, all stared in anticipation at Reb Wolff as he placed the shofar to his lips. He tried as hard as he could to remember, but could not recall one single intention that he had studied so diligently. He was distraught. "Not only did I stupidly lose the note with the kavanos, but I can't even remember a single one!" Reb Wolff was broken hearted, and he began to weep. With a broken heart and tears streaming down his cheeks, he blew the shofar as best he could.
When the prayers had ended, the Baal Shem Tov approached Reb Wolff and said: "In the King's palace, there are many doors and each requires its own special key. But there is another way that one can open all of the doors and that is with an ax. The mystical kavanos that you so intently studied are the keys to each of the different gates to the Heavenly palace, where each gate requires its own specific kavana. But a broken and humbled heart can break open all of the gates. My dear Reb Wolff, this is what you accomplished with your blowing of the shofar."
And so it was.
Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir HaCohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney) from a story found in Treasury of Chassidic Tales by Rabbi S.Y. Zevin and reprinted with the kind permission of the Baal Shem Tov Foundation. Please visit www.baalshemtov.com
Publicize the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov to help bring Moshiach right NOW!
Kesivah Vachasimah Tova
You Should be Insribed and Sealed for a Good Year
Publicize the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov