by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon
Being that this coming Sunday is the 219 birthday of the Rebbe the Tzemach Tzedek, (and we begin to say his new kapital in Tehillim, chapter seventy), I chose to post the following anecdote of his life, which also explains thoughtful insights about the mitzah of Tekias Shofar.
It is taken from my upcoming 264 page book, volume 6 in the Early Chassidic Personality Series, about the life of Reb Bimyomin Kletzker.
In Beis Rebbe (p.34), it is noted that the Mitteler Rebbe was not able to be in Lubavitch for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of 5586 (1825) and he sent a message that his son-in-law the HaRav Menachem Mendel (commonly known as the Tzemach Tzedek) should say a maamar in his stead. The Tzemach Tzedek refused, [as only a Rebbe can say his original maamar Chassidus], but he said a parable to explain the meaning of tekias shofar. The clarity in which he presented this thought, that the people were so affected by it, that even before he explained the nimshal (what we should learn from it), they burst into tears.
Two weeks later, when the Mitteler Rebbe returned home shortly before Sukkos, he was informed about what happened when his son-in-law spoke, and he said, “Evidently his time has arrived.”
Motzei Simchas Torah, the Mitteler Rebbe called in the Rov of Lubavitch, Reb Yosef (who was married to the Tzemach Tzedek’s aunt) and the chossid Reb Binyomin Kletzker and instructed them to tell his son-in-law in his name that he should accept upon himself the responsibility of leading the Chassidim. [Obviously at that time the Tzemach Tzedek did not even agree to hear them out.]
It does not mention there, what Moshol (parable) the Tzemach Tzedek said. However, in Chassidus there are two parables given for tekias shofar. The first is based on what the Baal Shem Tov said.
The king decided to send his son to a distant place, with the intention that the young prince would use the knowledge he had been taught to influence and inspire these people to improve their ways. The prince was accompanied by one of the king’s faithful advisors and with a bag of gold coins.
When the prince arrived, he was focused on fulfilling his fathers’ mission. He began learning their language and way of life. However, after spending some time and interacting with them, he began becoming envious of them. They were carefree without any responsibility. They were having fun and he had to focus on this “difficult” mission.
However, his father was relying on him, so he initially decided just to join them in their fun for a few hours a week. For a while he kept this schedule, but as the months passed on he began neglecting his mission more and more, living off his father’s money. His advisor tried to remind him and explain to him that he is following a dangerous path, but he ignored him and then dismissed him completely.
When the money he had was all used up, he took on various menial jobs in order to earn enough money to pay for food and other expenses. He lowered himself and began scrubbing pots, etc.
Over the years, he continued looking for ways to sustain himself and becoming more and more distance from his father and mother, the king and queen.
Years passed and, one day, he realized the gravity of his mistake. One silly thought of how much better life outside the palace must be, led him to such misery. His life was empty, and he decided that, no matter what, he would return to his parents’ way of life.
After weeks of travelling, the self-exiled prince finally arrived in the capital city and was bursting with joy. “Finally I will be reunited with my parents (the king and queen)!”
However, to his dismay, when he came to the gates of the palace and tried to enter, the guards refused him entry. They spoke a language that he no longer remembered and he couldn’t tell them who he was. They didn’t understand his language either.
Despondent over the situation, he walked a short distance away, pondering on his predicament. As he was sitting on a hill opposite the palace, he noticed his father, the king, walking in the garden. His heart was bursting with emotion and he wanted to call out to his father, but he had forgotten the king’s language and broke out in a deep cry.
Suddenly, the king stopped and exclaimed, “That is the cry of my child! Guards, bring him to me immediately.”
The Baal Shem Tov concluded, the sound of the shofar is the cry of the neshomah, and our Father, Hashem, hears it and reunites us with Him.
The second parable is related in the name of the Tzaddik Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.
A king once went for a ride in the forest and, when he was deep in the forest, he fast stallion separated him from his entourage. Then, a storm suddenly erupted, drenching him. Realizing the danger of remaining outside, the king looked around and noticed some smoke coming from a chimney. He concluded that there was a woodsman living in the forest and the smoke must be coming from his humble hut. He decided to take refuge there until the storm passed.
As soon as he knocked on the door, the hunter opened it, and upon seeing His Majesty, the king, he brought him in and put up some soup to warm on the fire. He then gave the king a dry set of clothing, apologizing that it was not as comfortable as the fine material of the royal garments.
The king was happy to remove his soaked garments and thanked his host for the comfort of a clean set of clothing.
When the soup was ready, the hunter once again apologized for not serving a dish that was appropriate for His Majesty, the king, but once again the king dismissed it saying that it was extremely delicious and he felt revived.
Seeing that the storm was going to continue throughout the night, the host went into his barn and brought a fresh bale of hay and placed it on the floor, making the “bed” as comfortable as possible.
In the morning, the king awoke and, before his host could apologize, thanked him for the wonderful sleep he had.
He then sat down at the table and ate the fresh vegetables and milk, etc., that the hunter prepared for his breakfast.
The hunter then gave him the royal clothing that dried out overnight by the fireplace and when the king was ready, he escorted him towards the main road in the forest that led to the capital. A few minutes later, the king was noticed by his servants who were feverishly searching for him and off they went to the palace.
The following day, a messenger came to the hunter and informed him that the king had instructed him to bring him to the palace. The hunter was full of trepidation, wondering if he had somehow insulted the king or caused him any displeasure, but the messenger reassured him he had nothing to fear.
When he arrived at the palace, the king himself opened the door, welcomed him to his “house”, and requested that he join him for a meal. The king then informed him that he was appointing him to an important position in his administration and, while he will have tremendous responsibilities and obligations, he would be receiving many benefits, as well.
For many years, things were going well. However, as the years passed, the minister seemingly forgot his humble origins and made a disrespectful remark against the king and was found guilty of disrespecting the king. He was placed in jail awaiting the verdict with a possible death sentence.
The day before the verdict was to be decided, he was asked if he had any request before the verdict was handed down.
He replied, “I am asking for one simple thing. A servant should go to my hut in the wilderness and bring the garment of a hunter that is hanging there. I wish to wear it at the hearing tomorrow.”
The next day he was brought in front of the king and the judges who were to decide his fate. Seeing the minister in his hunting garments gave the king a flashback as to how desperate he felt when he was alone in the rainstorm and the tremendous relief and gratification he had when this hunter invited him into his humble hut. The king immediately informed the judges that he sought to forgive and pardon him for his grievous act, because of the appreciation he owed him for saving his life.
Reb Levi Yitzchok described tekias shofar in the same way.
When no other nation was interested in receiving the Torah, we happily accepted it. But, then, over the years, we forgot about our special connection and rebelled against the true King, the King of the Universe. Yes, we are guilty; but, on Rosh Hashanah we blow the shofar to remind Hashem that only we were and remain willing to accept Him as our G-d and King.
Upon hearing the sound of the shofar, Hashem remembers that tremendous connection that was established at Har Sinai when He gave us the Torah and forgives us.
Compiler’s note: On Rosh Hashanah we proclaim and express our heartfelt feeling with the words Avinu Malkeinu. Perhaps each one of these parable brings out the unique aspect of one of the two words.
Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He is available to farbreng or speak in your community and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. If anyone is interested in helping publish this new book, please contact him.