Weekly Story: The Shofar (Part 1 of 2)

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

Being that next Friday, is erev Rosh Hashanah and the minhag is not to blow the Shofar that day, I decided to present a story which the Rebbe uses to give another explanation as why that is the minhag. (The common explanation is to confuse the Satan).

When the Rebbe Rashab was in Lubavitch, he would accept people for yechidus three days a week: on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  During the summer months, when he would go (on a yearly basis) to a nearby home in the country for health reasons, he would return to Lubavitch on Monday morning.

Once, during the first years of his nesius, a chossid came to the Rebbe Rashab and tearfully described his dire situation, beseeching the Rebbe for a brochah.

“I cannot help you,” the Rebbe replied.

Hearing these words, the man was devastated. Despite his unfortunate situation, he had not despaired until now, as he had complete faith that the Rebbe could and would certainly help. Therefore, he had made the long trip to Lubavitch to beseech the Rebbe for a brochah. But now that the Rebbe said he could not help, that meant he was doomed! The chossid left the Rebbe’s room and began crying uncontrollably.

The Rebbe’s brother, Reb Zalman Aharon, heard the man’s cry and anguish. Unaware of what had happened, he approached him to see if there was anything he could do to help him.

Reb Zalman Aharon gently inquired as to what was going on. Relieved to be able to unburden himself, the man poured out his heart to him. He explained his dire plight, and his emunah that the Rebbe would be able to help him. “But now,” he concluded, “the Rebbe said that he cannot help, so all is lost!” With that, he broke out in tears once again.

Hearing the man’s troubles, Reb Zalman Aharon felt bad for him. He went to his brother, the Rebbe, and complained, “A Jew comes to you for help and you send him away empty-handed?! He is brokenhearted!”

Putting on his gartel, the Rebbe replied, “Tell him to enter for yechidus again.”

This time, when he entered the room, the Rebbe gave him a brochah and he was indeed helped.

When our Rebbe repeated this story, he asked, “Why did the Rebbe Rashab first say that he could not help him, causing him so much pain, when we see that later he was able to help him?!”

The Rebbe explained:

“Initially, when the individual entered for yechidus, he was on a lower level, and the Rebbe was indeed not able to help him. However, when he broke out in tears and beseeched Hashem for mercy, that humility and bittul elevated him to a higher level, and then he was able to be helped.”[1]

The Rebbe explains there that this is similar to the custom of not blowing the shofar on Erev Rosh Hashanah. One can ask: It is the last day of Elul, and the shofar plays such an integral role in the teshuvah feelings/process of this month. So why do we take away this reminder and inspiration at the last moment?

One of the explanations is that by not blowing the shofar, we are being told: “As good as your actions throughout the month were, they might not have been enough. You cannot merely rely on the inspiration received from blowing the shofar. Instead, look deeper into your innermost thoughts and see: Did you really repent and change?” This awakens in us a deeper sense of what is expected of us, and propels us to a higher level (just as hearing that the Rebbe could not help him enabled the chossid to reach a higher level).

To explain the answer of confusing the Satan, I heard the following parable.

An individual has a civil case against someone else, and he knows that he is in the right. He feels confident in the pretrial hearings and evidence presented, that his excellent lawyers are going to prove his case. At the same time he notices that the other litigant is nervous, obviously he knows he is losing it and is concerned.

Then on the day before the trial is to begin, he notices the other litigant sitting in a restaurant with the judge. So although he knows he is in the right, his instinct informs him that the fix is in. Evidently the judge is either a personal friend of is being bribed. So being that he feels this way, one can understand that it is going to take away his strength when he presents his opening argument etc. He has the feeling that whatever he says is not going to be listened to.

The same is by us, each day in Elul, we give additional tzedokah, say more Tehillim, and blow the shofar. Evidently that demonstrates our concern, and the Satan feels good. But on erev Rosh Hashanah, when the halacha instructs us not to blow the shofar, it is as if Hashem informed us that it is no longer needed. The only reason why it is no longer needed is because the fix is in and therefore the Satan loses his bluster.

May each and everyone of Klal Yisroel be blessed with a Kesiva v’chasima tova, and Hashem shall fulfill everyone’s request in all aspects.

Next week, will be posted bezras Hashem Thursday evening, and will explain why we don’t blow a shofar on Shabbos, the first day of Rosh Hashanah.

This week’s post is l’zechus the complete and immediate refuah for my sister Chaya Rivkah bas Cheyena, and all who are in need of a brocha.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

[1] Likkutei Sichos, vol. 24, pp. 227–228

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