6 Tishri 5777, Vayelech

Shana Tova to you. I hope you all enjoyed the atmosphere in Shule over Rosh Hashana and left as uplifted and inspired as I did!

They tell the story about a beautiful nightingale bird that each Sunday afternoon would hold a concert in the forest. All of the animals would assemble to listen to the heavenly melodies of this bird. This was their hour of ecstasy, of passion, of deep entertainment.

One Sunday, as the nightingale was singing, and thousands of animals were assembled their hearts melting from emotion, a hungry lion approached the nightingale and pounced on it, proceeding to tear it apart.

The animals were staggered. They could not understand why the lion would choose to satisfy its hunger with this nightingale, who sung the sweetest of songs?

Until they realised… the lion was deaf.

I believe that this story can teach us volumes, especially at this time of year!

How many of us truly know how to listen or are we sometimes deaf to the cries of others? When was the last time we put down our iPhones or tablets and listened with all of our heart to our spouse, child or co-worker in strife? Can we honestly say that we are really there – really present – for other people when they are in need of us?

Just before I blew the Shofar in Shul I recited the blessing over the Shofar: “Baruch ata Hashem… Lishmoa Kol Shofar”. This translates to; “Blessed are you G-d, King of the Universe… who has commanded us to “listen” to the voice of the Shofar”. Strange isn’t it?? Why would the commandment be to “listen” and not to “blow” the sounds of the shofar? After all, the Torah itself describes Rosh Hashana as “Yom Teruah” – “The day of blowing”?

You see, the Torah wants to teach us an important message – one that will stand is in good stead for the upcoming year and ensure that we become more caring and compassionate people. In a subtle way, the Torah is trying to teach us that we must become better listeners. We have to become more aware of the sounds, often silent, that are being projected towards us by those in need. Now, listening does not come easily. Listening, active listening is a behaviour that takes deep love and commitment. It is hard just to listen without responding, reacting or problem-solving. Yet this is the call of the Shofar. It encourages us to be less self-absorbed and more “in tune” with the needs, voices and often silent cries of those around us.

May the sound of the Shofar continue to resonate within us and inspire us to live truly great lives. Wishing you all every best wish and blessing for a happy, healthy, joyous and prosperous New Year!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman

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