Rav Kook Torah

Rosh Hashanah: Blasts That Penetrate the Heart

“Fortunate is the nation that knows the teruah-blast” (Psalms 89:16).

What is so special about recognizing the sound of the shofar?

Rav Kook explained that in the shofar-blasts, one may hear the inner call of teshuvah.

This idea is illustrated in the following story:

The Wake-up Call

Blowing the shofar in Jerusalem

In one of the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, a group of workers was under pressure to complete a particular building, and they continued working during the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

When the neighbors realized what was happening, they immediately notified Rav Kook. Shortly thereafter, a messenger of the Rav arrived at the construction site — with a shofar in his hand. He approached the workers, who were surprised to see him, and offered New Year’s greetings. He then announced that Rav Kook had sent him to blow the shofar for them, in accordance with the obligation to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. He respectfully asked them to take a break from their work and listen. The messenger then proceeded to recite the blessing and began to blow.

The words from the Rav and the sounds of the shofar achieved their goal. Each blast shook the delicate chords of the soul and awakened the Jewish spark in the hearts of the young workers. They set down their work tools and gathered around the man blowing the shofar. Some were so moved that they began to cry. The ancient blasts of the shofar, reverberating in the unfinished building, transported them back to their father’s house. They saw images of grandfather, the shtetl and the synagogue, a world of Jews standing in prayer.

Questions began to pour out, one after another. What has happened to us? Where are we? What have we come to? The young men stood around the emissary, confused and absorbed in thought.

When the shofar-blowing was over, there was no need for words. The workers unanimously decided to stop working. Some asked the messenger if they could accompany him. They quickly changed their clothes and joined in the holiday prayers at Rav Kook’s yeshivah.

In an open letter from that time, Rav Kook wrote:

“A friendly word is effective; an expression of comradeship and respect will bring others close. Let us not forsake the good and straight path that is illuminated with love and goodwill, peace and friendship. We must break down the wall that divides brothers and speak heart to heart, soul to soul. Then our words will certainly be heard.

These children of ours will suddenly raise themselves up. And they will crown their powerful aspiration to build the land and the nation with the eternal ideals of sublime holiness.”

(Silver from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. II, p. 329, Mo'adei HaRe’iyah, pp. 65-66)

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