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Elul 26

If the Shofar is sounded in the city, will the populace not tremble? (Amos 3:6)

The blow of a Shofar is a call to arouse us from the lethargy of routine in which we have been immersed and to stimulate us to teshuvah. But what if someone hears the Shofar and is not moved by it?

A village blacksmith’s assistant once visited a large city and sought out the local smithy. He observed that the workers there used a bellows to fan the flames in the forge. The bellows were much more efficient than the exhausting manual fanning which he did back in his master’s shop. He promptly bought a bellows, returned with great enthusiasm to his master, and informed him that there was no longer any need for them to exhaust themselves fanning the flames. He then set out to demonstrate the magic of the bellows, but alas, regardless of how vigorously he pumped, no flame appeared.

"I can’t understand it," he said. "In the city, I saw with my own eyes the huge flame produced by the bellows."

"Did you first light a small fire?" the master asked.

"No," the assistant replied. "I just pumped the bellows."

"You fool!" the blacksmith said. "The bellows can only increase the size of the flame when you begin it with a spark. When you have no spark or fire, all the pumping of the bellows is of no use."

Like the bellows, the Shofar can only arouse us if we have in us a spark of teshuvah, just a rudiment of desire. If we feel ourselves unmoved by the Shofar, we had better try to light a spark of teshuvah within ourselves.

Today I shall...

try to begin teshuvah, so that the service of the approaching High Holidays will have the desired effect on me.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

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