“Is that a shofar in your kittel or are you just glad to see me?”

There I stood, next to the chazzan, my shofar ready. Tikia, Shavarim Trua, Tikia. The notes are distinct, crisp, and the congregation in awe, take a collective gasp. Malchuyot Zichronot, Shoforot. Each set is near perfect. Kadish D’Rabbanan. Tikia! Trua! Tikia Gedolah! A long clarion call resonates ,then Aleinu and a final Kadish.

Before I know it, people are pounding me on my back and complimenting me. The crowd disperses a bit and then I see her standing there in the corner of the room talking to a friend. Composing myself, I gather my things and stride over to her smiling. She returns my glance and looks me over. Turning to me she says “Is that a shofar in your kittel or are you just glad to see me?”

I am back in reality. I was day dreaming again.

Did I really blow the shofar? Yes, it was while I was on Young Judea Year Course some 35 years ago. Did it go so well? Not really.

In fact it was a disaster. I got confused between Shavarim and Shavrim Trua, I stuttered and croaked. Was it a crow? Was it a frog? No! it was ….just me, Super Schlumper. The second day of Chag I was so distraught I didn’t even attempt to try again. How did it happen to me? As for M.W., (as in Mae West, who’s line I stole). She didn’t even bat an eye at me. Almost as if I wasn’t there.

It all started when the director of the program asked for a volunteer for Rosh HaShana prayers that were being planned for all the programs of Young Judea Year Course (he who starts a mitzvah, you say to him “freier“), and I was the only one to agree (and yes, he even asked the women (girls?) on my program). My reward was the right to use a rather unimpressive shofar with a chipped mouthpiece and as much time to practice as I wanted (in my free time). Unfortunately there would be no real lessons since the director was a bit busy. For him it was enough that I could make passable noises and that he could check in two minutes.

Yes, there is a moral to this story. Every year we pray for a year of health, wealth and the pursuit of happiness and every year we get our share of falls and failures. Sometimes, there are even disasters, pain and suffering. We all have our hopes. As a boy I dreamed of being a prince, slaying my dragon, getting a princess and living happily ever after. I have grown up to realize that I can’t rid myself of my own personal demons, and forget about the princesses. It seems, to me, that only dragons live happily ever after. The world, and not just recently, is a pretty harsh place at times. Go ask the residents of Damascus’ suburb of Zamalka.

So why believe in G-d? That is an entire set of blogs so I”ll spare you this time. I , as many Jews, declared my belief in the One G-d on Rosh HaShana [spoiler alert: if you think G-d is faerie stuff , please turn to another channel]. Now that it is Yom Kippur I am going to renew my contract with Him. For me, Yom HaDin, is not a day of Judgment, but rather a day of Accounting. For me, not only does G-d exist, but we are partners.

A contract, you may ask? Do I think I am G-d’s equal? Far from it. It is the most unequal partnership imaginable but on the other hand I exist and I am neither a slave nor a mote of dust. G-d recognizes my being. On one side of the ledger are my actions, inactions (being passive aggressive again?) and my inadequacies on the other all that has happened in the world to myself and to others. I have sinned and as part of the dialogue I have with my Creator I must first recognize my short comings so I can live this coming year as a better person, a better husband and father and a better worker. I can only pray that G-d gives me another chance so I can try, limited as I am, to make the world a better place for myself and the concentric circles of relations around me.

If G-d agrees to renew the contract, I can not only make amends for past omissions, I can continue to try to be His agent to do what I can to help others, give charity, save the environment and even improve the economy (that’s my day job). Each day is another opportunity to choose between making the world a better place or not and each of us in our limited way can make a difference. Perhaps G-d doesn’t need a new bus route or another road, but there are others that do.

As for the shofar, I didn’t give up. With the support of S, a counselor on Year Course, I went to Meah Shaarim and bought myself a beautiful, easy to blow shofar. When Young Judea Year Course went down to the Kotel for Neilah, the last service of Yom Kippur (we prayed together, men, women, boys, girls and myself behind the fenced sections set aside for separate davening), I had my shofar handy for the apex of the service, the proclamation of G-d’s supremacy and the final blowing of the shofar. With trepidation, I placed the shofar to my lips and let out a clear long blast. It was a break with the past and a start of a new beginning.

G’mar Chatimah Tova to all!

About the Author
Shlomo Toren has been a resident of Israel since 1980, and a transportation planner for the last 25 years. He has done demand modeling for the Jerusalem Light Rail and Road 6. He is married to Neera and lives in Shiloh.