The following story was told by Rabbi Baruch Rabinovitch of Munkacs, father of the present Munkacser Rebbe, about his late father-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira who lived from 1871 to 1937 and was known as the “Minchat Elazar”.
Rabbi Baruch had a son called Tzvi Nosson Dovid. Rabbi Baruch would relate that his father-in-law loved this grandchild immensely and would play with him and sit him on his lap at Shabbat gatherings. The Minchat Elazar’s special love for this grandchild was partly due to the fact that his daughter and son-in-law had waited a long time before they succeeded in having their first child.
In the last year of his life, the Minchat Elazar took the Shofar on the first of Elul and blew it in order to test its sound. His grandson Tzvi was in the room and was delighted by the sound of the Shofar. From then on it became a ritual, for the rest of the month of Elul the Rebbe would blow the Shofar once a day just for little Tzvi.
The day before Rosh Hashanah, Tzvi waited expectantly for his daily blast but was bitterly disappointed. His grandfather explained that the custom is to not blow the Shofar the day before Rosh Hashanah but tried to reassure him that the very next morning the Shofar will be blown in the Synagogue.
Little Tzvi couldn’t understand and started crying and begging his grandfather, “Just one blast! Just one blast!” His grandfather couldn’t bear to hear his grandson crying and after a while conceded, picked up the Shofar and blew one blast.
The custom in Munkacs in Rosh Hashanah was that before the sounding of the Shofar the Rebbe would speak. That year, the Rebbe went up, opened the ark, opened it and said, “Master of the Universe, I have sinned before you. It is known that one must not blow the Shofar the day before Rosh Hashanah, yet, as You know, I did.”
The Rebbe began to sob and cried out, “Master of the Universe, do you know why I transgressed this custom? It was because I couldn’t bear to see my precious grandchild lying on the floor as he cried and begged me to blow just one blast for him. I was not able to stand up to his pain and blew it once for him, even though I should not have.
Father, how can You stand by as you see millions of Your children down on the floor and crying out to you, “Father, just one blast! Sound the blast of the Shofar that will welcome in the Final Redemption!”? Even if the time is not right, even if Moshiach’s time has not come, Your children are crying out to you: How can You stand by unmoved?!”
Rabbi Baruch would cry as he recounted how at the time all those present cried along with their Rebbe. The sounding of the Shofar was delayed a long time as the people couldn’t stop crying.
This moving story sheds a new light on the ritual blowing of the Shofar. May it be G-d’s will that this year we will merit to hear the blast of the Great Shofar heralding in a perfect world.
Based on an essay by Hirshel Tzig on www.chabad.org