| Parshah |

A Lively Life

We ask Hashem, “Inscribe us for life!” The deeper request is asking Hashem for a life of chiyus


“And in the seventh month, on the first day, should be a holy time, you should not do any work. It should be a day of shofar blowing for you.” (Bamidbar 29:1)

the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we’re judged in matters concerning our souls, and on the second, our bodies. The first day, the person’s being judged on how much internal chiyus, life, he’ll have in his neshamah the coming year. It’s possible for someone to receive another physical year on the second day, yet, on the first day, he was judged to die. How so? He won’t be eligible for the cemetery’s guest list that year, but he’ll have physical existence and no more — life with no taste, no chiyus (Rav Itamar Schwartz, Bilvavi).

Years ago, right before Rosh Hashanah, I was in the Machaneh Yehudah shuk, not my usual Erev Yom Tov expedition. But my oldest son had a doctor’s appointment, and while walking to the bus afterward, we passed through the shuk. We took in the sounds, scents, and sights; the colorful stalls and stands, and the sellers loudly hawking their wares, all making up the panorama that’s unique to Machaneh Yehudah.

Still, I hurried along, until my son stopped, pointing at a small, makeshift shack where an old man with long Teimani peyos and a flowing beard was selling all types of shofros. My son moved slowly toward the stand, seemingly mesmerized. “Please, Mommy,” he whispered. “Can you buy me a shofar?”

We’re familiar with the concept of making a cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting within our soul. But what we’re really trying to figure out is, how much chiyus, how much life and excitement, did we derive from each day of the previous year?
Have you ever seen a chassan who had to be dragged unwillingly to the chuppah?  If they need to drag him, he probably shouldn’t get married. It’s impossible to build a life when forced to do something. Yet if he’s excited and understands that marriage has pleasure and happiness, along with challenges, that chiyus of excitement will give him strength for years of marriage.
Suppose a person wakes up every day for davening, but has no chiyus in it. He does it because he doesn’t want to go to Gehinnom. Even if he’s observing all the mitzvos, it won’t come easily to him because he’s missing the enthusiasm.

Buy a shofar? I didn’t know how to blow a shofar (yes, I’ve tried). My husband, for all of his many talents, also falls woefully short in that area (and yes, he’s also tried). My son was all of five at the time. Why buy a shofar? But his shining eyes and his yearning to own that shofar mesmerized me, too. So I asked the proprietor for a cheap but kosher shofar, that would be easy for him to blow.

I warned my son that it’s not easy to blow shofar. But my explanations were lost in his anticipation of a dream come true.

The man extracted a small, slightly curved shofar. “One hundred percent kosher, and easy to blow,” he said in a melodious accent.

I nodded, skeptical.

When making kabbalos to do teshuvah, we need to focus on adding chiyus to our lives. By feeling alive and excited, we’ll have the strength for life’s challenges as well. We ask Hashem, “Inscribe us for life!” The deeper request is asking Hashem for a life of chiyus.

I watched my son gently pick up his very own shofar. He put it to his lips and blew. Out came a strong, steady, sweet-sounding tekiah — on his very first try! Then another, and another! And then, my sweet-faced, towheaded little lad was marching through the crowded alley of Machaneh Yehudah, blowing loudly on his shofar without stop. The scene transformed from a still-life background to an animated stage of movement and sound, where my little tzaddikel was the star. His eyes were alight with mission.

His enthusiasm was contagious. People paused their shopping to heap brachos for the new year on this young baal tokeia, and blessed all those around them as well. He marched steadfastly along, and I marched in his shadow.

Confession: I’ve since tried to blow this shofar. I’ve made no progress. But this first shofar has been joined by a personal shofar for each one of my boys. They are each proficient in blowing, waking up my home, starting every Elul, with the clear, strong sound that arouses us from our stupor, urging us to look alive with chiyus for the coming year.


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 860)

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