The call of the shofar does not come from outside; it emanates from within us
Someone asked me for my cell phone number, but I could not recall it. Obviously that was because I never call myself. Which is understandable — except during these Yamim Noraim days. At this season of the year, it is a good idea to give ourselves a call.
Several things can happen when you try calling yourself. Here are some of the possibilities, followed by what they really mean:
1) You get a busy signal. Meaning: I am occupied with other things. I cannot be bothered right now.
2) You get a call-waiting signal, or no one answers: I am on an important call. Please try me later.
3) Someone answers, but there’s bad connection, you can’t hear the voice. This line is so rarely used that it does not work well at first. Keep trying.
4) Someone answers, but it is the wrong number. Be patient and try again. Self-calls are never easy.
5) Someone answers, it is the correct number, but you don’t recognize the voice, and it is speaking in a strange language. This is the right number, but you call so rarely that the voice is unfamiliar.
6) Someone answers, you recognize the voice, the sound is clear, and it speaks your language. The call has gone though. You are connected. You may now speak.
Okay, but what do I say to myself? How are you? How’s the weather? What’s new?
Face it — there are serious things to talk about every day, almost every hour. During this season of the year, there is no need for the I’s to be dotted or the T’s to be crossed. Kavanah during davening, or our tzedakah, or our daily interactions with people, or our study of Torah are just a few areas for evaluation, but the list is endless.
To have an honest conversation with oneself is never easy, but if we recognize that we are not really only one person but at least two, then the conversation can be very instructive. For example, there are at least two parts in each one of us: the yetzer hara, the evil temptation, pushing us in one direction, and the yetzer hatov, the good inclination, pushing us in another. We are body and soul, the body pulling us downward, the soul pulling upward. We are half angel, half beast.
In truth, the conversation between the two of us takes place constantly. Why? says the soul. Why not? says the body. Why? says the angel. Why not? says the beast. Give, says the angel. Take, says the beast. The conversation never stops, but on the Yamim Noraim it intensifies. It cannot hurt to raise the volume on such selfie conversations and to listen in.
Selfie photos are all the rage. They show how we appear externally to the outside world. But that is only the surface. Now we have to move to a new level: selfie phone calls. They show who we really are beneath the surface.
And by the way, even if we cannot reach ourselves, each of us has received — during this season of the year — a different kind of call: a very personal one from Above. Here there can be no busy signals, no call waiting, no bad connections. The call is very clear. It is designed, as Rambam says in Hilchos Teshuvah (3:4), to arouse us from our spiritual slumber. It is not a selfie. It is not a call from someone else. It is a call from Someone who knows our phone number. We call it the shofar.
In truth, Kabbalah suggests that not only do we hear the sound of the shofar: we are the shofar — G-d’s shofar, as we say in our Rosh Hashanah amidah (citing Bamidbar 23:21), “U’truas Melech bo — the teruah of the King is within.” Within us is the ability — and responsibility — to be the shofar of G-d, to proclaim His Presence in the world. The call of the shofar does not come externally, from outside; it emanates internally from within us — a self-engendered call. The ultimate selfie.
One way or another, calls of all kinds are coming through these days, either from Above, or from our own selves. Listen carefully, and don’t ignore the ring. For even if we don’t know our own number, Someone does know it.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 780)