CHASSIDISHE STORY ON THE PARSHA
The Baal Shem Tov and the ShofarOne year, Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov said to Rabbi Zev Kitzes, one of his devout chassidim: “You will blow the shofar for us this Rosh Hashanah. I want you to study all the kavanos that pertain to the shofar so that you should meditate upon them when you do the blowing.”
Rabbi Zev applied himself to the task with joy and trepidation: joy over the great privilege and fear over the immensity of the responsibility. First, he studied the Kabbalistic writings that discuss the multifaceted significance of the shofar and what its sounds achieve on the various levels of reality and in the multiple chambers of the soul. He also prepared a sheet of paper on which he noted the main points of each kavanah so that he could refer to them when he blew the shofar.
Finally, the great moment arrived. It was the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and Rabbi Zev stood on the reading platform in the center of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue amidst the Torah scrolls, surrounded by a sea of tallis-draped chassidim. At his table in the room’s mizrach section stood the Baal Shem Tov, his face aflame. An awed silence filled the room in anticipation of the climax of the day—the piercing blasts and sobs of the shofar. Rabbi Zev reached into his pocket, and his heart froze: the paper had disappeared!
He distinctly remembered placing it there that morning, but now it was gone. Furiously, he searched his memory for what he had learned, but his distress over the lost notes seemed to have hindered his brain: his mind was a total blank. Tears of frustration filled his eyes. He had disappointed his Rebbe, who had entrusted him with this most sacred task. Now he must blow the shofar like a superficial horn, without any kavanos. With a despairing heart, Rabbi Ze’ev blew the litany of sounds required by Halachah and resumed his place, avoiding his Rebbe’s eye.
After the day’s tefillos, the Baal Shem Tov made his way to the corner where Rabbi Ze’ev sat sobbing under his tallis. “Gut Yom Tov, Reb Ze’ev!” he called. “That was a most extraordinary shofar-blowing we heard today!” “But Rebbe…,” sniffled Reb Zev between his tears.”
“In the king’s palace,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there are many gates and doors leading to many halls and chambers. The palace-keepers have great rings holding many keys, each opening a different door. But there is one key that fits all the locks, a master key that opens all the doors. “The kavanos are keys, each unlocking another door in our souls, each accessing another chamber in the supernal worlds. But one key unlocks all doors, opening up the innermost chambers of the divine palace for us. But, ultimately, that master key is a broken heart.”
Filed under Parshas Nitzavim |