The Jewish year is drawing to a close and in less than two weeks we will hear the sounds of the shofar calling us to reflection and repentance. What has this year been to us? What has it brought us? What have we become during the course of the last year?
The first day of sixth month of Elul, when Moses reascended the mountain (after the drama of the golden calf) was memorialized as the beginning of our season of repentance and renewal. We are told that the shofar was sounded during that fateful Elul. And so we learn that the sound of the shofar brings with it admonition and warning: We are to remain firm in our convictions even if "this man Moses" has departed from our midst, even if we no longer have a visible leader to reperesent G-d's cause before us and teach us His will.
Remain firm and stay the course even if you find that you have in your midst misguided brethren enamored with Egyptian delusions, inviting you to join the revelry around the idol. Even if you do not know "what has become of this man Moses", the words of G-d which you were taught "live and remain forever." They are with you, even now, and they will never leave you. You must continue to be guided by them.
Where do we find men today in whom we recognize the spirit of G-d? Where are the men who guide us in word and in deed, like a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day? Where are the men who have the courage to confront us with our sin and smash our various golden calves around which we are wont to dance today? Are there such men today? Today, more than ever, we need such men.
We need men who understand clearly that to surrender half the truth is to surrender the truth in its entirety. We need men who understand that flexibility may be fine for managing one's personal affairs, but it most certainly must not be practiced at the expense of the most sacred personal treasure entrusted to our care i.e. the Word of G-d. The men who foolishly embrace such compromises in the vain hope of saving the entire cause do not understand that their opponents will only see in their concessions a nullification of the Divine nature and character of the cause.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur beckons even the most estranged from G-d's Word to repentance, return, and renewal. But nowadays, it seems, few are even aware that they have strayed or how much. The tones of the shofar with its calls of teruah is meant to prepare us for Yom Kippur, with its promise of rebirth and atonement. The G-d of Israel is not constrained to synagogues and altars. He does not desire to be remembered only one or two days of the year for a pious ceremony of self-mortification and religious platitudes.
The Master of the universe, the G-d of all the earth, the G-d of all life, the G-d of every thing that has breath, the G-d of every heartbeat, desires and expects to find His dwelling in all of our thoughts and emotions, in all of our acts and pleasures, and in all of our words and deeds. Is it not the G-d of Israel who declared:
As truly as I live, says G-d, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but only in that he should return from his ways and live" (Ezekiel 18:23).
"Thus says the L-RD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist," Says the L-RD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:1-2).
These truths are reflected in every word of G-d. This time of year and the observance of the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot should not merely facilitate a "settlement" with G-d and our consciences. He demands that the entire year be dedicated to His service - not the mere sacrifice of a day or two here and a day or two there as the mood strikes us.
G-d does not need even one of these days, but we are in need of Him, His help, His grace, His light, His blessing, and His nearness. We just don't need Him at the beginning of the year or at the end, but every single day and every single hour; no one day can serve as a proxy for the other, let alone an entire year.
Elevated by the call of the shofar, let us demonstrate the error of those who are enthusiastically dancing around the golden calf. Let them fully comprehend the futility of their "worship." G-d abounds with truth and love, and is ever ready to rebuild our broken lives and establish for us a blessed future. And yet, let us not deceive ourselves. Let us not think that because we have abandoned Him that He will in His grace adapt or "update" the standards of His Word to the "requirements" of the age or carve a place in it for the rules and maxims we established for ourselves in our apostasy.
May we not be deceived by the alien elements in our midst who could
really care less which god you worship as long as you're "religious" and
worship some god - never mind which god, or how - as if we possess the
right to select for ourselves a god of our choosing and create our own
order of worship, complacently raising an altar and exclaiming, "This is
your G-d, O Israel!"
Men can never choose their god; it is the G-d, Creator of heaven and
earth, Who calls mankind to serve Him and do His will. The shofar still
calls us today as it did so long ago at the foot of Mount Sinai in the
desert. A call to deep reflection, repentance, and renewal, where He
will graciously forgive our past and leads us triumphantly with the
sounds of His shofar across the bridge of atonement to the rebuilt
tabernacle of our lives, in great confidence and endless rejoicing.
Let him who is convinced that his views are true and right express them . . . at every opportunity . . . without considering how much support or how much opposition he will encounter. Only falsehood is in need of many supporters in order to win the day; falsehood must have the authority of numbers to make up for what it lacks in justification. Truth, by contrast, will always prevail, even if it takes time. Noble, courageous and pure, expressed with all the fiery zeal and conviction and with all clarity of sure awareness, stated again and again at every opportunity, truth will ultimately gain respect and admiration even of those who do not accept it. The only truth that can be lost beyond recall is that truth whose adherents no longer have the courage to speak up candidly on its behalf. Truth has never gone down in defeat as the result of opposition, it has done so only when its friends are too weak to defend it. - R' S.R. Hirsch