Monday, September 19, 2011

Rosh Hashana: Sounding the Alarm!

Jack lived in a small remote village where the people were simple and ignorant. One time Jack   spent a few days vising in the closest big city. In the middle of the night, the villager was suddenly startled by a loud siren. "What is that noise?" Jack asked in fright. His host explained that a fire had broken out in the city, and what he heard was a fire alarm to warn the people and call out the firemen.

When he returned to his village, Jack excitedly told his neighbors everything he had seen in the big city.  But he was most excited to report on their system of dealing with fires. "Whenever there is a fire," Jack explained, "they sound a special alarm, and the fire is quickly extinguished."

The mayor of the village thought this was a splendid idea, and immediately purchased an alarm to be used in case of fire. Sure enough, a few days later a fire broke out, and the new alarm system was sounded. The villagers were very proud to hear their new fire alarm system.

In the meantime, half the village went up in flames.

A visitor who was in the village at the time laughed at the villagers. "Fools! Don't you know that you can't extinguish a fire just by sounding an alarm? The alarm is only meant to call the fire brigade to come and put out the fire. The noise of the alarm won't frighten the fire to run away!"

No Magic

People think that blowing the shofar and reciting the High Holiday prayers are a magic formula. By going through the motions, we can ward off the consequences of our mistakes and wrongdoings. In fact, we should consider them like a fire alarm. They are meant to awaken us to true teshuvah, to take resolute action to better ourselves. Only then we will succeed in extinguishing the flames of vices and evil passions that burn within our hearts.

(Adapted from "The Maggid and his Parables," pp. 201-202)