June 22, 2024
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New From Artscroll: ‘Living Higher’

New publication includes stories that inspire your heart and elevate your soul.

(Courtesy of Artscroll) A farmer, a lawsuit, a shekel coin… and an amazing story of emunas chachamim.

Could he really make a person become a baal teshuvah… in the space of two minutes?

A nasty airline agent, a messed-up flight—and a mother’s tears. Yes, the impossible sometimes happens.

There are some people who can’t live “same old, same old” lives. People not satisfied with mediocrity, who seek growth and are not afraid of challenge.

People who want to “live higher.”

Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky knows all about those kinds of people, and he knows the stories they tell. In “Living Higher,” he’ll tell you about the barber who brought an angry young man back to Torah observance—with a shaver. The terror victim, still suffering from his wounds, limping toward the shul’s menorah to light a candle of defiance and faith. Stories of hashgachah, emunah and transcendence. Stories that show how people can live higher. Stories that inspire us to live higher as well. The following is one of the incredible stories in this new book.

 

A Special Shofar In-deed

When we daven, we must not simply mouth the words; we must concentrate on their meaning and feel them, too. This applies to mitzvot as well. It’s not enough to simply do the mitzvah. Hashem wants us to use each mitzvah as a vehicle through which to connect to Him. More than anything, Hashem wants our heart: “Hakadosh Baruch Hu liba ba’i” (Sanhedrin 106b).

It was the end of Mussaf of Rosh Hashanah, a most magnificent davening. Aside from the beautiful renditions of every part of the prayers by the baal tefillah, the sounds of the shofar had also been flawless, piercing heart and soul. Now, the baal toke’a arose to sound the last 10 blasts of the shofar.

Rabbi Shmuel Grama, the baal tefillah, noticed that the baal toke’a was not using the same shofar he had used for the rest of the tekios. At first, he surmised that this shofar would produce even better sounds than the first one. To his surprise, it was just the opposite; the sounds emanating from this shofar were of poor quality, and the baal toke’a had to struggle to emit a sound that was anything close to the original one.

Why, wondered Rabbi Grama, did he switch to a shofar that is not as good? What was wrong with the original shofar?

After davening, Rabbi Grama asked the baal toke’a, Reb Eli Kriger, for the reason behind the switch.

Reb Eli explained by sharing a story.

“When I was learning in Eretz Yisrael as a bachur, my friend and I decided to learn how to blow the shofar. After trying out the yeshivah’s shofar, I realized that if I wanted to do this for real, I had to purchase my own. I went into a store in Meah Shearim and asked the proprietor to show me his merchandise, and a little while later I walked out of the store with my very own shofar. After practicing for a while, I eventually got the hang of it.

“Fast forward several years. I was married and living in Eretz Yisrael. During Elul, I kept my shofar in my tallis bag in case it was needed after davening. (It is customary to sound the shofar each day of Elul in shul.) One day at the end of davening, I noticed that no one else had a

shofar. I pulled mine out and blew it.

“After davening, a man came over and asked if I could blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah at a nearby shul. I eagerly accepted the offer and was instructed to go to a certain rav, who would train me how to blow according to the custom of that shul, which I did. Next, I was told to buy a new shofar from a particular vendor; the shofros he sold were known to produce a most beautiful sound, and the one I had been using until that point was not the best one.

“Again, I followed instructions. I purchased a new shofar, which I blew in that shul on Rosh Hashanah, following the customs for that shul.

“When I moved back to America, I offered to blow the shofar at my new shul in Flatbush and was given the job. I used the shofar I had been instructed to purchase for my first shofar blowing job in Eretz Yisrael, and everything ran smoothly for several years.

“On August 19, 2003, we heard of another tragedy in Eretz Yisrael, the work of Hamas terrorists. Twenty-three people were killed and over 130 wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a five-kilogram device packed with ball bearings on the Number 2 Egged bus in the Shmuel HaNavi neighborhood. Many of the passengers were returning from davening at the Kotel. Our nation was, once again, plunged into mourning.

“As I read the list of victims, I recognized one of them: the proprietor of the store where I had bought my original shofar. This was a personal blow to me, as I felt a certain connection to him. I went to the rav of my shul and asked if it would be okay to use my new shofar for the first ninety blasts, and the shofar I had bought from the Yid who had been martyred for the final ten. It would serve as a merit for his neshamah.”

Reb Eli continued, “Ever since then, I switch shofros and use this old shofar for the last ten blasts. I do it for that Yid’s neshamah, and it means a lot to me.”

Rabbi Grama was moved by the story. From then on, the sounds emanating from that shofar no longer bothered him, but inspired him instead.

This “original” shofar may not create the most pleasing sounds to the human ear, but it most likely creates the most pleasing sounds to Hashem’s ear.

It is not always about how something sounds or looks; it is the inside—and the story behind it—that counts the most.

 

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