Parshat Nitzavim: Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20; Isaiah 61:10-63:9
This week’s haftorah includes the famous words (also a song by veteran Jewish singer Ira Heller): “I have set watchmen upon your walls, Jerusalem; they shall never be silent day nor night; those who remind the Lord, take no rest.” (Isaiah 62:6)
The Talmud comments: What do these watchmen, or angels, as Rashi explains, remind God about?
The Talmud answers: “You will arise and have compassion upon Zion; for it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come.” (Psalms 102:14)
The prophet is exhorting us and the angels to never cease in pleading with God to bring the Final Redemption.
There is a beautiful story related by Hirshel Tzig about the Chassidic Master of Munkacs known as the Minchat Elazar.
The great rabbi would take out his shofar every day of Elul to test its readiness for Rosh Hashanah. After he finished, his grandson, Tzvi, would ask him to sound one more blast. This became their daily tradition.
The custom is that on the day before Rosh Hashanah, we do not blow the shofar. Various reasons are given, but on a basic level, we wish to differentiate between the shofar blasts that are customary (throughout the month of Elul) and those that are obligatory (on the day of Rosh Hashanah). The rabbi’s young grandson, however, did not appreciate this point and passionately insisted on “his” one last shofar blast even on this day. The rabbi acquiesced to his requests.
On Rosh Hashanah morning, the rabbi pleaded before God: Yesterday, I erred in blowing the shofar against the strict traditions. But I did it to please my grandson who was pleading for just one shofar blast. Master of the Universe, the Jewish people are waiting to be redeemed. Look at all our struggles and hardships. Even if it is not technically the time yet, please sound one shofar blast, the Great Shofar Blast of Redemption.
Anticipating the arrival of Moshiach is obligatory because it shows that we are striving for something beyond our current reality. What the Messianic Era will be like is mysterious and subject to dispute, but all the rabbis agree that it will be a unique time in history. Somehow, we are taught, peace will miraculously reign amongst the nations.
The sounding of the shofar to herald Moshiach’s arrival is something to contemplate during our time in shul this year. We can have in mind how awesome it would be to escape the current exile and enter a new realm. May this coming year be sweet and redemptive for all of us.
Rabbi Yaacov Lasson is a chaplain at Ascension Providence Hospitals.