Friday, September 18, 2009

Too Much Shofar

We are preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year – which initiates a period of contemplation but also of joy.

My wife is barefoot in the kitchen (but not pregnant – leaving the trifecta incomplete – but I have no complaints she’s making brisquit.) My daughter has a friend over and my son is giving them lessons on how to blow the shofar – it sounds like an oboe but with less pitch.

My son got a new shofar from a class trip to the shofar factory. The new shofar has the twin virtues of being much easier to blow and of stinking like a ram’s horn processed with lye (because that’s what a shofar is and how it is made). My daughter’s friend, a little girl in pink, has a surprising knack for getting a bleat out of the shofar. It is a trick, you don’t really blow – you sort of purse your lips and spit. No doubt my training my son in flatulence noise impressions has helped to prepare him to become a shofar prodigy.

My daughter’s friend’s surprise talent has two consequences. First, my son, under the guise of “teaching” issues multiple, lengthy blasts of sound and urges his pupil to follow his examples. It is kind of like dueling banjos but without the snappy tune.

The second consequence is that GoofGirl hides under the dining room table sobbing loudly that she can’t do anything right – a vocal accompaniment that is appropriate to the cacophony. Also, the living room is starting to stink as each blast from GoofBoy’s shofar showers the room in the smell of dried marrow and lye.

Defusing the Shofar
OK. First, I disarm GoofGirl’s friend – the accelerator in a volatile situation. It isn’t her house, so she is inclined to be obedient. Then I need to stop my son, the trigger if you will. I tell him we cannot talk sports if he keeps blowing his shofar. I will pay for this later.

Now for the detonation mass: my daughter is under the table sobbing. I get down to her level and begin telling her a story:
When the Jewish people were freed from Egypt the saw Hashem at Mt. Sinai. They could only look for a few minutes because Hashem is so great, powerful, and awesome.

How can you see Hashem daddy?

You can see Hashem in everything, but this time, thousands of years ago the Jewish people saw Hashem directly – not through something else. The sound they heard was like a powerful shofar, so that is a very special sound for us.

But, the rabbis say…

Are you a rabbi daddy?

No, you know that. But listen anyway, even if it’s just me telling you. The rabbis say that the most important thing about the shofar isn’t to be able to blow it – it is to hear it. Because the shofar is a call for us to try to be better people, grow up a little bit more in the coming year (even if you are already a grown-up.) Anyone can learn to blow the shofar with a little practice. But being a better person is really hard. I know you are upset, but you are also being a little jealous. You should be happy for your friend that she has a talent.
My daughter had a retort – but my wife, cut my “Father Knows Best” schtick short with a flanking maneuver.

“Who wants cookies?”

Everyone sits down and my son begins, “Dad, do you want to know how I think the Orioles should change their line-up?”

Not really, but I am trying to be a better person…

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