By RABBI MOSHE FELLER
No other individual brought as many Jews to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashana as did the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of sacred, blessed memory. This is because no other rabbi has emphasized it to the degree that the Lubavitcher Rebbe has.
The core mitzva of the Torah, “Love your fellow as yourself,” means that just as you yourself must hear the shofar, you must see to it that he is provided with the opportunity to hear the shofar. If for whatever reason your fellow Jew has not heard the shofar, whether he is hospitalized, not able to leave his home or not affiliated with any synagogue, you must do your utmost to help them do this mitzva. This goes for all the other mitzvos as well such as putting on tefillin, shaking the esrog and lulav, lighting Shabbos candles, etc. The Rebbe has dynamically embedded this mindset into his followers. To enable one’s fellow Jew to perform the mitzvot, is as important as doing it ourselves!
Hence, a Lubavitcher chassid will forgo eating his afternoon Rosh Hashana meal with any length, gulp it down, say Grace after Meals and head to the hospital to which he was dispatched (by the senior Lubavitcher dispatcher) which may be seven miles away.
He would arrive at the hospital two-and-a-half or three hours later, (often blowing the shofar for Jews walking on the street who did not yet hear the sounding of the shofar), get the list of Jewish patients from the hospital receptionist, run up and down the stairs to different wards, finishing his shofar blowing mission a bit before or after dark. He would proceed to daven the Rosh Hashana Mincha in the hospital lounge and rest before the three-hour walk back to his home. He would feel very happy that he enabled another dozen or 15 Jews to fulfill the mitzva of hearing the shofar. He would arrive home around midnight to the evening Rosh Hashana meal with his wife.
I have just described my Rosh Hashana activity of a number of years ago, when I was able to do the 15 mile round trip from my home in Highland Park to Mt. Sinai, Abbott Northwestern and Children’s hospitals. Today, our shluchim in Highland Park, S. Louis Park, Minnetonka, U of M, Minneapolis, West S. Paul, Duluth, Rochester, North and South Dakota enable hundreds of Jews to fulfill the mitzva of hearing the shofar. Add these hundreds to the scores of thousands of Jews who hear the shofar from the shluchim of Lubavitch. Four thousand emissaries worldwide and you have the greatest tribute to the vision and wisdom of one man, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of saintly blessed memory.
A Happy and Sweet New Year to Klal Yisroel and all of Humanity.
I constantly get regards from Jews who heard the sound of the shofar at their parent’s bedside. “My father so appreciated your visiting the hospital and blowing the Shofar”. Is a typical remark years after blowing the shofar for her father.
On one occasion, I happened to be in a room of an elderly Jew who was a supporter of ours. He was a victim of heart trouble which caused him to be often hospitalized. He was happy to see me but I was startled to hear his greeting to me, “Ich vil mer nit leben (I don’t want to live anymore).”
“Reb Dovid,” I said to him. “Er tort dos nit zogen (you are not allowed to talk that way), Rosh Hashana zogt min kosveinu b’sefer ha’chayim (inscribe us in the book of life).” I had him recite the blessings and proceeded to blow the shofar. A very peaceful look covered his face during my sounding of the Shofar. When I concluded, Reb Dovid announced to me “Ich vil leben (I want to live!)”. When his son, who saw his father’s changed attitude to “want to live,” was brought about by my sounding of the shofar, he promptly wrote out a huge check to Lubavitch and became one of our largest supporters!
The shofar is sounded the entire month of Elul, the month prior to Rosh Hashana. Our sages instituted blowing the shofar in Elul after the Shacharis prayer every morning (except Shabbat and the eve of Rosh Hashana) as a “wake up call” to make us realize that the days of judgement are fast approaching and that we should improve our Torah study and observance of mitzvos. We blow the shofar to visitors of Lubavitch House during the month of Elul.
We had a very distinguished visitor one day in Elul. None other than Shabse Zushe Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan. After studying some Talmud and putting on tefillin, we went out to the veranda and I blew the shofar for Bob Dylan. After blowing, I couldn’t resist remarking, “Bob, that’s the real ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’”! He smiled.
Ksiva v’Chasima Tova, L’Shana Tova u’esuka!
Rabbi Moshe Feller is the director of Upper Midwest Merkos – Chabad Lubavitch.