Va-Yelekh
For the week of September 22, 2001 / 5 Tishri 5762
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:1-30
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17

Wake Up!

Blow the shofar in Zionů(Joel 2:15)

I have two teenage sons who share a room. At 6:30 each weekday morning the alarm goes off with an obnoxious beep, beep, beep. Only my older son hears it. While he gets up, his younger brother sub-consciously ignores the alarm and sleeps on. Usually the older one returns about 20 minutes later and tells his brother to get up. At times one or two eyes open, maybe there is a verbal acknowledgement, but the draw of the pillow overcomes him, and he continues to sleep away. Five minutes later my wife arrives on the scene. Finding the sleeper in his slumber, she proceeds to ensure that this young man begins his day. After he gives her an adequate guarantee, my wife leaves, satisfied that her mission is accomplished. Yet she is often shocked to learn that it was only later, after my visit to the boys' bedroom, that the process was finally completed. It is only when I insist that my well-intentioned son visibly demonstrates his commitment to arising that his night of rest is truly over.

This week is Rosh Hashana, the biblical Festival of the Blowing of the Shofar - the ram's horn (September 18 & 19). During these very holy days the shofar will be sounded several times. Sometimes haunting, sometimes piercing, its sounds penetrate the hearts of the hearers. Regular synagogue attendees hear the sound of the shofar every day for a month prior to the holiday itself.

There are many themes associated with this day. One of them is well expressed in the writings of one of the most respected Jewish scholars of all time, Moses Maimonedes (1135-1204). Reflecting on the sounding of the shofar, he wrote,

Wake up, wake up, you sleepers, wake up from your sleep! Sleepers, wake up from your napping and examine your deeds, return in repentance, and remember your Creator! Those of you who forget the truth in your playing around with the latest frivolousness, spending all year in vanity and meaningless things, which neither profits nor saves you, you, look to your souls, improve your ways and works. Abandon the path which is bad and get rid of all your vain goals.

Many centuries before Maimonedes, words similar to his were written to a congregation of followers of the Messiah:

This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you." Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. (Ephesians 5:14-17).

The world, specifically North America, was given a great wake up call last week when New York and Washington were viscously attacked and many thousand murdered. This great continent has never seen the likes of this kind of evil. How many people have said in these days, "I never thought something like this could happen here"? But it did.

These horrific events have affected us deeply. As a result many will rethink how they relate to life. They will consider very crucial life matters. But for how long? Some will hear this wake up call and begin to live life in the way God has intended for them. But others will sleep through the alarm. They won't take seriously these things at all. They may act like they are waking up for a while, but in the end they will still be asleep.

The shofar sounds the alarm every year, yet we sleep on. How many wake up calls do we need?

One day there will be no more wake up calls, no more shofar blasts. Now is the time to wake up.

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