Tishrei - Rosh Hashanah - Parable 2


The Maggid of Dubno, in keeping with the injunction in Mishnah Avot 2.13, "Do not let your prayers become perfunctory," frequently exhorted his listeners to perform their devotions on the High Holy Days with understanding and reverence, and not by rote. He reminded them that fulfilling the rituals was a means to a higher end, namely, to achieve an inner purification. To dramatize the nobler objective, he related this graphic parable:

A native villager, born and reared in an obscure rural environment, came to a big city for the first time and obtained lodging at an inn. Awakened in the middle of the night by the loud beating of drums, he inquired drowsily, "What's this all about?" Informed that a fire had broken out and that the drum beating was the city's fire alarm, he turned over and went back to sleep.

On his return home he reported to the village authorities: "They have a wonderful system in the big city; when a fire breaks out the people beat their drums and before long the fire burns out." All excited, they ordered a supply of drums and distributed them to the population. When a fire broke out some time later, there was a deafening explosion of drum beating, and while the people waited expectantly for the flames to subside, a number of their homes burned to the ground.

A sophisticated visitor passing through that village, when told the reason for the ear-splitting din, derided the simplistic natives: "Idiots! Do you think a fire can be put out by beating drums? They only sound an alarm for the people to wake up and take measures to extinguish the fire."

This parable, said the Maggid of Dubno, applies to those of us who believe that beating the breast during the Al Het (confessional), raising our voices during worship, and blowing the shofar will put out the fires of sin and evil that burn in us.

They are only an alarm, a warning to wake up and resort to heshbon ha-nefesh (soul-searching), so that we may merit the favor of God. The Maggid undoubtedly had in mind Maimonides' interpretation of the shofar sounds as urging: "Awake all ye who sleep, rouse yourselves all ye who slumber and search your deeds and repent; remember your Creator."

Introduction to Parables  |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5   |  6

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