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Parshas Ki Savo - Who's Calling                         19 Elul 5781

08/27/2021 09:07:45 AM


GE6-4101. With this opening I am really dating myself. I never thought I would reach an age or feeling of being that l would realize I am thinking and writing about things that my children and for sure my grandchildren don’t know about. For those who do not know, GE6-4101 was my phone number during my growing-up years in Brooklyn, New York. We did not need to dial the area code in New York city because it was a 212 area code for the entire city. Years later,   the five boroughs’ area codes were divided, some remaining 212 and three others receiving the new 718. We had a relatively quick dial number because there was only one zero and no other above the number four. This description only makes sense when you consider we had a rotary phone.

The only cool feature we had on our phone was a lever on the bottom that could raise or lower the sound of the ringer. Perhaps we were considered well off because in addition to the wall phone in the kitchen that had a cord so long it was able to reach almost every room in the house, we had a desk phone in our parent’s bedroom. Fast forward from clunky cordless phones when the caller knew where you were to cellular phones where you could be located almost anywhere in the world. Even when cellular phones were introduced a person could still be identified as to where he was living based upon the area code. Only later could a person retain his or her number when moving or changing carriers. Now, when calling someone, we have no way of knowing where they live since the area code of the cell phone could be from a previously-lived location. This came to light this past week when a visitor in Shul met a member of the congregation who was his old neighbor. In exchanging phone numbers, the member, now residing in San Diego, gave his former neighbor his phone number which began with the area code from their hometown,  causing the visitor to chuckle while commenting, “oh yeh, of course it is ….”.

As I mentioned earlier, our original phone had a volume lever for the ring tone, but there was only one ringtone. Today’s cell phones come with a variety of ringtones and with applications to download ringtones to identify specific people using a variety of sounds and music of your choice. It’s common today to  make use of  different ringtones on their cellphones which sound out  various songs. This is particularly popular in religious circles where some have the song “Omar Rabi Akiva” as their ringtone; some have the song “Prok Yas Onoch”. There are so many different songs for different folks that one who hears a cellphone ring is frequently curious about what song is playing and how often the user gets to play name that tune. Is it “Perok Yas Onoch,” or “Yismechu HaShamayim” or “Hoshia Es Amecha”? However, the owner of the musically-gifted phone look to see who is calling or does he/she listen to the song? Rav Meilich Biderman teaches us a great lesson: using the cellphone as a parable to Shofar. Rav Biderman says the same scenario of the phone’s ringtone applies to the shofar blowing. Some people hear the Shofar blowing and pay attention to how adeptly the person blows the Shofar. However, we should really be paying attention to the fact that Hashem is talking to us through the Shofar, reminding us that we need to prepare ourselves to face Hashem! In addition, this act of keen listening certainly must be done in a joyous manner.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe zt”l said that if you were to ask anybody what is the happiest day in life, what would everybody answer? Certainly, the day of Moshiach’s arrival. However, the passuk says something else. We say this verse every Friday night in Kabbolas Shabbos Psalm 96, “The heaven will rejoice, the earth will exult; the sea and its fullness will roar. The fields and everything therein will jubilate; then all the trees of the forest will sing”. There will be joy in the heavens, through the trees, and in the sea, and everyone will rejoice. When? ”Before Hashem, for He has come, for He has come to judge the earth”.

 Before Rosh Hashana, being that Hashem is about to come to us, each of us needs to feel a great joy for every Jew who is about to connect to Hashem! “What is the joy?” you may ask.  When a king comes to visit you in your home, there is great joy. What do you do in preparation for the king’s arrival? You clean up your home and you scrub all the corners of the house. If you prepare properly then “Hashem will judge the world with justice”. The corners must be scrubbed and cleaned, and it must be done with joy.  We must pay attention to what the Shofar is telling us. The preparation in Elul - especially the last third of the month - should be done with joy. The critical moment to know when this moment arrives is highlighted in the manual.

In this week’s Parshas Ki Savo the Torah in Devarim 27:9 states: "וידבר משה והכהנים הלוים אל כל ישראל לאמר הסכת ושמע ישראל היום הזה נהיית לעם לה' אלוקיך" “Moshe and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying: Pay attention and listen, Israel. Today you have become a nation to God your Lord”. On this day Moshe Rabbeinu began to prepare for death. He gave the Torah scroll which he had written to the Tribe of Levi. The word ‘Haskes’, or take heed, is related to the word “kat,” meaning group or class. Moshe Rabbeinu told Bnei Yisroel to form study groups. The Torah can only be acquired through group study.  The Gemara continues to explain “a sword hangs over the head of those who study Torah alone and they become foolish”. Alternatively, Haskes is related to the word kosas, meaning “push yourself to the limit. Finally, Haskes can also be divided into hass and kasas, meaning “remain silent” and “crush. This describes the order of the Torah study. First, a person must remain silent and acquire knowledge”. Afterwards, he must crush, dissect, and then analyze the teachings he received.

Whether it be the phone or the Shofar, a person must interpret and analyze the lesson of what it is and whom it comes from. Just as we look at the phone screen to see who is calling, so too we should investigate the Shofar and listen to the messages that are transmitted, actively, with total focus receiving the ultimate word of Hashem through the ringtone of the Shofar.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Wed, January 19 2022 17 Shevat 5782