In his book When all you ever wanted isn’t enough, Rabbi Harold Kushner shares that, years ago, he “was sitting on a beach one summer day, watching two children, a boy and a girl, playing in the sand. They were hard at work building an elaborate sand castle by the water’s edge, with gates and towers and moats and internal passages. Just when they had nearly finished their project, a big wave came along and knocked it down, reducing it to a heap of wet sand.” At that point, Kushner says that he, “expected the children to burst into tears, devastated by what had happened to all their hard work. But they surprised [him]. Instead, they ran up the shore away from the water, laughing and holding hands, and sat down to build another castle.” In that moment, Kushner realized that the two kids had taught him a wonderful lesson: “All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure. Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up. When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh.”
This story strikes a chord because it pushes us to think about our priorities in life. These children understand something deeply valuable: We may not be able to stop the waves from hitting our castles, but we still have each other. We may not be able to avoid some painful disappointments along the way, but together we can find the strength to get back on our feet once again. It is thanks to those who hold us tight when things are not going as we would like them to go that we can hope to endure in the midst of the storm.
I know that I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know already. And yet, what I would like to do here is to provide some food for thought and some interesting insights to strengthen those intuitions that you already have.
With the beginning of the Jewish month of Elul, Jews around the world add to our morning prayers the blowing of the Shofar. For me, it is always a moving time. Every time I blow the Shofar, I’m always afraid of getting a terrible sound out of it, and I usually have a brief moment of prayer asking G-d to be granted the chance to bring forward decent blasts. It was in one of those mornings, as I was about to blow the Shofar, that I was moved not only by its piercing sound, but also because I came to realize that the most important people around us function exactly like a Shofar.
We all have “Shofar-people” in our lives. They are those who are capable of waking us up. They are the friends, teachers, mentors or family members who inspire us with their worlds, with their values and with their deeds. And they inspire us because of their passion and their vision.
These people are our “Shofar-people” because they can shake our world with their presences, because they can see us for who we are, and because they are the only ones capable of tearing down the walls that many times, we put between ourselves and the rest of the world whenever
we feel that we need a break. They allow us to feel less lonely and, when we are truly lucky, we get to share a significant part of our time here on Earth with them.
As we are preparing ourselves to welcome a new year, I would like to invite you to think about the “Shofar-people” in your life. And, since the Shofar has three different basic sounds, let me close this text by sharing with you three final blessings as well: May you always be blessed with the opportunity of surrounding yourself with wonderful Shofar-people. May you find the right words and the right ways to let those Shofar-people know how important they are in your life. And may you be blessed with the ability to become a Shofar-person yourself, inspiring those around you to become the better version of themselves.