I wanted to share with you a little known fact about me, that you might not even be aware of. That fact, is that when I was four years old, I embarked upon a long path of competitive figure skating. Momma and Dad would take me to the rink, 6 days a week, every morning at 6:00 AM before school, and I would practice my routines. I would do triple and quadruple axles, double toe-loups, I had even mastered the biellmann position, and even the twizzle (my nizzle). I worked very hard from age four until sixteen, when I had qualified for the US National olympic team. It was very exciting, I was set to perform in Salt Lake City, only a few hundred miles from my home city, Denver Colorado. All my loved ones were gathered to watch me perform. It was also electrifyingly exciting, because I was the heavy favorite for the gold metal.
I could not contain my excitement as my family gathered in the arena right before I was meant to perform. I was going to be performing to my favorite singer-- Celine Dion's heart-warming version of my favorite love song of all time, "Beauty and the Beast." At that point in life, I had not even stopped to contemplate the disturbing meaning of that song. As I sat waiting in the changing room for my big moment for which I dedicate the last 12 years of my life, I noticed, that right off the locker room, was a game room. I realized I still had about fifteen minutes till showtime-- so I went to take a look. To my utter delight, they had my favorite arcade game on the planet-- Ms. Pacman-- and it did not cost a thing. I went over, and started playing. One thing lead to another, I beat level after level, I was zoned in, until I finally heard on the loud Speakers, "DANNY WOLFE, you are up! WHERE ARE YOU?" I looked at my watch, and to my complete horror, realized I was supposed to be on the ice seven minutes ago. To my tremendous agony, I had been disqualified.
Henry, obviously, this story is not true. If I were an olympian for any sport it would clearly be for weight-lifting. However, I think the message of this story is very powerful, and timely. Yesterday morning was Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the month of Elul. You see, Rosh Chodesh Elul means that Rosh Hashana is just one month away, and every morning in synagogue from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Rosh Hashana (with the exception of Shabbos) the shofar is blown. Yesterday, as I heard the sound of the shofar, I got the chills, and I started to literally shake. After not hearing that holy, powerful sound in a full year, it really woke me up. It was very powerful. In one month, we are all coming to be judged by the Judge of all Judges. It is said that in Pre-War Europe this time was incredibly intense. People really began working on improving their relationship with the Almighty, and their relationships with each other. They began intensely trying to perfect their character traits. If someone struggled with anger, they worked very hard to obliterate anger from themselves. If people were haughty, they worked on becoming more humble.
To not fault of our own, we live in a completely different world. From a very young age we are told that we must go to school. After school we are told we have to go to more school. After more school we are told we must go to graduate school. After Grad school, we get jobs. After working a few years, we get married. Then when we hit our 40s we realize that we hate our job, we do not know our spouse, and we have no idea how we got here, or what the heck we are doing with our lives. This is called a midlife crisis. This is called sleepwalking through life.
The Rambam writes that the shofar awakens us from our slumber.
Every morning in the month of Elul, and on Rosh Hashana, we are awoken from our slumber by the powerful, awesome blast of the shofar. It is up to us if we are going to hit the snooze button, or actually wake up and get out of bed. If only in my olympic story, someone would have given me a reminder before my performance! Then I could have gotten ready. Right now, with the shofar we are getting that reminder. Right now we should be thinking about what we can change to become better people. Maybe my relationship with my parents can use some mending, and I should call them more. Maybe I should not have said that nasty remark to my sibling, or my ex-best friend and it is time to apologize. Maybe its time to think about something I can do to get closer to G-d, whether its study Torah with a rabbi, start to pray routinely, light Shabbos candles, or take on more Shabbos observances.
I challenge you, Oh Henry, and my thousands upon thousands of readers in countries like America, Mexico, Canada, Russia, Spain, Germany, and Israel, to write down two things, right now, that starting tonight, you will start working on to become that incredible person that the Almighty knows you are destined to become.
One month from now is the most important time of the year. It is our turn at the olympics. We have been building up the whole year, for this powerful moment.
Are we going to show up, or play Ms. Pacman?