Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musing Before Shabbat
Vayeishev 5772
The Ram's Horn Rag

Some years back, I wrote a musing, Strangers Walking Together, based on one short phrase from the Haftarah for parashat Vayeishev, centered on this verse:

3:3 Can two walk together, without having met?

In that musing, I asserted that we were sadly becoming a society in which it was indeed possible for two people, indeed for dozens, hundreds, thousands of people to walk together without meeting. This year I'd like to focus on another short phrase from the same source:

3:6 When a ram's horn is sounded in a town, do the people not take alarm?

Sadly, again, the answer is no longer the obvious one that the haftarah expects. It's due to a combination of factors. First, we have now lived through centuries of people crying "wolf" when there was no wolf, so we have developed a tendency to ignore the warnings.

Second, we have become a society that, at least on the surface, utilizes technology to help insure safety. When fire alarms go off, despite all that was drilled into us as children in school, we don't all drop everything we're doing and go rushing into the street as quickly as we were taught. We have become complacent, arrogantly sure of our own safety. We are convinced that the alarm is meant for others and not for us.

Third, every time an alarm is sounded, there are people who shout loudly that the alarm is premature, or based on inaccurate information, or is unnecessary or reactionary.

I'm a bit of an odd duck in today's world. Though I won't claim to be scrupulously and consistently law-and-generally-accepted-practice abiding, I'm a bit more of a stick-in-the-mud than most other people I know. I have gotten into arguments with family and friends over this. I obey traffic and parking signs (even when others might say "oh, it's just for a second") and respond quickly and appropriately to alarms. People who regularly take shortcuts or imbibe in white-collar abuse of the system scoff at my unwillingness to take advantage as they do.

So yes, I think I am one of those people who believes that when the ram's horn is sounded, I would, perforce, take alarm. My very use of the word perforce shows how I don't even consider it an option - circumstances compel me. Why is it that I, exposed to as much of the "wolf!" crying, the arguments, the complacency that exists in our world, will respond to the shofar just as our ancestors expected I would? I am not devoid of cynicism (though I would agree that I am generally positive and a bit of a Pollyanna.) I am not devoid of selfishness or laziness. yet still, the sound of the ram's horn, or its modern equivalent acts upon me at deeper than a surface level.

I don't know about you, but even now, living once again in New York City, where sirens and alarms are frequent, when I hear a police or fire siren in the distance, I don't just ignore it, but really do take a moment to stop and wonder about what emergency may be occurring, what people may be in danger, what people may need our prayers. I don't often act on those thoughts except, perhaps, to offer a brief prayer, and I probably don't do that as often as I should. I'm thinking it's a habit I should get back into.It'll help me work towards that 100 blessings a day goal.

Ram's horns are being sounded all around us, every day. Rather than ignore the din because there are so many, because we don't believe it's real, required, necessary, because we don't think it is calling to us, maybe we need to start listening and heeding. Yes, perhaps discernment is needed, or we would spend our entire life responding to alarms. However, our world is pretty messed up, and maybe there's a good reason so many alarms are being raised simultaneously. We ignore them at our own peril.

3:6 When a ram's horn is sounded in a town, do the people not take alarm?

Is it not time to make Amos' words a truism again?

Shabbat Shalom and Khag Urim Sameakh,

©2011 by Adrian A. Durlester

Some Previous Musings on the Same Parasha

Vayeishev 5771-Ma T'vakeish?
Vayeishev 5768 - Strangers Walking Together
Vayeishev/Hanukah 5767-I Believe in Miracles
Vayeishev 5766-Who Was That Guy?
Vayeshev 5761 - In Gd's Time
Vayeshev 5765-Mikol HaMishpakhot HaAdamah
Vayeshev 5758-What's Worth Looking After

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