As we move into this new month, and the coming High Holy Days, I am reminded of a parable the great Maggid of Dubno used to tell his students:
A naïve villager, born and reared in a small rural area visited the big city for the first time and stayed over night at an inn. In the middle of the night he was awakened by the loud beating of drums, so he inquired drowsily, “What’s all this about?”
He was told that a fire had broken out and that the drum beating was the city’s fire alarm. Satisfied, he went back to sleep.
On his return home he reported to the village authorities that they had this wonderful system in the big city. When a fire breaks out the people beat their drums and before long the fire is extinguished. All excited the village ordered a supply of drums and distributed them throughout the village. When a fire broke out later there was a deafening explosion of drum beating, and while the people waited expectantly for the flames to subside, a number of homes burned to the ground.
A sophisticated visitor, passing through the village at the time, was told the reason for the ear-splitting racket. Then he derided the simplistic natives. “Do you think a fire can be put out by beating drums? They only sound the alarm for the people to wake up and take measures to extinguish the fire.”
The Maggid of Dubno would then add, “This parable speaks to those who believe that the beating of our breast during the Al Chet prayer (the confession of our sins), the worship we offer during our service, or even the blowing of the shofar, will put out the fires of our transgressions.” They are only the alarm, waking us up, so that we can take measures to atone, ask for forgiveness, and be inscribed in the Book of Life.
The Days of Awe are nearly upon us, it’s time to wake up and do the work of repentance.
Shana Tova Tikateivu.
May you all have a good and sweet New Year and be inscribed in the Book of Life.