"Just One Blast!"
"Der Heiliger Munkatcher Rov"
By Hirshel Tzig
This heartwarming yet chilling story was told by Rabbi Baruch Rabinovitch of Munkacs, father of the present Munkacser Rebbe, about his late father-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira (1871-1937), known as the "Minchat Elazar."
For a period of time, Reb Baruch and his wife lived in Warsaw. Later, when the Minchat Elazar became ill, he begged them to come back to Munkacs, in Czechoslovakia, which they did.
Rabbi Baruch had a son named Tzvi Nosson Dovid. Baruch would often recall that his father-in-law loved this boy—the Minchat Elazar's dear grandchild—in an "exaggerated way," in part due to the fact that they had waited a long time to have that first child. He would play with and "spoil" the child, and Hershele would sit on his grandfather's lap at the Shabbat gatherings.
In the final year of his life, the Minchat Elazar took the shofar on the first day of the month of Elul and tested it to see whether it was in good condition. Hershele was in the room and was visibly excited by the shofar and its sounds.
He asked his zeide (grandfather) for one more blast, and his zeide gladly obliged. From then on, for the remainder of the month, this became a ritual; the Rebbe blowing the shofar once each day for little Tzvi. On the day before Rosh Hashanah, Hershele was there, awaiting his daily blast, but he was disappointed.
"Today is the day before Rosh Hashanah," his grandfather explained. "Today we do not blow the shofar. Tomorrow morning, we will blow the shofar in the synagogue."
The child did not comprehend the reasons. He knew no reason. He kicked and screamed, "Just one blast! Just one blast!"
After a while, the grandfather softened at the sound of his favorite grandchild crying, and he took the shofar and blew one blast.
On Rosh Hashanah, the custom in Munkacs was that the Rebbe spoke before blowing the shofar. That year, the Rebbe went up before the ark, opened it and said: "Master of the Universe, I have to repent. It's written that on the day before Rosh Hashanah one mustn't blow shofar, yet I did."
He began to sob uncontrollably and called out: "Master of the Universe, do you know why I transgressed this custom? It was because my young grandchild lay on the floor begging and crying that I should only blow one blast of the shofar for him. My heart melted, I couldn't bear to watch him cry like that, so I blew once for him, though I shouldn't have.
"Tatte (Father), how can you stand by and see how millions of Your children are down on the floor, and crying out to You, 'Tatte, just one blast! תקע בשופר גדול לחרותינו "Sound the blast of the great shofar which will herald the final Redemption!'? Even if the time is not right for it yet, even if the time for Moshiach has yet to arrive, Your children cry out to You: how can You stand by idly?!"
Rav Baruch Rabinovitch
Rabbi Baruch cried as he recounted the story, and recalled how at that time the entire crowd cried along with the Rebbe. The sounding of the shofar was delayed, and for a long time. "They could not regain their composure... loud wailing was heard throughout the synagogue..."