#201 s5761-48 / posted 3 Elul 5761)

The Black Shofar of Shechem

Among the holy objects in use at Yosef's Tomb was a black shofar that issued strikingly clear, sharp notes.

The Black Shofar of Shechem

Until the holy site was insanely destroyed by villianous Arab forces, built next to Kever Yosef (Yosef's Tomb) in Shechem ("Nablus") was a kollel/yeshiva called Od Yosef Chai, most recently under the leadership of the renowned American-born Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. Among the holy objects in use there were two shofars, one the usual beige color, and the other a black one that issued strikingly clear, sharp notes.

The first day of Rosh HaShanah 5757 [Sept. 1998] fell on a Shabbat, so the shofar was not blown. On the second day, after the Morning Prayer and the Torah Reading, the shofar-blower for the congregation prepared to perform the mitzvah. He preferred the black shofar because it was easy to blow and yielded a strong clear sound. This time, however, he was able to extract only a few weak tekiah blasts no matter how hard he blew and despite the numerous attempts he made. Finally, exhausted, he sheepishly passed the shofar to me, Yeshaya Ben-Pinchas, that perhaps I could succeed in his place, with G-d's help. I had been blowing the basic ten notes of the shofar in the Kollel every morning after prayers during the month of Elul, as is traditional during this last month of the year leading up to Rosh HaShanah. I too experienced great difficulty, although the shofar was ordinarily so easy to blow, but eventually managed to produce the required one hundred notes. Everyone in the hushed, trembling congregation felt that Heavenly interference was somehow blocking the call of the shofar.

A successful shofar blowing is considered a propitious omen for a successful year. It was not long until the brave settlers who maintained the holy site and the yeshiva found out the significance of the opposite. As you may recall, less than two weeks later, on Erev Sukkot, a gang of PLO criminals laid siege to Yosef's Tomb. They attacked, they burned, they plundered and they destroyed. One of the precious objects stolen was that black shofar.

About two and a half years later, on Friday 24 Adar, I went to visit a companion from the Shechem yeshiva who at that time was doing his army reserve service in the holy city of Hebron. He was excited to see me, bubbling over that he had something interesting to relate. His eyes shining, he told me that one of the soldiers in his brigade had mentioned to him that his father had somehow acquired the black shofar that had disappeared from Yosef's Tomb two and a half years before.

I was so stimulated by this good news! I still remembered that startling Rosh HaShanah of 5757 when it had been so surprisingly difficult to blow the shofar. I wrote down the phone number of the man who now had the shofar and immediately went to call him. I introduced myself as a student of the yeshiva at Yosef's Tomb, and after I explained the whole story to him, he agreed that if I came to see him after Shabbat in Rishon Letzion where he lived, he would entrust the precious shofar to me to return it to its rightful place in Shechem.

Immediately after havdalah that Saturday night, I traveled as quickly as I could to Rishon. The man graciously turned over the shofar to me and then offered to tell me the unusual story about how it had come into his possession and then to me. It goes without saying that I eagerly accepted.

"My brother has some business involvements with Arabs. About a month ago one of the terrorists who was employed as a Palestine policeman came to him. He gave the shofar to my bother as part of a deal, explaining it had been found during a search of the houses of some suspicious characters in Shechem. Presumably, the Arab in whose home it was found had been involved in the destruction and looting of Yosef's Tomb.

"My brother didn't know what to do with the shofar so he gave it to me. Three weeks later, this past Wednesday, I encountered the son of an old childhood friend whom I hadn't seen in many years. I told him the story of the shofar, which amazed him. He responded that in his current Reserve unit was a student from the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Shechem."

That student was the friend that I visited. I was so excited that I decided to attempt to return the shofar to its rightful home that very night! The bus ride from Rishon to Machaneh Horon passed in the blink of an eye, and with Heaven's help I just managed to catch there the 10:30pm last bus to Shechem.

As soon as I got there I ran to the Tomb. Before returning the shofar to its place I decided to blow a few tekiah blasts. The sounds were powerful and clear on the first try, just like it used to be.

May it be G-d's will that in this time of our redemption we should merit to soon hear the shofar of King Mashiach, the scion of the line of David. And may Kever Yosef (the Tomb of Joseph) be taken from their murderous hands and returned to us, and restored to its former glory.


[Translated and adapted by Yrachmiel Tilles from Torah Chayim #21, the weekly publication of Gal Enai [http://www.inner.org] based on the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak-Feivel Ginsburgh.]

back to Top   back to Index   Stories home page

Redesign and implementation - By WEB-ACTION