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The Sound of the Shofar in Paris

Two years ago, Alex and Inna Smolov, great friends and members of the community, planned to spend the High Holidays in Paris - they didn't imagine in their wildest dream what would take place outside their hotel window...

When they told me where they planned to be for the Days of Awe - I contacted my colleague Rabbi Binyamin Applebaum from Paris, who said he'll send them an invitation to celebrate with his community. I gave him their contact information and the Smolovs were excited and looking forward to receiving the invitation.

Rosh Hashana came and Alex and Inna heard nothing. "The Rabbi must have been too busy" they thought. They knew that they had to make arrangements in advance in order to attend Services in a Paris Synagogue. Rosh Hashana morning the Smolovs were in their hotel room in the Luxembourg Garden and all of a sudden they heard the sound of a Shofar, Alex jumped to the window, to see a Rabbi blowing the shofar for Jewish passers by.

Alex ran outside to get a closer look, there he met Rabbi Binyamin Appelbaum! Alex was blown away, in the metropolitan Paris, the Rabbi we were looking to celebrate Rosh Hashana with - came to blow the Shofar in our backyard? Just then Rabbi Applebaum realized who he was talking to: "Didn't you get my email about our Services?!" Turns out that the Rabbi had Inna's email that she wasn't checking while traveling...  For Yom Kippur Alex and Inna had prominent seats in the large Synagogue...

When I heard the story from the Smolovs I thought that the sound of the Shofar can be heard anywhere - if we just care enough to hear it...

The Kudu Shofar

Dear Friends,

A very dear friend called me a few months ago with a most unusual request; this Wednesday it came to a most wonderful conclusion. 

Last winter I received a phone call from Mr. George Gelb, "I hear that you know how to turn an animal horn into a shofar. Will you guide me in turning a Kudu horn to a kosher shofar for the High Holidays?"

As you may know, I did lead a Shofar Factory workshop in the past and while we did it with rams and goats, I thought I could definitely give it a try so, after George accepted that I take no liability, we set a date for the project.

When I wondered where George got a Kudu horn from -I heard the following story. On a visit to Africa, he and his wonderful wife Elisabeth went to a private hunting lodge, George heard that while tourists hunt there for sport - the impoverished locals are not allowed to hunt and utilize the meat from these animals. George decided that if he was successful in the hunt - the meat would be donated to the locals. After all, they should have the first right for these animals...

But one thing, or to be accurate, two things, George wanted to keep for himself  - the horns - he knew he had a good use for them...

Seven years the horns have been in George’s possession until he found a professional shofar maker... George came down to Victoria; we stood outside the Shul and worked on the cutting and drilling. We said “l'chaim” with great excitement when we heard the first Tekiah of the new beautiful, Yemenite-style shofar...

P8070209.JPGThis past Wednesday I visited, together with Rabbi Duchman, the Gelbs in their home by Quamichan Lake. When the kudu story came up in our conversation - I jumped up. "Today" I said "is the first day of Elul when we customarily start blowing the shofar daily in preparation for the High Holidays. We can use the shofar now for a mitzvah, on the first opportunity since it was crafted!" To think that we just "happened to be" in this house on this day...

I promised George that just as we began the High Holiday period with his special shofar, so too will we blow it at the end of Yom Kippur in our Shul, when will all say together "L'Shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalaim!".

A heavenly signpost

This week we marked ten years since we arrived on Vancouver Island for the first time.  It was at a Fido cell phone booth in the mall in Vancouver where I got my first chill... 

first visit to victoria.jpgWe were doing our last errands, getting ready to take the ferry over to see the island for the first time.  We stopped at the mall to rent a phone for the two weeks we were planning to spend in Victoria during this visit.

"Do you have any preferences for a number?" the man at the counter asked.  I told him that being that this is very temporary it really doesn't matter. So he gave me the first choice of a Victoria number.

Now, I'm not the kind that searches for mystical meanings in phone numbers and I don't guide my life with superstitions, but when I heard the number I was blown away. 

A year before when I lived in my hometown Tzfat, Israel, my last 5 digits - out of six - were the same, in that order!

While it seems to be an insignificant occurrence - it came to me at a defining moment. My head was filled with thoughts and wonders - am I really heading to my future home, to the place where we will spend the rest of our lives?

I saw it as another heavenly signpost; this time in a form of a phone number - you didn't get lost, you are on your way to a place which you can call home. 

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