Roy Neuberger - Sep. 13, 2019

As I write, it is Rosh Chodesh Elul, the first day of the Month of Elul.

Today we started blowing the shofar every morning after Shacharis services

 As I write, Hurricane Dorian is bearing down on the southeastern United States; evacuations have been ordered in coastal cities.


There is a holy Jew in Savanna, Georgia named Nosson Garfunkel, who walks around wearing a long beard and a long, black coat. His family goes way back. Would you believe that the Police Chief in Savannah from 1903 to 1907 was his grandfather, a Shomer Shabbos Yid named Charles Garfunkel!


We have family in Savanna, so it happened that, in August, 1999, on a steamy Friday night, Reb Nosson and I were walking home from Sheva Brachos. It was hot, and I mean hot! This is, after all, the Deep South. I remarked on the heat to Reb Nosson, and he told me a story.


“Some years ago, it was erev Rosh Hashanah, and it had been a similarly hot summer. That means a big hurricane season, because the ocean becomes very warm. Well, a huge hurricane was bearing down on Savannah and they gave out an evacuation order. But it was erev Rosh Hashana! How could my family and I jump in the car and head inland on this of all days?


“So I called my Rebbe, Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld zt”l, and I said, ‘Rebbe! They want us to evacuate! It’s erev Rosh Hashanah!  I don’t want to go!’


“My Rebbe told me, ‘Reb Nosson, you stay put! That hurricane is not going to hit within a hundred miles of Savannah!’


“That afternoon, the hurricane changed course. It hit land 107 miles north of Savannah! And I stayed put, right there in Savannah!”


Someone pointed out to me that the appearance of a hurricane on a weather chart resembles a shofar. I think that Hashem wants to remind us that, whatever happens in this world, it is from Heaven. The storms of life are extremely challenging, to the point of terrible danger and suffering. Somehow, we have to hear the shofar in the storm.


Redemption is Hashem’s plan. Nothing will deter it. Every event in life emanates from Hashem’s chessed. There is so much tragic news these days. The world seems to resemble a Category Five Hurricane about to slam into us.


We have to try not to be afraid. The Prophet tells us, “Hashem was passing, and a great powerful wind, smashing mountains and breaking rocks, went before Hashem. ‘Hashem is not in the wind.’ After the wind came an earthquake. ‘Hashem is not in the earthquake.’ After the earthquake came a fire. ‘Hashem is not in the fire.’ After the fire came a still, thin sound. … and behold, a voice [spoke] to him ….” (I Kings 19:”11ff)


May the words soon be fulfilled: “T’kah b’shofar gadol l’chairusainu,” when Hashem causes us to hear “the great Shofar for our freedom [and raises] the banner to gather our exiles … from the four corners of the earth.” The last blessing in Shemoneh Esreh is “Shalom.” We can weather the storm by clinging to Hashem’s Torah. May He soon “establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness and compassion upon us and upon all of [His] people Israel!”


Charles Garfunkel, Superintendent of Police, Savannah, Georgia 1903-1907


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