The Call of the Shofar

The Call of the Shofar

Painting by Alex Levin (
Painting by Alex Levin (

Once upon a time there lived a poor orphan, who had neither father nor mother. His name was Moshe, but because he was a small boy and an orphan, everybody called him “Moshele.” As long as he was still a little boy he went to cheder, where he learned Chumash and Gemara together with the other children, but when he grew a little older he had to go out and earn his livelihood. So a collection was made to provide him with a basketful of merchandise, such as needles, buttons and other trinkets, and Moshele set out to sell them to the peasants and farmers in the villages and hamlets that surrounded his native town.

It was a very hard job, of course. In the summer the heat was unbearable, and in the winter the snow and icy winds often made his teeth chatter. But Moshele did not mind. His only regret was that he could not go to the yeshivah, for he wanted to become a scholar.

One wintry day Moshele was trudging along on a snow-covered road, with his basketful of merchandise under his arm. He knew some Psalms by heart, and he recited them cheerily as he walked. Snow kept on falling from the gray skies, and soon he found himself plodding ankle-deep in snow. It was getting difficult to walk, and it was even more difficult to follow the road, which was now completely covered with snow as far as the eye could see.

Unwittingly he strayed off the road, and presently found himself in a little wood. Moshele felt very tired, and decided to have a little rest. He noticed a big stump and sat down on it, placing his basket down on the snow. “No, you must not fall asleep,” he kept on telling himself, “it is very dangerous; you might freeze to death!” So he sat there huddled up and shivering, trying in vain to keep himself warm and his eyes open.

Suddenly he felt a breath of warmth through his body. He found himself sitting by a nice, cozy fire, and stretched out his hands and feet towards it. He felt as if sharp needles were pricking his fingertips, but that stopped soon as the flames blazed bigger and bigger . . .

A peasant passing on the road in his sledge noticed the huddled figure of a lad almost fully covered with snow. He stopped his horse and ran to the body. Brushing the snow off, he found that the body was almost frozen stiff, with no sign of life.

Without losing time, the peasant set to work. He pulled out his knife and cut up the clothing around the still body. Then he started to rub it briskly with snow. After half an hour’s work the blood began to flow in the young body again, and the boy stirred. The peasant then carried the lad to his sledge, covered him up, and drove his horse as fast as he could to his home in the nearby village. There he again rubbed the body of the lad with snow, until his skin began to glow, and finally poured some hot brandy down the lad’s throat. Moshele opened his eyes and closed them again. Thereupon the peasant carried him onto the oven and covered him up snugly. Moshele fell asleep.

The crowing of the rooster woke him up very early next morning. Moshele opened his eyes and looked around. He could not understand where he was, and why so many pins and needles were pricking him all over his body.

The farmer’s wife was up and came up to see him. “How do you feel?” she asked him in Russian, for she was a Russian peasant woman. “All right,” Moshele said, still wondering what had happened to him. The woman boiled up some tea for him, and he drank it gratefully.

“What is your name?” she asked him.

Moshele tried to think hard, but could not remember. “I don’t know,” he said, thinking how strange it was that he could not remember his own name.

“Never mind,” said the peasant woman, “we’ll call you Peter.”

Thus Moshele, or Peter as he was now called by all, remained in the peasant’s home, little knowing that he was a Jewish boy and did not belong there at all.

When summer came, Peter helped the farmer in all the work in the field: plowing, sowing and reaping. Peter was an industrious, capable lad, and the farmer was very pleased with him.

The summer passed by and autumn came. One day the farmer said to Peter: “Tomorrow we shall drive to town and take some of our products to the market.”

Peter was very glad, and looked forward to seeing the town. When they finally got there the next day, the marketplace and all the streets were deserted. When they passed by the synagogue, they saw it was crowded with worshippers, and the peasant realized that it was a Jewish holiday. There was nothing to do but to drive back home. But Peter was fascinated by the quaint synagogue and begged the peasant to stay in town a while. “Very good, then,” said the peasant, “you will meet me in the public house,” and he went to have a drink, while Peter felt an irresistible desire to look into the synagogue.

Peter came in quietly and stood by the door. The worshippers wrapped in prayer shawls seemed very intent on their prayers; many of them were weeping. No one paid any attention to him. Peter looked closely around him. His heart began to beat faster. Somehow the scene was familiar to him. Had he ever been here before? Slowly his memory returned to him, as everything in the synagogue brought new memories into his conscience. The tune and melodies of the cantor were familiar to him. The scrolls of the Torah that had just been brought out of the ark were familiar too. As if glued to his place, Peter stood motionless and stared . . .

Peter did not know how long he stood there, but presently he noticed a little excitement among the worshippers. The very air appeared to become tense with sacred animation, as if angels were fluttering in the air. Peter was transfixed with awe.

The silence was broken by the shaking voice of the aged cantor, and immediately the entire community joined in fervent prayer. For some time the roar of the whole community praying seemed to shake the very walls of the synagogue, and then it began to subside gradually, until a solemn silence fell again. In the stillness of the air the sobbing of the cantor became clearly audible, and Peter found himself weeping too.

Suddenly he heard—tekiah-ah-ah—and the blast of the ram’s horn pierced the air. Shevarim . . . teruah—and again the broken sound of the shofar seemed to stab Peter’s heart. Tekiah-ah-ah—the shofar called again . . .

“Moshele, you are a Jew,” the shofar called. “Moshele, you are a Jew! Hurry now . . . Now is the time to return to G‑d . . . Tekiah-ah . . . Teruah-ah-ah . . .”

Everything now became very clear to Moshele . . .

“Dear G‑d, forgive me," Moshele cried, and fainted.

Excerpted from The Complete Story of Tishrei, published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, Brooklyn NY
Artwork by Alex Levin. Ukrainian-born Alex Levin lives in Rishon Lezion, Israel. His works, many of which depict Jewish life in Israel, have been admired by Israeli presidents and international celebrities. Alex has received the Award for the Contribution to the Judaic Art from the Knesset. Paintings can be viewed and purchased at
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Gershon KS October 31, 2016

to Sharom There is a lovely saying about the many tales told about the Baal Shem Tov: "Only a fool believes them all to be true, and but only a heretic believe they could not be to true." There are stories that have been told over and over, and there is no real way to ascertain whether or not they happened and how. Reply

Sharon Staten Island September 21, 2016

I loved reading this story to my children when they were young. The problem with this story and similar Jewish stories is that it is unclear whether they are true or novels, and should possibly be written on the book or story ( or written if it is true with some slight embellishment).To the people who blame the Jewish community for not helping, the Jewish community if the story took place was probably not very well off and did help him with giving him the means of making a living, which is more honorable than a handout. The story is an allegory about one of the things that the shofar represents-a call to the Jewish soul, the pintele yid, to remember that the person is a Jew and to "come home" to return to Hashem (through Torah and mitzvos). Reply

Steve Chandler Bend, Oregon September 6, 2014

A very fine story. Thank you.
Bend, Oregon Reply

hain sebat September 6, 2014

shahlom>. Don't think we might to forgett the whole itself; Will never change. Reply

Anonymous via September 5, 2014

very beautiful, thank you
vivian Reply

Anonymous San Diego,CA September 5, 2014

I agree with Meira M. This is about tragic income inequality within the Jewish community.

Sure, the Jews gave him a business, but then because he was poor, he had to suffer and make it on his own, without a Jewish mentor and he was not able to go to services because he had to spend all his time trying desperately to earn a living.

I have experienced this abandonment firsthand within the Jewish community where we cease helping our own. This is tragic. I am a victim of it as I have appealed to Jewish Family Service and Chabad and have not been helped in any real practical sustainable way Just alot of lip service. Having an abusive half girlfriend that supports me financially, G-d has helped me with a poor solution, just like the peasant. But there is too much bureaucracy within the Jewish community to actually help people. Why didn't he have a Jewish mentor help him instead of an inanimate object like the shofar? Is the shofar symbolic the Jewish community helping him in the future? Reply

Anonymous Edison September 1, 2014

Thank you. I needed to hear that. Reply

Inez Rachael Medellin Dunker Texas September 1, 2014

I so thank you for sharing this story, I can relate to it. My family being Christians, I always rebelled against, when I heard the Sh'ma and heard the Shofar it went through my soul and I return to G~d and Judaism and I am fulfilled and complete.
Even now my Granddaughter who was 6 years and soon to be eight loves Judaism too. I taught her to say the Sh'ma ever since she could talk, Her parents are Christians though. She entered the Synagogues as a baby before ever stepping into a church.Her interpretation to the these two was, Nana, its is like we are calling G~d and talkng to him. The angels are calling G~d too.
I so Love Hashem with all my Heart and Soul! Reply

Mike Venuto University Place September 1, 2014

Call of the Shofar the story is much like my own life...I identified with Moshe and his return...and welcome. Reply

Anonymous brighton ma September 8, 2013

the story the story is very interesting Reply

Anonymous Sunny Isles Beach, FL via June 24, 2013

Storytime The stories are riveting and would like to tell them to my class. Can you mention the name of the books you take the contents from? It doesn't help to stop midway, I cannot tell these stories to my class without knowing the outcome.

Please email me names of books at authors so I can order them. Reply

Anonymous newcastle, engerland May 1, 2012

the best story it is awsome how do you do it. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY August 22, 2010

The story ends too abruptly.
What is the lesson to be learned? How does it end? Reply

Abigail sharon springs, ks September 17, 2009

you know what? How can you do sooooo many awesome stories!?!?!?chabad rocks Reply

Anonymous New York, NY October 1, 2008

The moving story A beautifully heartwarming story, extremely well-written. I've heard it before but never in such a beautifully professional way!!! Reply

Meira M September 24, 2008

IWhy should a little boy be made to feel guilty that he is taken in and his life saved? Rather, it is shameful that his Jewish community didn't do better by him. Reply

Samantha Copps Miami, Florida October 8, 2007

The story The story is awesome and should stay alive for many years to come! Reply

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