The synagogue in Radomsk, Poland, was packed. It was Rosh Hashanah, and thousands of chassidim had traveled from far and near to spend the holy day in the presence of Reb Shlomo, the Rebbe of Radomsk. It was a special experience not to be missed, as the rebbe would often lead the prayers, interspersing them with with original melodies he himself composed.

When it came time for the shofar-blowing, the learned and pious chassid who’d been carefully selected for the task stepped up onto the raised platform in the center of the sanctuary. He’d been preparing for the entire month of Elul, carefully practicing the shofar blasts and learning the deep Kabbalistic meditations that accompany them. With his tallit draped over his head, he recited the blessings with obvious concentration.

Then he took the ram’s horn to his lips, ready to blow. Yet, try as he might, not a sound issued from the horn. He tried turning it this way and that, but he could not coax even the faintest peep from the shofar.

After many long minutes, to the dismay of the erstwhile shofar-blower, a younger man was called up to take his place. He picked up the shofar, and with almost no effort he produced the prescribed series of sharp blasts.

Following the prayer services, Rabbi Shlomo called over the unsuccessful—and crestfallen—shofar-blower and told him the following story:

There was once a nation that coronated a new, beloved king. In order to express their great admiration and devotion for their monarch, they decided to commission a new crown for him, the likes of which had never been seen before.

An extensive search began for the largest, clearest and most beautiful gems to adorn a crown of pure gold. Finally, a fine assortment of gleaming stones was amassed. Yet no craftsman was willing to set them into the crown. Knowing that each gem was precious and unique, the craftsmen were afraid that they’d damage them or otherwise not do justice to their unparalleled beauty.

Finally, one goldsmith accepted the job and asked for a month to work on the crown. For weeks he contemplated the gems and the crown, thinking of the best way to bring them together into a most stunning masterpiece. But he was too scared to actually attach them.

Two days before he was due to deliver the crown, he picked it up with a pounding heart. With trembling hands, he prepared himself to set the precious stones as he’d planned, but he was so nervous that he actually dropped the crown.

Realizing that he wouldn’t be able to complete the job, he called his assistant, a simple but capable boy, into his workshop. Showing him the crown and the stones, he told the young fellow what needed to be done. While he stood outside—afraid to look—the assistant deftly followed his master’s instructions, and the crown was completed.

There are many ways of understanding this tale, and many lessons that can be derived. Since the story was recorded by Rabbi S. Y. Zevin with no conclusions, we pass it on to you, dear reader, as we’ve received it, open to your interpretation and perspective.

Please share your impressions in the comments field.

—The Editors