Shalom! This is a beautiful tale with a good message.
A native villager, born and reared in an obscure rural environment came to a big city for the first time and obtained lodging at an inn. Awakened in the middle of the night by the loud beating of drums, he inquired drowsily, “What’s this all about?”
Informed that a fire had broken out and that the drum beating was the city’s fire alarm, he turned over and went back to sleep.
On his return home, he reported to the village authorities: “They have a wonderful system in the big city; when a fire breaks out the people beat their drums and before long the fire burns out.” All excited, they ordered a supply of drums and distributed them to the population.
When, sometime later, a fire broke out, there was a deafening explosion of the beating of drums, and while the people waited expectantly for the flames to subside, a number of their homes burned to the ground.
A sophisticated visitor passing through that village, when told the reason for the ear-splitting din, ridiculed the simplistic native: “Idiots! Do you think a fire can be put out by beating drums? They only sound an alarm for the people to wake up and take measures to extinguish the fire.”
Said the Maggid [preacher] of Dubno, “This story applies to those of us who believe that beating the breast during the Al Chet (confessional), raising our voices during worship, and blowing the shofar, will put out the fires of sin and evil that burn in us.
They are, the Maggid remarked, only an alarm, a warning to wake us up in order to resort to soul-searching), so that we may merit the favor of God. The Maggid probably had in mind Maimonides’ interpretation of the shofar sounds: “Awake all you who sleep, rouse yourselves all you who slumber and search your deeds and repent; remember your Creator.”
Maimonides (1135-1204 C.E.) Codifier and philosopher (more…)