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The Travels of Two Shofars
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn of blessed memory, the father of the Rebbe, had two precious shofars. They came into his possession as an inheritance from his holy ancestors.

Every Rosh Hashanah, he would stand on the bimah in the center of the large shul in Yekaterinoslav and remove the black shofar from its bag and blow it. This shofar was referred to as the “black shofar” and it was from the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel, known as the Rebbe Maharash.

After Reb Levi Yitzchok was arrested and exiled to Chili, a small village in Kazakhstan, the shofar remained with his wife, Rebbetzin Chana. The Rebbetzin quickly entrusted the precious shofar to the chassid Rabbi Yehuda Gurary, who also lived in Yekaterinoslav, with the hopes of recovering it in better days.

Eventually, Rebbetzin Chana joined her husband in exile. She retrieved the shofar from the son of Rabbi Gurary and took it to Chili.

Years passed. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Raskin, who together with his sons had greatly assisted Rabbi Levi Yitzchok and Rebbetzin Chana, left Russia. Before he left, he asked the Rebbetzin, with whom he was close, to give him the shofar so he could take it out of Russia and it would not fall into the wrong hands.

The Rebbetzin gave him the black shofar that had remained in her possession after her husband died. Rabbi Raskin had the shofar for six years and he blew it every year until Elul 1950.

One day, Rabbi Dovber Chaskind went to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef and told him that he came as an emissary of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. The future Rebbe had heard that he had his father’s black shofar, and since he was his father’s heir, he wanted the shofar.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef did not hesitate, although it was hard for him to give up something so precious. However, he asked for something in exchange, for an item that belonged to Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson, the Rebbe’s father-in-law and previous Lubavitcher Rebbe.

The Rebbe gave him a handkerchief that the Rebbe had used, and said that since he blew the shofar, he could cover the shofar with this handkerchief.

What was the story of the other shofar, the white one?

When Rabbi Levi Yitzchok was in exile in Alma Ata, there was a simple man there together with him by the name of Chaim Ber. After Rabbi Levi Yitzchok passed away, Chaim Ber moved to Chernovitz where he lived till his final day.

During the last Elul of his life, Chaim Ber called for the Chassid Rabbi Yosef Nimotin, who was also there with him. He told him that he had never used the shofar, but that year he wanted to hear the t’kiot (shofar blasts) from this holy shofar that had come from the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek. Rabbi Yosef refused since he was afraid to blow it.

On the morning of Rosh HaShanah, Rabbi Yosef went to Chaim Ber’s house to visit him. The shofar was already on the table. Rabbi Chaim Ber asked his friend once again to blow it, but Rabbi Yosef said he wanted to blow the shofar he was used to blowing.

“Did you go to the mikva today?” asked Rabbi Chaim Ber, seemingly off topic. Rabbi Yosef said he had. “So blow this shofar for me,” he begged, until he finally blew the shofar.

Rabbi Yosef was about to leave the house when Chaim Ber called him once again. “Please take the shofar to your home,” he asked.

Rabbi Yosef was surprised by this request, for he knew how Chaim Ber guarded the shofar like a treasure. Nevertheless, he did what he asked.

Chaim Ber had apparently felt that his days were numbered and that the shofar needed to be under greater care.

Rabbi Yosef Nimotin was arrested at some later point and after a short trial he was exiled to a labor camp for six years. His wife gave the shofar to his friend, Rabbi Hillel Lieberov, who kept it throughout Rabbi Yosef’s incarceration.

This holy shofar underwent other tribulations. After Rabbi Yosef was released, he began praying at the shul of the Iranian Jews. It was the first Rosh Hashanah, when Rabbi Yosef stood in his place, ready to pour out his heart to Hashem on the Day of Judgment. He was standing there when a hand suddenly and quickly placed the shofar in front of him. Rabbi Yosef caught a glimpse of the back of Hillel Lieberov as he disappeared out the door. Rabbi Yosef took the shofar and immediately recognized it as the holy shofar.

His hands shook with emotion. He had not expected the shofar to end up in his hands again and at such a significant time, shortly before the blowing of the shofar.

He wondered what made his friend rush to return the shofar and in such a fashion. They later met and Rabbi Hillel told him the following story.

On Rosh Hashanah morning, Rabbi Hillel had taken the shofar with him on his way to shul. He intended on blowing it with the intention of arousing mercy on himself and his family. He knew quite well how much mercy the Jewish people needed on this fateful day, when the communists persecuted every Jew who maintained his Jewishness.

When he arrived at shul, he noticed that the shofar wasn’t there. At first, he thought his eyes were deceiving him and he began searching his bag, but he soon saw, to his consternation, that it was gone! His heart skipped a beat. He was beside himself. He realized he must have lost it somewhere, on his way from home to shul, but it wasn’t likely that he would find it.

Nevertheless, he retraced his steps. Who knows? Maybe the merit of the holy shofar would stand by him. Brokenheartedly, he rushed along as he scanned the streets for the shofar.

Then, he saw it! It wasn’t far from the trolley tracks. A trolley was approaching and his heart froze. Just a few inches separated the shofar from the wheels. Miraculously, it did not run over the shofar and shatter it.

“At that moment, I realized the shofar was not supposed to be in my possession,” said Rabbi Hillel, “which is why I rushed to bring it to you.”
More time passed, and it was 1946, when hundreds of Chabad families were able to leave Russia. Rabbi Simcha Gorodetzky asked Rabbi Yosef Nimotin to entrust the shofar with him so he could bring it to the Rebbe. This was no simple mission, since the shofar was likely to fall into the hands of the border guards, but the miracles continued. Rabbi Simcha was able to cross the border and he gave the shofar to the Rebbe, who would take it with him to the bima on Rosh Hashanah.
 

 


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