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Don't let up

Children have a way of getting what they want, either to the chagrin of their parents or their joy, depending on the context. As parents, we believe we know what is best for our children, but every so often our kids are the ones that turn out to have a better idea of what is needed, and with a little (or more than a little) haggling, they help us see their side of the story.

Sometimes we cave because we’ve just had enough of the nagging; but sometimes we realize that perhaps the reason we originally said “no” is because we weren’t considering the full picture. Perhaps we were being lazy ourselves and responding in the negative is simply easier. But children don’t function like that; if they want something they’ll be sure to let you know by not letting up. Deep down the parent really wants to give the child everything they want, and it’s the child’s unrelenting plea that eventually brings the parent around.

On Rosh Hashanah, when we recite the Avinu Malkeinu prayer, referring to G-d as both our father and our king, we entreat G-d to grant us a good year. We make requests for our personal needs, both material and spiritual, and like a child, we don’t let up. In anticipation of our fate for the coming year being determined during the high holidays, we spend hours praying for ourselves and our families.

When the shofar is blown during services (this year only on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, with the first day being Shabbat), its sound is akin to a child’s wailing. We cry before G-d, we call out to Him throughout the day, and we are certain that He will hear our cries and answer our prayers.

There are many fascinating prayers recited during this time, but one that stands out is when we thank G-d for “mercifully listening to His people Israel’s shofar sounds.” After spending the day praying and blowing the shofar, we don’t wait for G-d to answer us, for we know that G-d heard our prayers and we are certain that He will respond favorably. So we preempt it by thanking Him in advance.

The eighteenth century sage, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, compared this to a child asking the parent for a treat. When the parent hesitates, the child immediately recites the blessing typically said before eating something, and now the parent has no choice but to give the child the treat, since once a person recites a blessing on food it must be consumed immediately. Similarly, concluding our prayers on Rosh Hashanah with this blessing of thanks is with the confidence that now G-d will have to comply with our requests. He will have “no choice” but to grant us a year full of blessing and prosperity.

Like a parent, who sometimes just wants to see how much the child really wants it, G-d is overjoyed by how committed we are. He wants to hear our prayers, and when we show up and blow the shofar, we know with certainty that G-d wants the best for us too.

And like the child, whose wishes are ultimately granted, we dedicate ourselves to being the best children of G-d in the year to come. There is nothing greater than a two-way relationship between parent and child, and there is nothing more precious than having that relationship with G-d throughout the year.

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