Long and Loud
‘Sorry about that,’ David apologised to the assembled sheep.
He shouldered the kinnor – it was much too big for him – tilted back his head and began to sing, accompanying himself with hesitant notes on the instrument.
‘Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags…’
For the second time his music was rudely interrupted. A harsh keening rose, hovered steadily like a bird of prey, and then stopped as if strangled.
David stood up, scowling. He turned to the sheep, grouped around him like attentive students before a rabbi, addressing them politely. ‘Please wait. I will be right back.’
Inside, his mother was kneading bread. ‘Mummy, there’s a horrible noise spoiling the music!’
Nitzevet looked up, her eyes weary. ‘What noise? Can’t you go somewhere else to sing?’
‘No, Mother. I can’t. It’s very loud. I think I’d hear it anywhere.’
‘Well, what sort of noise was it?’ She struck the bread with the heel of her hand.
David stood for a moment, his head on one side. Suddenly, without warning he howled like a banshee, continuing on and on until his breath ran out. His mother jumped briefly, then smiled. ‘But that’s the Shofar, David. It’ll be sounding all day today.’
‘But I can’t play my music with that horrible noise going on!’ He stamped his foot.
‘They’re practicing for the High Holy Day next week,’ Nitzevet smothered a smile.
‘So why do they have to make that awful noise?’ He glared at her, hands on hips.
Nitzevet dusted off her hands and straightened up. ‘I think it’s the best music of the year. This year, it’ll be the best music for fifty years.’
‘That’s rubbish. My music is much better than that.’
‘Really? What does your music mean?’ She raised a quizzical eyebrow.
‘What do you mean, Mummy? It’s just music.’
‘Oh no. All the best music says something. The Shofar says ‘Salvation’.’ Sitting down, she drew him nearer.
‘Well, I didn’t hear any words.’
‘But it doesn’t need words. Listen, in ten days’ time it will be Yom Kippur.’
David nodded, his eyes solemn. ‘That’s when the High Priest goes into the Most Scary Place.’
‘The Most Holy Place,’ she corrected him. ‘But you’re right, it is scary. He goes in to offer a sacrifice for forgiveness. And if he has mercy, Elohim will spare his life and he’ll come out to tell us. That’s when they blow the Shofar.’
‘So it’s a sort of ‘yippee’’.
‘Exactly. But this year, it’s even more special. This is the fiftieth year.’
The fiftieth year of what?’
‘The fiftieth year since the last fiftieth year.’ David backed away slightly, and the petulance started spreading across his face again.
‘No, listen, David. It’s the Jubilee Year. It starts on Yom Kippur, next week. It’s a year of freedom.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means that slaves go free. Don’t you remember Benjamin, last year? His crop failed, and he sold himself to Ehud to pay his debts. When he hears the sound of the Shofar, he’ll know he’s free.’
‘Yes. And anyone who owes any money – you know old Hannah? She owes Mordecai a lot of money, but when she hears the sound of the Shofar, the debt will be wiped out.’
‘Wow! So it really is saying something.’
‘Something very special, and important. All the best music does. Now then, do you think you should do something different until they’ve finished practicing?’
The little boy chewed his lip thoughtfully. ‘No, I think I’m going to make a new song that says something important. And I’m going to sing it to my sheep.’ He marched out, concentration fiercely gripping his face.
An hour later, the bread finally in the oven, Nitzevet crept to the door of the house and stood listening. Sitting with his back to her, David played softly on the kinnor and sang with a clear voice.
‘I will sing a new song to the Lord
Because he has done wonderful things for us.
He makes it known that he has saved us
Everyone can hear that he is good.
Bring the music of the kinnor before him
And let the Shofar blow.
Shout and sing for joy to him
Because he is good and fair.’
David caught sight of his mother and turned around. ‘If I were king, I’d make every year a Jubilee.’
She laughed. ‘Oh, David. That would take a very special king. And you’re just a shepherd boy.’
Loosely based on Psalm 98
To hear the sound of the Shofar, go to http://www.aishfiles.com/wallsongs/DW_A0199_shofar.mp3
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