rabbi sholom tendler National Council of Young Israel Imagine the following story. I live in a middle class neighborhood in a kingdom ruled by a powerful, yet benevolent king. There are many young children living in my neighborhood and there is no playground. This has become quite a problem. We live in small apartments and the streets are thick with speeding cars. I have gotten together with my neighbors and we have tried approaching the local authorities, but to no avail. We just hear promises and excuses. We have tried to raise the money on our own, but we failed to come even close to the necessary amount. Finally, in desperation, we wrote our king, requesting an audience. Now, our king, who does not wish to rule in isolation, has a custom whereby he will invite people like you and me to come and express our opinions. To receive such an invitation is like winning the lottery. Years passed and nothing happened. Our children grew older, new children were born, and still no playground. Finally, the invitation for an audience with the king arrived. I planned for this day. I prepared the exact words and tone of voice for my presentation. I chose the clothing I would wear with the utmost care and consideration. Excitement and anxiety filled my life as I waited for my audience with my master. The day arrived and I appeared in the great hallway of the king's palace. The king's personal advisor was waiting for me. He briefed me on proper protocol and handed me a sheet of paper, explaining that the king would like to hear my views on any of the listed issues. My face turned white and I felt faint as I scanned the list. It read, "The King would like to hear the opinions of his loyal subjects on any of the following topics: The war in Bosnia The Crisis in the Middle East Nuclear Proliferation Nuclear Energy Global Pollution I turned and pleaded to the personal advisor. "Sir, I am a simple person. I don't really follow current events. I am sad to say that I have no real opinions on anything on this list and I would not like to waste the king's time. But I have needs about which I feel passionately. I have children I must raise. I want them to be healthy and happy. My neighborhood needs a playground." The advisor courteously and gently removed the list from my hands and explained that the king does not deal with these issues and that I must continue to petition with local government. End of story. The King of Kings grants each and every one of his subjects a private audience once a year. At this audience, He gives us a chance to be heard. He will govern the world based on the input we give Him on this day. I am anxious for this moment. Thirty days beforehand, the Shofar is blown in my community, exhorting us to wake up and make ready. I begin davening a little better - good practice. I say Selichot, begin doing Teshuva and cleanse my soul (this King has x-ray vision). I buy new clothes, groom myself properly and arrive in the King's palace. To enter for my private audience, all I have to do is take three steps forward, and I am transported to a different dimension for a one-on-one with Him. As I am about to take the three steps forward, I am handed a list - a list of things about which the King wishes to hear from me. This list is called a Machzor. I scan the list, my face turns white, and I feel weak and hopeless. The list reads... Peace on Earth One society for all nations How can we get all people to recognize the King? How can the exile of the Jewish people end? This is a Day of Judgment on all Nations. Any input? The great message of the Shofar of Sinai is waiting to be repeated once again for all of Mankind. How can we get the people to listen? I feel inadequate, but this King of Kings has no one to prevent me from entering and speaking my mind. No guard, no chief of staff, no chief of protocol. So I enter. Me: HaShem, I truly feel inadequate. I am not on the spiritual level to enable me to address You regarding the items on your list. But I do have needs. My job is in jeapordy and the pressure of the bills is enormous. My best friend was just diagnosed with a serious illness. Our next door neighbors have no children and it pains me to see them so miserable. I have much more to talk about. I can speak to You passionately and, I believe, eloquently about these issues. But, I am embarrrased to say, that I am a simple person and the global concerns outlined in the Machzor are above me. HaShem: My child, I do understand. But I must still hear from you. Please say the words. Use an ArtScroll Machzor. Look at the Hebrew and at the English and then again at the Hebrew. Take your time. Or do the whole thing in English. Just make sure you speak sincerely and know what the words mean. But don't take three steps back when you are finished! Before you take the three steps back, I do wish to hear from you about your personal concerns. I care. At that point, you may cry. You may take as much time as you need and I will listen. Me: But I know that prayer is avodah shebalev (service of the heart) and I am embarrassed that I won't be able to address You with passion and depth of feeling for the main body of the Amidah, which deals with national and global concerns. HaShem: Have no fear. Just do your best. I have given you a device which will take your words and infuse them with feeling. Your words will be intertwined with those of your fellow Jews and the great Tzaddikim of all generations. They will rise before Me framed and accompanied by the most glorious music imaginable. This device is called a Shofar. All you have to do is to blow from your very spirit- your actual breath of life - into this Shofar, and this Mitzvah will do the rest.