A Weekly Column by Joseph Walker
SAMMY AND THE SHOFAR
without a doubt, the coolest animal horn I had ever seen.
I was 7. Pretty much everything I saw
was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
this horn that was on a bookshelf at my friend Sammy’s
house was WAY cool. It was hollow, about
three feet long and it was curly – almost like a piece of that corkscrew
pasta. It was so polished and shiny, it seemed to be beckoning me to touch it.
of animal does it come from?” I asked Sammy.
said. That made sense, because the only
Rams I knew about were in Los Angeles,
and they had curly horns on their football helmets.
“Wanna hear something cool?” Sammy
asked. He carefully picked up the horn,
put the small end to his lips and blew.
A low, mournful sound emanated from the larger end of the horn.
that was also . . . you know . . . a horn!
That was so far beyond cool, it was almost groovy.
“Can I try
it?” I asked as I reached for the horn. Sammy
hesitated for a moment, then started to hand it
over. “Just be careful,” he said. “My Dad’ll kill me
if I . . .”
As if on
cue, Sammy and I fumbled the exchange and the
horn clattered to the tile floor. A
good-sized chunk broke off the larger end.
The horrified expression on Sammy’s
face suggested that we were in serious trouble.
up the horn and the broken piece. “Maybe
we can glue it back . . .”
up to see Sammy’s mother standing in the
doorway, with the exact same horrified expression on her face.
me,” Sammy stammered. “I mean . . . we were just . . . I wanted to
show . . .”
“It was my
fault,” I said, almost simultaneously.
“I didn’t mean . . . it just . . . I don’t know . . . Sammy
was . . .”
saying a word Sammy’s mother walked directly
to me and took the horn and the broken piece from my hands. She studied it intensely from one end to the
other, searching for additional damage.
Finding none, she gently placed the horn back on the bookshelf, and
placed the broken piece next to it.
been in our family for a long time,” she said.
“It’s called a shofar. It’s part of our religious tradition.” She looked directly at Sammy. “It’s sacred to us. It’s not a toy. We don’t play with it.”
about how she said the word “sacred” – and the fact that she didn’t yell at us
or anything – touched me, and I think it touched Sammy
too. I’m not sure we fully understood or
appreciated what she was trying to tell us.
But we knew that this was important to her, and that made it important
Mama,” Sammy said. “I’m sorry.”
I said. Then I added: “I can get some
glue. I’ll bet we can fix it.”
OK,” she said. “We’ll let Sammy’s
father take care of it when he gets home.”
I wish I
could tell you that Sammy’s father was able to
repair the horn . . . er . . . shofar,
but we moved to another state soon after and I never saw Sammy
again. Years later I learned that a shofar is blown as part of Jewish services on Rosh Hashanah
and Yom Kippur. Which
is why I think about Sammy and the shofar every year about this
time. I remember the sound of the
remember the look on Sammy’s face when he . .
. er, I . . . er, we
dropped it. And I remember what I felt
when his mom said the word “sacred.” Somehow in that moment I understood that
you can show respect and honor for something that is sacred.
Even if it isn’t sacred to you.
— © Joseph Walker
For more ValueSpeak, visit http://www.sfpnn.com/joseph_walker1.htm
Check out Joseph Walker’s Latest Books!
“Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift
Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home
Remedies for an Ailing World.”
“Christmas on Mill Street” – A Holiday Novel!
or find Joseph on Facebook at