כל הכלים שעשה משה כשרים לו וכשרים לדורות, חצוצרות ־ כשרות לו ופסולות לדורות.
All the vessels that Moshe made were valid for him and valid for future generations, [except for] the chatzotzros ([silver] trumpets) which were valid for him but invalid for future generations.
While it is permissible to use a 100 year old shofar, or in the beis hamiqdash, an ancient menorah, mizbeiach or shulchan, each generation that has a beis hamiqdash in which to use it has to make its own chatzotzros. Why the difference?
Yahadus walks a tight balance between the permanence of its message, and its relevance to people in very different contexts who are living in different times. The call of the shofar is eternal, and thus a shofar is not invalidated by age. However, in contrast to the raw, natural, shofar, the silver chatzotzros are man-made. Their message changes as people do. The call of the chatzotzros is distinct for the generation.
This thought dovetails well with the one I played with in “My Life as a Pendulum“. Some excerpts:
Many science museums have a large Foucault Pendulum. This pendulum is typically strung from a point on the ceiling, and the weight barely touches the surface of a sand stable on the floor. Over time, a trail in the sand develops, showing you where the pendulum has been.
Obviously, the pattern is primarily repetitive, back and forth.
However, the line that swinging draws rotates over time. In reality, the pendulum doesn’t rotate. It is fixed, absolute, staying on the same plane. It is the world that is changing, rotating beneath it. …
His students asked Rabbi Zakai, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, I never urinated within a distance of four amos from where I prayed, I never gave another person a nickname, and I never failed to recite kiddush; I had an elderly mother, and once she sold her hat in order to obtain the means to bring me wine for kiddush.” …
His students asked Rabbi Elazar bar Shamua’, “For what [were you granted] long life?” He said to them, “In all my days, I never made a shortcut out of the beis medrash; I never tread on the heads of the sacred people; and I never lifted my hands [to bless the people as a kohein] without making the blessing first.”
His students asked Rabbi Pereidah…
His students asked Rabbi Nechunia ben haQanah….
Rabbi Aqiva asked Rabbi Nechunia haGadol…
Rebbe asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Qorchah … long life?” … He said to him, “In all my days, I never looked at the image of an evil person.”
Notice that all these rabbis gave multiple answers, and one one of them coincided. One theme does shine through, “miyamai — in all my days”. Consistency. What’s the key to long life? Finding one’s approach to serving Hashem, and sticking to it, day in day out.
This is not simple repetitiveness; the consistency must adapt itself as the world we find ourselves in changes. It is sacred commitment to our mission, and thereby maintaining the connection to the Absolute Immobile Source.
רבי יוחנן מפקד מלבשוני (ביריריקא) [בורידיקא] לא חיוורין ולא אוכמין אין קמית ביני צדיקייא לא גבהת אין קימת ביני רשיעיא לא גבהת. רבי יאישה מפקד אלבשוני חוורין חפיתין. אמרין ליה ומה את טב מן רבך. אמר לון ומה אנא בהית בעבדאי.
Rabbi Yochanan arranged [for his death]: Dress me not in blue [shrouds], not in white ones or in black ones. If I will arise among the righteous, I will not be uncomfortable [because I won’t be in black]; and if I arise among the wicked, I won’t be uncomfortable [because I won’t be in white].
Rabbi Yoshiyah arranged: dress me in in nicely sown white shrouds.
They said to him: And what? Are you better than your rebbe [Rabbi Yochanan]?
He said to them: And what? Do you think I am afraid of my deeds?
— Yerushalmi Kelayim 9:2, 42a; Bereishis Rabba 100:3
(This is not the usual Rabbi Yoshiah, who was a second century tanna and thus couldn’t have been a student of Rabbi Yochanan over one hundred years later.)
How does Rabbi Yoshiyah answer their question? Why was he less afraid of his deeds than Rabbi Yochanan was?
Rav Shelomo Wolbe zt”l writes an essay in Alei Shur vol I titled “Hahevdel bein haDoros” about the need to speak to each generation in its own voice — and in particular, that Mussar is particularly sensitive to this phenomenon. Each generation has its own Mussar. The Mussar of dark rooms and fear of death of the early movement wasn’t that of Slabodka. And of our generation R’ Wolbe writes, “The beginning of the way of anyone who learns Mussar today needs to be: learn the elevatedness of a human. He must climb the ladder that leads to awareness of greatness.” One generation is motivated by one thing; people in a different milieu living within a different culture need a different presentation. Loyal to the same truth, but cognizant of the strengths and weaknesses of its people and of the lives they lead.
I would suggest that the difference between Rav Yochanan and Rav Yoshiah was not as much that one was uncertain of his merit, and the other wasn’t. Rather, Rav Yoshiah’s generation is one in which he must make them feel secure. “And what? Do you think I’m afraid of my deeds?” The means of motivating the masses changed in the generation between them.
Perhaps this is why some parts of our goal in life were not spelled out in the shofar‘s tones of halakhah and its process, but instead left as values that we, through Mussar, must determine for ourselves how to inculcate. The call of the chatzotzros.