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The Alarm Clock

by Tim O'Hearn

I am not a morning person. In fact, I have often said, “Any time before noon is too early in the morning to wake up; and any time after noon is too early in the afternoon to wake up.” If I had my “druthers” I druther sleep. Therefore, I don’t like alarm clocks, alarm cats, or alarm kids. (At least with my alarm kid I get fifteen minutes before I have to get up.) Other people may not have anything against alarm clocks, but just don’t like to be shaken out of their routine. Anything that makes them change their ways is like an alarm clock.

On the holiday of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish people yearly hear an alarm clock. The principal feature of that holiday (which falls on September 23 in 2006) is the blowing of the shofar, the curved horn of a kosher animal. This instrument was used in history to get people’s attention and to sound an alarm when an enemy came in sight. In a real sense, then, it is an alarm clock.

There was one instance in which the shofar was literally used as an alarm to wake somebody up. God told Gideon to take a small army against the vast forces of the invader, Midian. Each man had an oil lamp hidden in a jar, and a shofar.

So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the shofars, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the shofars, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the shofars in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. And the three hundred blew the shofars, and the LORD set every man’s sword against his fellow, even throughout all the host: and the host fled to Bethshittah in Zererath, and to the border of Abelmeholah, unto Tabbath. (Judges 7:19-22)

I suspect that if I were awakened by three hundred alarm clocks I would flail around like the Midianites. If I had a sword in my hand I might kill a few friends, too. Three hundred alarm trumpets is not a pleasant thought.

I know some people who regularly hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks. They want just five more minutes, and sometimes end up with an extra hour. The holiday alarm clock won’t let you oversleep. Tradition says that the Jews must hear over one hundred blasts of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. This calls for attention, and does not allow for the snooze.

To what does the shofar serve as an alarm clock? Normally we use the alarm to wake us up for work or something specific. This alarm clock is no different. It awakens its hearers to repentance. The Day of Atonement is only ten days away, at which time God seals forgiveness or not. The time is short. Repentance makes the difference in life. Awake!

Awake! That was the message of the prophet Haggai. “Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:5-6) Change your ways, God says, and your fortunes will change. Wake up, and repent.

Every day is a day in which we need to repent. We need God’s atonement every day. Perhaps we should wake up to the shofar every day.