reflection by Rabbi Daniel Silverstein
“The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Have two silver trumpets made; make them of hammered work. They shall serve you to summon the community and to set the divisions in motion” (Numbers 10:2)
The following verses state that these trumpets are blown to assemble the people and to signal their movement. They are blown in times of distress and conflict, and times of joy and celebration, to evoke Divine remembrance and connect the people to the Eternal.
The Maggid of Mezritch, the great leader of the second generation of the Chasidic movement, bases one of his most important teachings on this verse (see Or Torah 134). The trumpets, in Hebrew are called chatzotzrot. The Maggid, in a typically non-literal but nonetheless powerful manner, breaks this word into two, yielding the two words: chetzi tzurot, meaning “half forms.”
He then claims that these “half forms” being hinted to by the two trumpets are the Divine and human beings. He teaches that both are incomplete without the other, and that both therefore need the other to fulfill their potential and purpose.
This may strike us as a radical claim to make about the Infinite Divine, the Ein Sof, the Creator of all life. This conception of the Divine as incomplete and in need of human intervention is often found in the Zohar and the works of the Arizal (R' Isaac Luria), but both of those were primarily the domain of small circles of highly learned rabbis and kabbalists.
It was the early Chasidic Masters who first brought it to large numbers of Jews, and the Maggid had great news for them, and for us: if you've ever felt like something mysterious was missing, you were right!
In this model, nobody ever actually reaches the ultimate destination of complete union with the Divine, at least in this life. Our job is not to worry about the destination, but rather to focus on the journey of relationship, which is fueled by desire, longing, and yearning.
The Maggid points out that the Hebrew root-word for desire, longing, and yearning is k-s-f (kaf samech feh), the same letters as the word for silver, kesef, used in our verse. The silver of the trumpets is our longing, that which connects us to the Cosmic Majesty in moments of stillness, movement, distress and joy. May we all learn to sound our trumpets in harmony