One of the greatest challenges in life
is dealing with the down that inevitably follows every inspirational
high. We can call it “the day after syndrome”
(I can barely resist the more provocative “hang over
syndrome”). One moment we were inspired, motivated,
lifted to great heights, and then we return to our “regular”
This is the question and the challenge of the post-holiday season in which we
now stand. The holiday rich month of Tishrei is a time of spiritual saturation.
Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat
Torah were meant to lift us on their wings and help us reconnect to our higher
calling and access the deepest recesses of our soul.
But then comes the day after, when the “ride” is over. As we land (hopefully
smoothly) from the soaring flight of Tishrei the great dilemma presents itself:
will we—and how can we—gain the power to hold on to the inspiration? Inspiration
is relatively easy; maintaining it is the difficult task.
Beginning before Yom Kippur this column has been addressing the “inner child”(and
the ”outer child” as well) – the purest part of each soul. On Yom Kippur
we connected with our innocence – our “inner child” – and on Sukkot we hugged the
child in a warm, all encompassing embrace (My Dear Child).
Here is another entry in this series, Letters To My Child. The first, written
before Simchat Torah and the second, following the holiday season, as we reenter
our daily routines.
My dearest child,
I know, my dear child that we are coming to the close of the holiday season
and you are afraid of what comes next. Or maybe you are relieved that the
“show” is over.
I know what you may be thinking and fearing: During the holiday break I gave
you some attention. I celebrated with you. But now, as I go back to work and
my daily pursuits I will forget about you and ignore you. You will
be condemned to return to that lonely dungeon of yours, your own secret place,
where you let no one in.
So, let me share with you something, my beautiful child. The reason that the
holiday season concludes with Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah is precisely
in order to address your deep concern.
Let us read a Rashi together [Rashi is the classic Biblical commentator actually
written to explain Torah to a young child]. Why is Shemini Atzeret called
by that name? Explains Rashi (Leviticus 23:36), that Atzeret mean “retention,”
G-d retains us for one day. And Rashi uses a parable to explain why: There
was once a king who invited his children for a banquet of several days. When
it came time for them to go, he said to them: “My children, please, stay with
me one more day – your parting is difficult for me...”
After experiencing the renewal of Rosh Hashana, the innocence of Yom Kippur
and the celebrating embrace of Sukkot, you, my child are concerned with the
same thing G-d is concerned with: Your parting is difficult for me. We are
therefore given one more day [two days outside of Israel] to celebrate together.
A day that is meant to give us strength to remain connected all year long.
So my child, let us use this day to the fullest.
My little child: Come let us dance together. It’s Simchat Torah. The Torah scrolls
are all wrapped up. No distinction between scholar and layperson, between
intellectual and simpleton, between adult and child.
Yes, my child, let us dance. Unbridled of our ghosts, unfettered by our minds,
unburdened by our anxieties, unrestrained by our limits, uninhibited by our
Dance away. Dance freely. Forget for a moment your pains, and hold my hand.
On Simchat Torah I give you, my child, an aliya – an elevation. All us
adults will call up our children – kol ha’neorim – and allow them to
lift us up with them.
All year long adults control the universe, or so they think. All us vulnerable
creatures, all our tender children, are victims of living in an adult world.
Simchat Torah the world is the children’s. Simchat Torah is the day of the child.
On this day all adults live in a children’s world.
Minds separate us. The minds of an adult and of a child are different. But our
legs unite us. We dance as one. With our hands waving freely, and our hearts
soaring high, we will lift our feet, rising a bit above the ground.
Help me, my child, defy gravity. Your lightness will buoy my sagging spirit.
The tug of earth has brought me down, and dragged you there with me. Now I
want to lift you – and allow you to lift me – on my arms.
Dance away. This day doesn’t come often.
My child, please stay with me one more day, your parting is difficult for me.
* * *
Ahh, but after we have spent a day together, dancing and celebrating, you are
no doubt wondering, and maybe even trembling over the fact that we now have
to inevitably part ways. Does this means that you, my child, will have to
return to your lonely world? And what was the point of spending one more day
together; it just pushed off the inevitable parting for one day?!
Let me tell you my child what I am feeling. As we read Rashi’s parable together
I realized that the king does not say “our parting is difficult for
me.” He says “your parting is difficult for me.” Why? Because He never
parts from us; we part from Him. We always remain connected with our soul
– and I always remain one with you, my child. However, we live in a coarse
world in which G-d concealed the Divine presence, the presence of the soul
and the presence of the pure child. On a conscious level we feel like we are
“parting” ways. But they our only “your parting,” how you, humans feel, not
He did this in order to allow us the ultimate accomplishment: To overcome the
concealment and reveal the inner truth that we are not apart, but all one.
But since “your parting is difficult for me” we are given an extra day
to connect in the most intimate and powerful manner, which empowers us for
the rest of the year. As we leave the spiritually saturated holiday season,
and move from the warmth of summer to the cold of winter, traveling through
difficult “dusty roads,” we rejoice together for one more day (See Midrash
Rabbah, Song of Songs 7:4).
But this is not meant to remain one day of retention. Its’ purpose is to motivate
us to carry and spread its unifying energy throughout the entire year. And
we do so, by recognizing the challenge and difficulty of “your parting” and
taking powerful measures to counter its effects.
Here is what I will do, my child. I too know that the year’s journey will be
difficult. Life is so hard and challenging. My daily struggle for survival
and all the material distractions of the world around me are so powerfully
seductive. They cause me to forget about what really matters. And you
– my child – is what really matters.
But I have also been taught that we are not doomed to this amnesia. This precise
challenge is the entire purpose of our lives: to now allow the means of our
existence to cloud the ends. Even as we are immersed with our physical existence
and struggle for survival, we must never forget our souls. We cannot allow
ourselves to be so selfishly consumed with our immediate needs that we forget
our inner lives. Furthermore, my mission is to transform the material into
the spiritual. To reveal the Divine even in the most concealed places. To
allow you, my child, to emerge from your hiding place.
So you see, I now understand that your concealing yourself is very much part
of the entire concealment of everything holy and pure in this corrupt world.
The best and the finest hide to protect themselves from the narcissism and
greed of an adult world driven by self-interest.
Here is my pledge to you, my beloved child: I will do everything possible to
connect with you and protect you. Every morning we will say together “Modeh
Ani,” and we will together acknowledge the soul that was returned to me, so
tender and pure (“neshomo she’nosato bi tehorah hi”), and how the soul
gets clothed in layers upon layers (“boroso,” “yotzarto,” “nofachto
bi”), until it is completely shrouded in the physical body. But even then
it is Divinely protected (“v’atoh meshamro b’kirbi”).
I know that you, my child, don’t trust sporadic spurts of attention, only when
crisis strikes. You want and need ongoing care and nurturing. I therefore
will commit, on a daily basis, to sublime activities that keep me in touch
with my soul and with you, my child.
Each day I will rebuild the three pillars upon which the world – and our inner
world – stands: Study, prayer and good deeds. I will emote with you as I say
my daily prayers. Every day I will designate time for spiritual study and
acts of virtue. I will give charity daily and reach out to people to offer
assistance in any way I can. In short, I will create space in my everyday
life for my soul to express itself, by committing to a consistent routine
of spiritual activities.
I will do everything in my power to ensure that you, my child, are nourished.
But I need you to do everything in your power as well. Please don’t run away
and hide from me. I need your help as much as you need mine. I need your sense
of enchantment and adventure. I need your hope and optimism. I need your bubbly
excitement over things that I have long forgotten. Above all, I need your
dreams, your aspirations and your belief that everything is possible.
And should I at times forget and neglect you, please remind me. Don’t give up
on me. Kick me in the pants, cry and make me aware, kick and scream, wake
me up. Do anything but never be silent.
I never want to part with you again.
With the deepest love,