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.
We are therefore given one more day 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 fears.
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 “our parting.”
We always remain connected with our soul – and I always remain one with you, my child.
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,