This is the question and the challenge we face as we come to the end of the holiday season. The holiday rich month of Tishrei is a time of spiritual saturation. Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot 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 conclusion of the holiday, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah after which 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 from before Rosh Hashana this column has been addressing the “inner child”(and the ”outer child” as well) – the purest part of each soul. Prior to Rosh Hashana, in Give Me Your Soul, we suggested an exercise to validate and empower every child. 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, written before Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, as we conclude the holiday season prior to reentering 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 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.
I never want to part with you again.
With the deepest love,