Tuesday, October 7, 2014
״וחמושים עלו בני ישראל...״ (שמות יג:יז )
Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg quotes the sefarim hakedoshim that explain that "chamushim" (armed) has the root word חמש, which serves as an acronym that reminds us of the three major festivals. Pesach is the time of חירותינו; Shavuot is מתן תורתינו; and Sukkot is known as שמחתינו. These three descriptions in fact refer to the different "weaponry" we Jews have at our disposal - the last one which is associated with Sukkot is the "skill" of joy and comes to us as we draw ever closer to the days of Moshiach. An emphasis needs to be placed on this particular quality as we encounter a progressively darker world.
I'm reminded of this every year as we emerge from the Days of Awe and segue into the whirlwind of activity that is the month if Tishrei. It resonates with me especially now as I attempt to find balance amid the many aspects of my life that constantly vie for my attention.
I had a difficult time preparing adequately for the Yomim Nora'im; a part of that is definitely attributed to the consequences of moving further away from a time when I was immersed in relatively unfettered pursuit of spirituality of my yeshiva years, but it's not only that. Husbandry, parenthood, professional responsibilities, and even the obligation of maintaining the rigorous schedule of Daf yomi all tend to eclipse my other limmudim. I find it considerably more difficult to find time to learn the things that speak to my shoresh neshama although audio shiurim do provide an outlet.
I also become increasingly, painfully aware of my limitations and weaknesses in both the Bein Adam l'makom and l'chaveiro areas. My davening hasn't improved, and I still find myself thinking petty thoughts about my peers even if I hold myself back from reacting to them.
Moreover, I find myself in unfamiliar positions, perceived as a representative of the mainstream and an authority figure in the drop-in center among not only the kids we work with but my fellow volunteers. I have to struggle with an urge to "show" that I'm not the Man and it's surreal.
I went into Rosh HaShana feeling somewhat low; the first day was so difficult. The second day a felt a slight lifting of my spirit, but nothing that raised my spiritual Geiger counter needle significantly.
Yom Kippur was a mix. I found myself unable at times to concentrate even marginally, and that hurt. Surrounded by people shedding tears even as a conceit (as recommended regarding Ne'ila), I couldn't bring myself to do so, either.
But last night I went to purchase my lulav and etrog. I buy from a relative of my wife's who is a special person, a genuinely nice talmid chacham who enjoys what he is doing and desks with people with infinite patience. We discussed Sukkot, shmitta, and a number of topics as we looked for "my" lulav. The whole process took a little less than an hour, but at the end as I left with my new minim (species), I felt confident that I had found the right match. Inexplicably, I felt a sensation of lightness as a returned to my car and carefully placed the lulav in the passenger side. Something about preparing for the mitzvot of the Chag gives me a lift; late last night I prepared the rings that we use to bind the lulav and the process was a meditative one.
Sukkot shares a similar quality with the mitzvot of living in the Holy Land and mikvah - all three are performed by involving the entire body in the act. The seven species are a prominent theme in the decor of the Sukkah, and serve to remind us of where we really belong. All these things fill me with a feeling of nostalgia, and as I spend the majority of my time in the Sukkah over the course of the Chag this little hut becomes more of a refuge for me from all of the insanity of the world throughout the year.
I think Sukkot has displaced Chanukah as my favorite holiday...