Sunday, October 23, 2016

Hoshanah Rabbah – Erev Shemini Atzeres 5777


“RABBI’S MUSINGS (& AMUSINGS)”
Hoshanah Rabbah – Erev Shemini Atzeres
21 Tishrei 5777/ October 22, 2016

"Abba, the power is out in half of the rooms upstairs!"
While trying to prepare derashos for Rosh Hashanah, that's not what I wanted to hear. But I headed upstairs to try to figure out the electric issue. I happen to be as adept with electric as I am with aerodynamics, but I do know that if the power isn't working you check the fuse box in the basement. When after flipping every switch in the house a few times yielded no results, I called my neighbor, Meir.
Meir is one of those people who genuinely enjoys helping others. I told Meir that I didn't want him to come over; I only wanted to ask him his advice about the situation.
Perhaps it was his love of chesed, perhaps it was his concern that I was going to electrocute myself, but he told me he would stop by on his way home. So at 10:30 pm (on his way home!!) he arrived and began surveying the situation. Within a few minutes he realized that one of the lights plugged in upstairs had a frayed wire. As a protection, the circuit kept shorting and wouldn't stay on. He unplugged the faulty wire, went back down to the basement and again flipped the switch. This time the power instantly came back on.
This past week, as I was putting the schach on my succah, when I placed my hand on top of the gutter on the roof next to the schach, I realized that the gutters were full of water. The rainwater obviously wasn't draining. I've often thought about how great it would be to have a private mikvah, but not in the gutters on my roof.
Determined not to bother Meir, I checked the bottom of the drainage pipe and saw that it was clear. There must be something blocking on the roof. I stood on a chair and reached up to see where the hole was, so I can try to stick a pole down to clear the way. As soon as my hand touched the top of the pipe, I found that something was situated atop the drainage pipe - a moldy tennis ball. As soon as I lifted it, all of the water in the drain rushed down the pipe and was empty within seconds.
When I walked back into my house to tell Chani what happened, she immediately said (what she often says when things like this happen in our home) "I smell a musings coming. Something about how our hearts are blocked up!" That was not what I wanted to hear while I was dripping wet and holding a moldy wall. However, I am starting to think she has the gift of prophecy.
On Rosh Hashanah, we spend the holiday trying to ensure that our connection with the Source of Life, is vibrant and strong. We reaccept upon ourselves the yoke of His Majesty, and recommit ourselves to living up to the lofty expectations He has set for us in His Torah.
If the wire is frayed the connection is faulty and that spiritual power will not ignite within our souls.
Then on Yom Kippur as we try to achieve at-one-ment, we seek to clear away the debris of our past mis-deeds, to ensure that there are no spiritual blockages that hinder our future growth.
Great analogies for the avodah of these two elite holidays. But what about the celebration of succos, you ask.
The Almighty has provided us with an experiential lesson for that too:
The ice maker in our freezer has a lever that gets pushed up when enough ice has been produced, to signal the mechanism to stop producing ice. But the mechanism in our freezer somehow became dislodged, so the freezer continued producing ice, even as it overflowed the bucket and spill over into the rest of the freezer. Whenever someone opened the freezer, ice cubes went flying.
Ice cubes are a wonderful thing, and helps us enjoy our drinks that much more. But when the mechanism that signals the machine to stop producing is broken, they become a nuisance at best.
Succos reminds us that all of the pleasures of life are there for us to enjoy, as long as we keep them within healthy limits. So long as we control our conveniences and they don't control us, we can benefit from them. But when there are no limitations those same conveniences develop a mind of their own, dragging us helplessly along.
Within the spiritually blissful confines of the succah, our food, drink, and sleep are holy. Four mundane Species become holy objects that promote extreme joy and celebration for a week.
This reminds us that within divine parameters all of the physicality of this world is a conduit for growth. That is one of the timeless lessons of succos.
We often think that when Succos ends we return to our homes simply because the mitzvah of succah is over. But in truth, the holiday of Shemini Atzeres presents us with the most formidable challenge of all - to bring all of the lessons of the entire month of Tishrei, and especially Succos, back into our homes.
It is to ensure that the connections we established Rosh Hashanah remain vibrant, the passageways we cleared Yom Kippur remain open, and the message of the succah returns with us into the comforts of our homes.
And to lock it all in we dance with the Torah - which is the ultimate medium to help us maintain that growth throughout the year, and throughout our lives.
You'll forgive me for ending here, but I think Meir is here to fix our ice cube tray.

Chag Sameiach & Freilichen Yom Tov,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum       

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