Thursday, September 28, 2023

Succos 5784




Erev Shabbos Kodesh Succos

14 Tishrei 5783/September 29, 2023



A couple of hours after I broke my fast following the end of Yom Kippur, ignoring my fatigue and aching feet, I ventured out to the Motzei Yom Kippur tisch of the Nikolsburg Rebbe. It has become a yearly ritual for me. I enjoy the spirited singing and dancing, celebrating our efforts during the previous holy day.

As I pulled next to the curb outside the Nikolsburg Beis Medrash, I heard a pop. The tire air pressure alert immediately appeared on my dashboard. The front passenger tire on my car looked like it had been slashed with a knife and was clearly unsalvageable. I called Chaverim, and within minutes two righteous members pulled up and got to work. It should have been a five-minute job for for them to replace the popped tire with the donut from my trunk. But one of the screws was rusty and wouldn’t come off. They had to call for backup from a more experienced member. Still in his Yom Kippur garb (minus kittel and bekeshe) he began sawing off the screw with some sort of sophisticated electric tool. Sparks flew in all directions until the screw finally snapped and he was able to pry off the old tire.

By then it was past midnight. I went into the tisch for a few minutes before heading home. The following day my car went to visit our mechanic, helping to fulfil the mechanic’s prayers on Yom Kippur that he merits good parnasah this year.

On Yom Kippur we resolve to change our negative habits. The problem is that those habits become second nature to us. Despite our best intentions to change them, we often find ourselves reverting back to those negative traits.

Changing requires not only firm commitment but also a plan of action and a great deal of patience. But it begins with a willingness to go out if his comfort zone to develop new habits and behaviors.

Part of the challenge is that when trying to progress and improve in any endeavor, there is a delay between expectations and actualization. We work tirelessly and then become frustrated and confused when results don’t align with our expectations. The reality is that progress isn’t linear and desired results are often delayed. 

A stonecutter hits away at a rock 100 times without making a dent. And then, on the 101st hit, the rock splits in half. Everyone celebrates the 101st hit because it’s the moment of breakthrough, but it was the 100 prior hits that caused the rock to eventually break.

In his New York Times Bestseller, Atomic Habits, James Clear, refers to the delay between expectations and results as the Plateau of Latent Potential, or Valley of Disappointment.

Great accomplishments result from humble beginnings.

Clear writes that, “Complaining about not achieving success despite working hard is like complaining about an ice cube not melting when you heated it from 25 to 31 degrees. All the action happens at 32 degrees…”

He adds that, “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”

The Valley of Disappointment could be reframed as the Valley of Vision or the Canyon of Resolve because it takes vision to stay the course pre-breakthrough, and it requires resolve to maintain consistent effort when the desired result takes its time to mature.

Avos D'Rebbe Nosson relates the poignant story of Rabbi Akiva, the 40-year-old shepherd, who was an ignorant and frustrated spiritual failure.

One day, while sitting by a stream, he noticed a steady drip of water against a rock. It was only a drip, but it was constant and relentless. When Rabbi Akiva noticed a hole beneath the spot where the water dripped, he concluded that if water can slowly erode solid rock, undoubtedly the iron-like words of Torah could affect an indelible impression upon his heart.

That marked a turning point in Rabbi Akiva's life. He recommitted himself to Torah study, and eventually became the greatest sage of his generation, and one of the most prominent teachers of Torah of all time.

How apropos it is that the Yom Tov of Succos requires us to leave the familiar surroundings of our homes. We have to literally leave our comfort zones and embrace a new life, devoid of the amenities we enjoy throughout the year. Beyond that, we are charged to rejoice in our unfamiliar surroundings.

Change is a slow process. The proverbial screws of our past become wedged in place and don’t come off easily. More often than not, we have to work hard before we can extract the screw. But it holds the key to eventual progress and growth.

Part of the extreme joy of living in the succah is the knowledge and recognition that one is not enslaved by past habits. He can traverse them and grow beyond the previous confines of his lives. The sky above - the knowledge that G-d will bless his efforts - is limitless.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos

Gut Yom Tov & Chag Sameiach,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum