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s we rejoin the “real world,” must we relegate the spiritual heights of the past month to a dull memory?

 

Most of you will probably agree with me that it’s a bit hard to transition back to the prosaic existence of our everyday lives after weeks of being swept up in the grand song of Tishrei. We don’t want to let go, and when we wake up the morning after hakafos sheniyos to the realization that it’s all over now, we may feel we’ve been let down with a thump. We might sigh as Cheshvan is ushered in, thinking it’s time to say goodbye to those days of tangible kedushah and get back to the “real world.”

On Rosh Hashanah we spent two days, each of us on his own level, exalting HaKadosh Baruch Hu and submitting to Him as King of the Universe, King of This World, King of our nation, and in particular, as our personal King. For those two days we were certainly existing on a higher plane, removed from the mundane atmosphere of everyday life. Can you still recall the wonderful moments you experienced on Rosh Hashanah? And when those two days of exaltation ended, didn’t you wish a little bit that you could feel that way always, and didn’t you try your best to maintain that state of mind throughout the Ten Days of Teshuvah? Each of us strove as best we could under our personal circumstances during those days to examine ourselves, improve our deeds, and to stay aloft until the ecstatic culmination of the teshuvah process, the cleansing and atonement of Yom Kippur. And when the final shofar blast of the season sounded, and we chanted “L’shanah habaah b’Yerushalayim,” didn’t we all wish we could stay in that elevated atmosphere a little longer — despite our natural relief at having “made it through,” and our natural desire to have something to eat and drink after the 25-hour fast?

Do the ordinary days of chol offer anything to substitute for the special feeling of closeness to G-d that enveloped us in wings of purity on that sublime day — of which Chazal said “the essence of the day itself atones”?

It was wonderful, wasn’t it, to hover for a while above the pavement, to live on a plane where all the things to which we ascribe absolute value— money, status, and the rest of the things we pursue all year — are suddenly dwarfed and seen in a more correct proportion. There’s a sense of liberation in that fresh perspective, and it gives rise to inner joy. On the holy day of Yom Kippur, when we nullify our earthly desires and subdue our hearts before the Will and Might of our Creator, davka then we feel empowered; we feel our personality burgeoning within us, ready to take on the challenge of the new year.

Can you still recall those heady feelings now that a few weeks have passed?

Yes, HaKadosh Baruch Hu granted us a great chesed, coming close to everyone who called out to Him on that day, allowing us to bask in His radiance, and already at Maariv on Motzaei Yom Kippur we began to miss that fading glow. No man-made religion could produce such a day, for Yom Kippur is a Divine creation, and its essence is above the framework of time and space.

Fortunately for us, we weren’t cast down into the arms of everyday life immediately after Yom Kippur. After a brief interval, every year HaKadosh Baruch Hu grants us a weeklong orientation course as we embark on the journey of the new year — the festival of Succos. Surely we can still recall our celebration of the holiday that has just ended, although it feels like history — a week in which we rejoiced in simplicity, pushing off the chase after worldly cravings. We sat in the succah and continued to absorb the Torah’s messages of the season. We remembered that Succos belongs to the harvest time of Tishrei, as the Torah reminds us with the words “when you gather in the produce of your threshing floor.” This is a time when a person is liable to feel self-satisfied, intoxicated with the fruits of his labor, and to lose sight of his purpose, as the Malbim writes: “So that future generations should not be elated with the harvest that has filled their homes with good, and think that This World is their permanent home and their purpose. Let them know and be aware that I seated Bnei Yisrael in succahs to alert them to the fact that This World is only a guest house and a temporary dwelling.”

Surely, during those luminous days you gained a deepened comprehension of the fleetingness of our lives in This World, represented physically by the temporary dwelling of the succah. Surely you felt how sitting in the succah limits our sense of possessiveness and acquisition. It subdues our tendency to take pride in our material success and feel superior to those who have attained less — the starting point of divisiveness between human beings. And of course, the mitzvah of arba minim gives expression to the unity of all sectors of our people around the central goal of avodas Hashem which gives meaning to our lives in This World. Implied in that unity is basic equality, leaving no room for superiority of one group over another, whether attributed to financial status, voting for the “right” party, or belonging to the holiest chassidus or the most elite group of bnei Torah.

But really, what’s the point of discussing all the feelings we might have experienced and the messages we might have internalized, now that Tishrei is but a dull memory? Because we can reexperience those uplifting feelings as we reenter the so-called “real world.” Hashem gave us the soul power to reawaken those sublime feelings and keep them active in our hearts. By taking a few quiet minutes to close our eyes and vividly recall the high moments we experienced on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succos, and Shemini Atzeres, we can keep them from fading into oblivion, and their lingering aura will hover over us even as we go back to the daily grind of everyday life. By practicing this exercise regularly, we can transform our days and avoid getting completely caught up in a rat race of trivialities.

If this sounds like some New Age trick, consider what Rav Eliyahu Dessler ztz”l writes in Michtav MeEliyahu, where he discusses the power of vivid mental depiction. It was through the use of this mental ability, says Rav Dessler, that gedolei Yisrael attained their spiritual heights. So why shouldn’t we put this power to use as well? We would all like to keep the perspective we gained in the holy days of Tishrei alive in our minds and hearts, and we actually have a tool with which to do so, a gift from HaKadosh Baruch Hu called the faculty of imagination. Let us use this powerful gift to inject the mundane days to come with the inspiration of the holiest days of the calendar. There’s no need to leave it all behind. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 730)