"You see, my dear students: The big question of life is not whether you can soar to the heavens. Almost anyone can do that. The real question is where you landed at the end? Sometimes you don't land anywhere. And then you are compelled to ask yourselves: is that what your great spiritual search was all about?!"Rabbi Allouche
“I don’t know, really, if you’ve progressed this year,” my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, would tell us, his high school students, every year, before the grand summer vacation.
“It’s really hard for me to judge that. And you surely cannot judge that yourself. So go home. You have parents and siblings. Ask your parents and siblings if you’ve become any better. Now, if they say, ‘you definitely became better,’ then it means you went the right way. But if they say that they do not notice any difference, perhaps you did not study well enough, or perhaps, it was the wrong thing to do to study all year long. If the latter is the case, please think about your journey and come see us before coming back next year.”
He would then conclude his piercing words, with a stirring thought
“You see, my dear students: The big question of life is not whether you can soar to the heavens. Almost anyone can do that. The real question is where you landed at the end? Sometimes you don’t land anywhere. And then you are compelled to ask yourselves: is that what your great spiritual search was all about?!”
I am reminded of my mentor’s impassioned plea, as we exit the spiritual highs of Yom Kippur, in which we together “soared to the heavens.” The feeling of holiness and inspiration at our ever-growing Congregation Beth Tefillah was unparalleled. Over 800 members and friends united together in our three separate services, for our most meaningful and uplifting services.
In the words of one our attendees: “I have never in my life felt the true meaning of Yom Kippur, until I came to CBT yesterday.”
Or in the words of yet another attendee: “Your most inspiring services changed me profoundly. I promise to become more involved Jewishly. I will begin with putting on Tefilin, at least twice a week.”
Friends, and as this last comment conveys, we too need to land back somewhere. For Judaism is not about bringing our planet earth and its inhabitants up to heavens. Rather, it is about bringing heaven down to earth, and creating an abode for G-d, consistently, every single day.
This is why G-d gave us the gift of Sukkot (coming up this Monday evening! – a full schedule will be sent out on Sunday morning): To bring the G-d that we connected to on Yom Kippur, down below, into our everyday life; to channel the intensity of our souls, into the movements of our body; to draw down the extraordinary Divinity of the heavens onto the ordinary earthiness of our world; To invite the majesty of G-d into our Sukkah, a temporary physical home of sticks and stones.
Will you please join me in this landing, as you so inspiringly joined me in our High Holiday take-off?