I'll never forget those words of my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz: "It's easy to fly into a passion. But what happens after the passion is gone? And then what? Our children become Bat and Bar Mitzvah with great excitement. But what happens thereafter? Can they remain committed to Judaism, when no one is celebrating them anymore? Weddings, nowadays, resemble Holywood-style sound and light shows. But then what? Can our marriage continue to grow even when the sound of 'here comes the bride' has been replaced with the sound of a baby crying?"Rabbi Allouche
If you’ve ever gone fishing, you probably know that the best time to catch a fish is immediately after it rains. Why so? Because the fish then rise up to the water-surface to ‘taste’ the new waters.
But if they are submerged in water from the day of their birth, why are they so attracted to new waters? The answer, according to the Midrash, is telling: Rainwater is fresh. And fish, like all creatures, are drawn to freshness…
This inclination to freshness and the “next big thing” can become an easy trap for us, humans, too. We buy a sleek, new phone, for example, and we’re all excited. But then, a few months, and a few scratches and cracks later, we already want the next, new phone, which seems “so much better…”
We make the same mistakes in our relationships. When we first meet our beshert, our spouse-to-be, or a friend whom we are drawn to, our behavior is flawless, and our manners are remarkably refined. But after a few months, we begin to take each other for granted. Sure, we still love each other, but the promising excitement of those first months have, by and large, disappeared.
The same is true of our relationship with G-d. At times, our souls are set ablaze and our hearts are filled with inspiration to rid ourselves of our bad habits and to do good and add another Mitzvah to our lives. But reality then sets in, and those moments of spiritual elevation quickly vanish.
This is why the Torah commands us in this week’s portion that, “when you build a new house, you shall make a fence for your roof (Deuteronomy 22:8).” Too often, G-d warns us, we build our homes and we assume that we will “live happily ever after.” We start off with great thrill and are overly confident that all will go smoothly. Should we prepare for the future? Shall we erect any precautions, any roofs, for possible stumbles along the way? “No!” we say to ourselves. After all, our relationship seems to be going so well…
Alas, life isn’t as pink as it may seem. Every ignition needs a vision. And without it, we won’t have a reason to keep the flames ablaze. A fence around our roofs, and a real and consistent plan that ensures the continued growth of our fresh love toward G-d and toward our fellows will protect us from all potential falls, and ensure that our relationships thrive.
A few years ago, during a visit with my dear mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, I asked him: “What would you say is life’s ultimate question?”
Without skipping a beat, he replied: “‘And then what?” (-in Hebrew: “veaz ma?”)
And he explained, with his characteristic brilliance: “You see, it’s easy to fly into a passion. But what happens after the passion is gone? And then what? Our children become Bat and Bar Mitzvah with great excitement. But what happens thereafter? Can they remain committed to Judaism, when no one is celebrating them anymore? Weddings, nowadays, resemble Holywood-style sound and light shows. But then what? Can our marriage continue to grow even when the sound of ‘here comes the bride’ has been replaced with the sound of a baby crying?”
So if you have been inspired to take upon yourself a new Mitzvah and a deed of goodness lately – make sure that you also “build a fence” and integrate this Mitzvah consistently in your daily life, to maintain it and grow it, from strength to strength.
To paraphrase the words of King David (Psalms 24:3): “We may ascend the mountain of G-d, but can we stand and remain there?”