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For Judaism is not about bringing earth up to heaven. Rather, it is about bringing heaven down to earth, and creating an abode for G-d, here, below.

Rabbi Allouche

It stands as one of my most vivid memories.

Each year in high school, just before the summer break, our school’s dean, my dear mentor, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, would come visit us, and share with us a stirring message:

“I don’t know, really, if you’ve advanced this year,” he would tell us with his characteristic forthrightness.

“It’s really hard for me to judge that. And you surely cannot judge 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’ve advanced this year. 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 words with a riveting lesson:

“You see, my dear students: The question of life is not whether you soared to the heavens this year. 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 “soared to the heavens.” The feeling of elevation and inspiration at our ever-growing Congregation Beth Tefillah was unparalleled. Close to 1200 of our holy brothers and sisters united together for our most meaningful and inspiring services.

In the words of one our attendee: “I have never in my life felt a truly meaningful Yom Kippur, until I came to CBT on Yom Kippur.”

Or in the words of yet another attendee: “In all the Yom Kippur’s in my entire life, this was the most special and educational one for me.”

But, friends, we now need to land back somewhere. For Judaism is not about bringing earth up to heaven. Rather, it is about bringing heaven down to earth, and creating an abode for G-d, here, below.

This is why G-d gave us the holiday of Sukkot (coming up this Sunday evening! – a full schedule will be sent out on Sunday), in which we land back on earth, building a Sukkah, and shaking four of Earth’s special species: to bring the G-d that we connected to on Yom Kippur, down below, into our everyday life. To channel the holiness of our souls into the physicality of our body. To draw down the extraordinary Divinity of the heavens onto the ordinary earthiness of our world.

Will you join me in this landing, as you so inspiringly joined me in our High Holiday take-off?