Sweat, Tears, Toil & Love
Yomim Noraim ( the 'High Holy days') are always a most uplifting experience
at Ohr Somayach. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other mispallelim in the
packed bais medrash as we pray for a good year, one has an inkling of what
it was like in the times of the Bais Hamikdosh when hundreds of thousands of
people converged in the Temple courtyard. Our sages tell us that they stood
'tzefufuim,' cramped like sardines and yet, when the time came for them to
prostrate themselves, there was suddenly ample space for everyone. Was this
due to miraculous Divine intervention? Undoubtedly. However, one might also
explain this phenomenon on a psychological level.
The Torah teaches us the mitzvah of Hakheil. Every seventh year, the entire
nation was commanded to ascend to Jerusalem. Not a soul remained behind. In
every corner of the land millions of people made the jubilant journey to
rejoice on the festival of Sukkos in Jerusalem. Today, we can actually see
at the excavations of 'Ir Dovid,' the remnants of the city walls that
surrounded Jerusalem in those days. The entire city is no more than a square
mile and a half. How was there room for everybody? It boggles the mind to
picture the spectacle. Millions of people without air conditioning, bathroom
facilities, garbage pickup service! The streets must have resembled a solid
moving mass of sweaty, agitated humanity. What an ordeal it must have been.
Yet, remarkably, the sages tell us that, on the contrary, that no man ever
complained in Jerusalem about the lack of space! The people were unperturbed
by their meager accommodations. Perhaps there was an element of the
miraculous that unfolded in Jerusalem at that time. But, on an essential
level, the Jewish people were simply ecstatic and filled with the joy of
being in the presence of their Creator. When one is in an ecstatic frame of
mind, suffused with happiness and gratitude for being able to be present at
the most sublime moments of the year, the physical conditions don't matter.
When each one cares for the other, there is enough for all. As our sages
tell us, when a husband and wife are devoted to one another, they can both
sleep "on the edge of a knife" but when there is no unity, even a palace
will not suffice. Even if one is in the east wing and the other in the west
wing, there is no room for comfort. However, when we stand together in
harmony and are focused on helping one another, there is always enough to go
around. When happiness, appreciation and love prevail, physical shortcomings
simply do not play a role.
Wishing you a joyous chag and may soon all be reunited in Yerushalayim with
Rabbi Naftali Reich
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanenbaum Education Center.