These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Alumni Guest Post] Okay. So, what now?

Posted on September 29, 2013 by The Director of Digital Media

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Daniel Shibley (Year '11, Fellows '12) reflects:

522829_644330180206_171807699_nWhether you are in the diaspora or Israel, all of the holidays in this season have come to a close. Although we may joke about them finally being over and the relief therein, every year at this point, I experience a quasi-withdrawl syndrome. The following is an attempt to put some of those thoughts into writing.

Since the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, we have had a very close relationship with God. Adding an extra Psalm morning and evening, daily blasts of the shofar, and month-long selichot for Sepharadim. Rosh Hashanah inaugurated the new year replete with blessings of happiness and health, the official blowing of the shofar and proclamation of God’s sovereignty over the world. Of course, underlying the celebrations is the thread of personal introspection and tshuva. I’d like to suggest that the entire season reaches its climax on Yom Kippur when we act out the service of the High Priest in the Temple chambers, God is nearly tangible, and yet the day slowly slips away as the gates close. But we are not done yet, the unbridled happiness, and possibly relief, of Sukkot follows immediately. We have more festive meals, wave the four species, rejoice with the Torah itself, celebrating both its completion and renewal. Having hopefully assured our spiritual wellbeing, we approach God one more time on Shemini Atzeret to ask to be physically sustained by the waters of the heavens. And then it’s over. So, what now?

As a means of resolving this withdrawl syndrome, I considered other times in Judaism where an intensive cycle concludes, leaving the participants to return to a more normal slate of activities. Two examples came to mind almost immediately. Shiva, the intense week of mourning that is observed after the death of an immediate family member, eventually gives way to the less intensive periods of mourning. As the mourner is “stepped-down” he or she must return to life and adjust to the terrible new reality, a much more mundane task then being constantly surrounded by friends and family. Similarly, although significantly happier, the newly married couple must, at the conclusion of their wedding week, set in motion the tasks associated with building a life together. Gone are the massive meals, although there is certainly residual excitement (well, hopefully), as the couple adjusts to the job at hand.

I definitely do not want to presume that others are necessarily experiencing the same feelings, nor do I want my attempted solution to be viewed as prescriptive. I would like to suggest that we attempt to draw slivers of the intensive periods into the long stretches of mundane. Whether it is the recitation of a Psalm or poem, a regular phone call to a loved one, or anything in between that captures the feelings of the days of greatest intensity and disperses them among the rest.