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Friday, May 05, 2006

Taking the Yomim Tovim with you

Since we are pretty much smack in the middle between Pesach and Shavuos, I figured I'd talk about how to take the spiritual acheivements of Yom Tov and stay on a little bit of a "Yom Tov high" even after these days of closeness to Hashem have passed us by.

A while back, I was contemplating how to do this. What crossed my mind was that since these hergeshim are obviously more in the heart than in the brain, they must be expressed in the Avodah ShebaLev Zo Hi Tefillah. The daily Shemone Esrei must contain some way to reconnect to the Yomim Tovim and their spiritual charge.

So, I discovered that it does.

Pesach - Avodah

What are the feelings that we should exit Pesach with?

No question :
a) We are the Nation of Avdei Hashem (See end of Kerias Shema), and we long to serve Him.
b) Yearning for the Geula Sheleima.


Where is that? The Beracha of Avodah/Retze.

"Be favorable, Hashem our G-d, toward your people Israel and their prayer, and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of Your Temple. The fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept with love and favor, and may the service of Your people Israel always be favorable to You.

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion."

Succos - Hodaah

As the waning moments of Succos tick away, we are awash with a sense of gratitude to the Ribbono Shel Olam. We have gathered in our harvest, we have recalled the Ananei HaKavod protecting us.

What were the Ananei HaKavod?

To better answer this question, we'll ask another.

What is the point of mentioning all the journeys of Bnei Yisrael in the desert in Parshas Masei? (It's not even used as another list for elementary school kids to memorize)

Rav Avigdor Miller explains, that they are listed to underscore an amazing miracle. They travelled from, say, Miskah to Chashmona - and nothing happened! They are in the desert - snakes, scorpions, heat, cold, death. And none of this fazes Bnei Yisrael in the least. Why? Because they have the protective blanket of the Ananei HaKavod.
So on Succos, we reflect on how, Baruch Hashem, not too much happened, relatively speaking. We travelled from last Succos to this one - and we are alive! That's a miracle in and of itself. And if there's more to be thankful for - like still having your job, your children, your parents, your home, your spouse, everything you have - thank Hashem for it! Don't take it for granted!
Modim: "We gratefully thank You... Shield of our salvation from generation to generation. We shall thank You and relate Your praise - for our lives... for Your miracles which are with us every day; and for Your wonders and favors in every season... The Beneficient One, for Your compassions were never exhausted, and the Compassionate One, for Your kindnesses have never ended."
Shavuos - Sholom
By Sholom, I mean what we call Achdus.
"Vayichan Sham Yisrael Neged HaHar - Ke'Ish Echad BeLev Echad".
Or as Rav Saadya Gaon put it - "Our Nation is a Nation only by virtue of its Torah". What unites us a Nation is not Land, or genes, or culture. It is only under the banner of the Torah that we find true and ultimate Achdus.
Having sat through the night in the Beis Medrash with our fellow Jews, toiling over Gemara or hearing a Shiur, we feel like this is the elixir of life of our Nation - Torah.
Our pride, our depth, our wisdom, our heritage - Torah.
Sim Sholom: "Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and upon all of Your people Israel. Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Your countenance, for with the light of Your countenance You gave us, Hashem, our G-d, the Torah of life..."
Focusing on these thoughts in our daily Tefillos after the Yomim Tovim, is, I feel, the ticket to enabling these profound building blocks of our identity as Jews permeate our Neshamos and dictate our daily lives.
Good Shabbos.
* All translations are from the ArtScroll Siddur.
(Tip: You can save this Dvar Torah for next week, Parshas Emor, which relates to the Yomim Tovim.)

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