Friday, October 28, 2016

After the Holidays

Rabbi Dov Berl Wein

There always is an emotional and even physical letdown that people experience immediately after the departure of the glorious holiday-laden month of Tishrei. Here in Israel the daylight hours become shorter, especially with the change of the clock to wintertime. The blessing of the rainy season begins to manifest itself, and it is time for flu shots and other such joys. And since this year of 5774 is a leap year, the winter season will be a month longer than it has been for the past two years.

When I was a student in the yeshiva long ago, my beloved teachers and mentors would encourage us by reminding us that we now had an extra month to our winter semester and could and should therefore accomplish so much more in our Torah learning. The truth be said, not all of us budding scholars took the matter and encouragement to heart.

But our teachers did realize that after the month of holidays we all did need a kick start to really get going. The memories of the holidays, the inspiration and meaning of the prayer services, the sense of family and well being, all are the fuel to help us get going. But the recharging of our batteries for a successful winter is an individual project that requires will and devotion, focus and stamina. The task is not beyond our capabilities. However it does require strength of mind and purpose and an optimistic outlook.

It is a well-known psychological phenomenon that weather; the amount of sunlight present, rain, clouds and other such factors definitely influence human mood and attitude. I always found it interesting that the Torah has very little to say about weather. It mentions that our father Avraham sat outside his tent in the heat of the day but it does not record for us generally how hot the Middle East is much of the year.

It does not recognize nor seem willing to accommodate the human mood swings that the change of seasons brings on. Humans are the most adaptable of all creatures, living all over the globe, in frost and heat, rain forest and desert. No other living creature can do so. It is part of God’s blessing to humans to fill the earth and conquer it. Humankind has fulfilled that blessing and challenge admirably over the millennia of our existence.

It is one of the myriad wonders of creation that are part of our daily existence. The Talmud does deal with one weather condition, though mainly in relationship to the rainy season in Israel and the necessity and efficacy of prayers to ward off the scourge of drought from our blessed but arid country. Pretty much the Jewish view was and is that weather is up to Heaven and therefore prayer and perseverance are the only weapons that we humans possess in dealing with it.

Since the Land of Israeli lies on a geological fault line, earthquake tremors are often felt here. In the Bible we read of a large-scale earthquake that occurred in First Temple times, and in the early nineteenth century the city of Safed was leveled by a major earthquake. But no worries my friends, this year is going to be a great and serene one.

I am traveling to Brazil and the United States for most of this month. The pressure of fund-raising for Destiny Foundation is a constant and worrisome one for me but I am fairly well accustomed to it by now. Destiny has in place a number of Conversation programs for the forthcoming good and healthy winter months. They include conversations in Israel with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Professor Robert Aumann among others. This month there is also a conversation program in New York with Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D. of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, Rabbi Paysach Krohn and me. The secret of overcoming after-holiday blues is to keep busy with constructive projects and productive works.

That really is basically the secret of life itself, for it was for these purposes that we were created. There are many distractions in life and pettiness abounds everywhere. We should not be frustrated and depressed by these. The distance between where we were spiritually in the month of Tishrei and where we are spiritually today may be significant. Yet we should never despair of our abilities to improve and succeed in every facet of human living. The goodness that we harvested during Tishrei will stand us in good stead all year long. Onward and upward!

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