Breaking vs. Refining
I noticed a very interesting thing in one of the Yom Kipppur Piyutim we say tonight.
"We are like raw material in the hands of the creator... When he wants, he makes the vessel big, and when he wants, he makes it shorter (than normal)".
"We are like stones in the hands of the builder... When he wants, he carves them properly, and when he wants, he breaks them".
And so the Piyut goes on, first citing how the creator / builder / artist / captain, etc. (parable for Hashem) sometimes creates the vessel properly, and then citing how he can also break it / separate it from the fire / let go of the wheel / ruin it, etc...
The obvious question is, WHY WOULD HASHEM DO THAT? If our hearts are truly in His hands - as the Piyut suggests, why does he sometimes break us / let go of us / remove us from the fire, etc??
The answer lies in the LAST section of the Piyut. In the first 6 out of 7 sections, the good is always mentioned first, and then the bad is mentioned. But in the last part, the the order is suddenly switched around:
"We are like silver in the hands of a silversmith... We he wants, he leaves it unrefined (with impurities), and we he wants he REFINES it (in the fire).
In this last part, the BAD is mentioned first (unrefined), and the GOOD is mentioned last.
This is amazing! The author of this Piyut is telling us that all the times that we think Hashem is "letting go of the wheel" or "taking us away from the light" or "breaking us", etc.. it's really all to REFINE us, to PURIFY us and to help us use the experience of being thrown FAR from Hashem in order to make the effort to get CLOSE to Him.
The Piyut is telling us that all the seemingly "good" things (mentioned above) may leave us UNREFINED. If Hashem would always steer us on the straight path, always keep us "in the light", we would remain unrefined, with all our character defaults... At the end of the day, all our falls and struggles are really there to REFINE us.
So, as we do Teshuvah this Yom Kippur for all our shortcomings and falls, let us remember that Hashem is ultimately the one who ALLOWED us to fall in the first place. And he did this for ONE REASON ONLY: For days like today; for days like Yom Kippur. So that we can REFINE ourselves by GETTING BACK UP, by feeling the pain of being cut off from the LIGHT of our souls, and by using the darkness as a way to appreciate the LIGHT.
The falls of the whole year were not just mistakes that "happened". They serve the purpose of refining us, and instilling the holy day of Yom Kippur with SO MUCH MORE MEANING.
Because when we finally merit to truly FEEL the difference between light and darkness, it is at that point that we will be truly REFINED.