Thoughts from the Heart

by Steve (See all authors)

Dear GYE Family,

I hope everyone had an easy fast and a meaningful and uplifting Yom Kippur. Now as we move from the Yemei HaDin (which were also Yemei HaSimcha) into the days of Z'man Simchaseinu, I'd like to share a few thoughts with the chevra, which have special significance in our personal shared struggles with sobriety and lust.

1) This Yom Tov cycle has a lot of parallels to a chasunah. On Rosh Hashanah we make Hashem our King (Step 2), and we develop the first bond of marriage to him, like Keddushin, the giving of the ring. On Yom Kippur, we solidify our commitment to His Malchus by making ourselves His complete servants (Step 3 - BTW, on Yom Kippur we do it out of Fear, and on Purim we do it out of Love). This is like Nessuin, the marriage ceremony under the Chuppah. Comes Succos, this is like the Sheva Yemei HaMishteh, the days of Sheva Berachos, with our 7 Ushpizin who each in turn give us our Sheva Berachos, and the Succah continues our "under the chuppah" experience. Each day we have a new opportunity to grow closer to Hashem and fill ourselves with more awareness of His presence and protection in our lives (Step 11).

Then comes Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. The Wedding Week is over, the fanfare is gone, the guests have all gone home, and this day marks the Beginning of the new life of the Chassan and Kallah, together, alone, and enjoying each other's company in complete joy and union. It is a Spiritual Union, filled with great intimacy, and we dance with the kallah (the Torah) and rejoice in our good fortune to be married to such a wonderful partner in Life. And we know that Chazal have given us plenty of direction in trying to keep that flame of excitement and commitment to the Torah alive throughout the coming months of winter, until we are rejuvenated again in Chodesh Nissan.

For those of us in the chevra who are married, this parallel to Shemini Atzeres/Simchas Torah is especially poignant. We may remember the awkward days of our first "quiet week" of marriage, after the last sheva beracha, when we still had to keep separated from our wives because of Hilchos Ishus. Yet THAT is when our ikkar simcha with our kallah was to take place! A SPIRITUAL union, completely divested from any physical contact and personal physical pleasure that could cloud the issue at hand - developing a closeness of intimacy with each other's neshamos. The IKKAR, the main point of the union with our spouses, should be this - and it behooves us to always remember it. B"H, we have Hilchos Niddah, designed to rekindle that intimacy monthly by allowing ourselves to step back from our physical needs and strengthen our bonds by GIVING entirely of ourselves, without the expectation of physical "pay back."

But too many of us have forgotten, and misunderstand this cycle, and selfishly think of these 11 days as a black spot on each month, as if our wives or Hashem are punishing us: they've taken our pacifier out of our mouths!

Let us resolve now, at the beginning of our new year, to treat our wives with the same respect and spiritual intimacy we had or should have had in the first week after the Sheva Berachos. Let's use the Blessing of each month's cycle to have EXTRA patience, love, and caring for our life's partner, and rejoice in the great gift that Hashem has bestowed upon us.

2) Many of us are now in the heated search for that "perfect Lulav and Esrog." My dear friends, look into the halacha and see what is me'akev, and don't pasul what's kosher. You can add hiddurim all you want, but don't think something is not kosher if it doesn't have the hiddurim you want. AND WE SHOULD APPLY THIS no less to our relationships with other Jews. Let's not judge our fellow Yidden microscopically - especially NOW, after Yom Kippur, when we asked Hashem not to use a microscope to look at us. LOVE him as yourself! Don't pasul him, don't resent him, just because he's not following YOUR chumros. He's our Brother, she's our Sister.

And let's not dehumanize our sisters, let's not objectify them into eye-candy for our own selfish needs. Let's think of her as someone's Wife, Daughter, and my own Sister, a fellow Yid, a fellow Human Being, who deserves my respect and compassion. This works for me, especially on Yom Tov when everyone is dressed at their best: remembering that the "first look" is on Hashem's cheshbon, that's when I notice that they are there. The "second look" is on MY cheshbon, so it is up to ME to use the Program's Spiritual Tools to avoid the second look/stare/glare/leer/froth- at-the-mouth-and-blabber. I avoid needing to look again (this time with a lust motive) by closing my eyes and saying at that moment to Hashem: "Please remove the urge and obsessive desire to look again from me at this moment. Give me of Your Strength to remember this girl/woman is a Heilegeh Bas Yisroel, a future progenitor of future generations of erhliche Yidden, she is working to perfect her neshama and come close to her Creator, and she is my Sister." I can daven that she and her family be blessed with Kedusha and Taharah. Hashem takes the urge away, and I have increased my own chesed in the world. It's a real WIN-WIN!

In these ways we can increase our V'Ahavta L'Rei'echa Komocha, our Ahavas Yisroel, and be zoche to the fullest berachos of the coming year, may it be soon filled with dancing and rejoicing with Moshiach Zidkeinu, b'mihara b'yomeinu. Amen.

Have a GREAT and MEANINGFUL Yom Tov!