We’ve finally managed to put the last of the Sukkah decorations in the storage room, and the Sukkah wallsare safely stored in the basement. Our house is beginning to return to normal. We've even finished the leftovers, and will soon start cooking again.
The Holiday season is over.
But is it? Are we really finished with the High Holidays?
I certainly hope not, at least not completely. I, for one, hope that at least a part of the awe and joy that I felt these last three weeks will accompany me throughout the coming year, and help me to continue making the changes that I've so resolutely begun. We have accepted Hashem as our King. We've cleansed ourselves of our sins as we've returned to him in sincere teshuva. We've felt the joy of being close to the Almighty, and declared and shown our love of Torah. Now, we just have to bring those spiritual attainments into the real world, into our mundane lives.
That, in essence, is the real test, the barometer of the strength of our resolutions.
Change is difficult, and it is accomplished with small, baby steps. But if we've made a good start (and hopefully we have) then the battle is half won, as Rebbe Nachman
The key to everything is the way you start. All beginnings are difficult, because you are trying to turn things from one direction to the opposite direction. But once a start has been made, you begin to get used to the direction you are going in and things are no longer so hard. The level of awe and devotion a person attains each day depends on the way he starts. Every day you should go backwards, in the sense that you should always try and draw inspiration from the start, which was the hardest of all (Advice, Awe and Devotion 12).
These last few weeks we've had tremendous opportunity to attain wellsprings of inspiration to motivate us in continuing our quest towards becoming true "evdei Hashem," servant of the Almighty. We just have to recall those last few moment of Yom Kippur. We felt the gates closing as, with tremendous devotion, we declared that Hashem is our God and humbly submitted to His decree. How can we ever forget the overwhelming joy that we felt as we entered our Sukkah on the first night of the holiday, or the elation of dancing with the Sefer Torah on Simchat Torah?
But most people, myself included, quickly find themselves bogged down in the mundane reality of life. After all, the bills still have to be paid, the laundry done, the groceries bought… the list is endless. And of course, in real life most of us do not live up to the high ideals we set for ourselves during the holiday seasons.
But the change is still there. Yes, it's not as drastic as we had hoped it would be. But it still exists! Over the holidays we made a 180' turn -- and although we might have gone back 170' –we've still turned those 10', and if we continue, over the years we'll eventually succeed in making a complete 180' turn! The key lies in how earnest we are when we start out – and in continuing to draw inspiration from that beginning.
We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but we are on the correct path! With sincere, heartfelt prayers and, most important of all, lots of siyata d'Shemaya, we will succeed in making that turn, b'ezrat Hashem!