15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
 
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Chai    

Chai



Each second is an opportunity to draw nearer to Hashem and to repent for the errors of the past. Dark can be a springboard to illuminated greater heights…

 



When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for the best, this is a taste of the world to come. (Likutay Moharan)

Time is so fleeting. Before you can utter the word ‘second’, it has already passed, never to return, and a new second has taken its place. How quickly minutes become hours which turn into weeks followed by years. When our days on earth have ended, we must account for every second. Save for the righteous few, who can truthfully answer that they have not wasted countless precious time? Were our hours devoted solely to serving HaShem or did we squander much of the time allotted to us?
 
Reflecting on different phases of my life, I envision them as different lifetimes. My youth and first few years of marriage, including the first blessings of parenthood were all accomplished with G-d’s help of course, but the recognition imparted to Him was not a top priority. Instead, the world as we knew it revolved around self-gratification and material ambitions.
 
Entry into the world of Shabbat and Mitzvot was another stage which brought with it a heightened awareness of His presence and fulfilling His Will, but devotion was still intertwined with fulfilling our own will as part of the package. Attending shul (synagogue) services and going to shiurim (Torah Lessons) significantly entered the picture, but there was still the occasional movie, baseball game, small talk and loshon hora on the side.
 
Making aliya, despite the admirable objective of spiritual pursuits and to dwell in the Holy Land of our Forefathers, began as a fiasco which caused many more trials and tribulations than the anticipated joy. While we were still observant as required by the Letter of the Law, our thoughts, speech and actions were far from lofty. We suffered greatly as the verse in Vayikra (Leviticus 18:25) which states “the land vomited out her inhabitants”. Thank G-d, we were able to hold on and learn from our mistakes before it was too late. I understand now that HaShem was just trying to shake us up and I am thankful for all the hardships which befell us. After so many years in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), we have finally internalized what it means to merit living in The Land (And may HaShem find us worthy to remain here). With continued guidance from our Rabbis, with HaShem’s help and a lot of hard work, this juncture in our lives will, G-d willing, lead to more insight and clarity.
 
This August marks 18 years since we made Israel our home. Since there is no such thing as coincidence, I believe that the eighteenth year holds more significance for us than just a number. In the system of gematria, the numerical value of 18 is assigned to Hebrew word Chai (חי) which literally means ‘live’. In our case, it has taken almost 18 years in Israel to finally comprehend what true living really entails. Until recently, we were simply going through the motions.
 
Many of us know the symbol Chai as one which is worn on a chain as a necklace. Because of the association of the number 18 with ‘life’, it has become common practice in Jewish circles to give 18 or multiples of 18 as a gift or donation. The word Chai, as a root word, is evident in common expressions in Judaism such as ‘l’chaim’ (to life) and names such as Chaim, or Chaya. But if we probe even deeper, we will find that Chai is the core of our very foundation of life, Eitz Chayim, Tree of Life, a metaphor for our Holy Torah. In Bereshit (Genesis 2:9) within the description of Creation, it states G-d formed “the tree of life also in the midst of the garden”.
 
To live in the Land of Israel, and be void of the very essence of life, Torah and mitzvot, is like no life at all. The darkness which shrouds existence without Torah can be stifling, yet innumerable people don’t even realize that they are lacking the spiritual oxygen their Neshamas (souls) crave. Only when they sink to such depths of anguish do they gasp for lifesaving air. If we heed the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, may his memory be a blessing, there is no reason for despair since each day one has the opportunity for renewal. Each second brings an opportunity to draw nearer to HaShem and to repent for the errors of the past. Being in the dark is actually a springboard to uplift you to greater heights, toward the healing Light. Like giving birth, we must experience the excruciating pain of labor in order to receive the miraculous blessing of a new life. Just at that moment when it is all you can bear, the Creator of Life brings forth your precious gift. So too, in our quest to be a new and holier person we must often undergo a most difficult transition period. 
 
Eighteen years wasted, Chai, is an incalculable loss. But since we can’t bring back time which has vanished, all we can do is admit our mistakes, ask HaShem to forgive us and endeavor to do better. We rekindle our emuna daily with a fresh acceptance of the truth, as each prayer we utter and each mitzvah we undertake brings us closer to rectification. And as we constantly struggle to bring each mundane action to fruition only for the sake of Heaven, we also aspire to pass the torch to our children. HaShem may be hidden from our sight, yet if we yearn for Him with every heartbeat and each breath, His Brilliance will shine down on us and illuminate our path.
 
Since Chai represents life, it is not surprising that the Yahrtzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev occurs on the 18th of Tishrei. Rebbe Nachman exemplified Divine service to HaShem and undertook the exalted task of spreading his wisdom, that of the true Tzaddik, to others. He sprinkled the physical world with sparks of Holiness during his brief stay on earth; his words continue to nourish the lives of all those who are fortunate enough to discover them. As more and more people grow closer to HaShem through his teachings so many years later, we can surely understand what Rabbi Nachman meant when he said, “My fire will burn until the coming of Moshiach,”
 
Use your time wisely and one day soon, G-d willing, the flicker of Chai will glow for eternity.




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