It’s back to reality time. Neve began again after close to a month’s break (with little pockets of learning here and there between times. It felt good. For you Oldies but Goodies, there is also a simcha. Winkler is marrying off a son. For your even Older goodies, I just received an invitation from Cheryl Krohner telling me of her daughter’s forthcoming wedding). It’s so hard to let go of everything at once. Elul’s intensity, the confrontation with Hashem’s majesty of Rosh Hashanah, the white light of Yom Kippur and the pure sweetness of Succos. Here we are in real life, which is how in the end we like it.
How do you take it with you? There is so much going on - work, school, relationships and all of the surrounding issues. They can make you forget who you are and what you want. How do you hold on to what you really want to be part of your life? Perhaps the last holiday, Shemini Atzeret has the key. Its an unusual kind of holiday. I don’t just mean the difficulty in making your boss believe you when you assure him that you aren’t making it up, that its really on the calendar, and that you can’t come in to work. I mean even explaining it to yourself. What exactly are you celebrating? The Talmudic parable of a king who asks his children to stay “just one more day” is hard to understand. Why will staying another day help anything? In the end there is separation, and separation is painful. There are also no special ways of celebrating Shemini Atzeret. No matzah. No shofar. No succa.
The number eight is often used as a symbol of everything that’s out of the box, above nature and even beyond the range of what is symbolized by seven. Six is the surface of reality - the four sides and the top and bottom of any object. Seven includes inside, and of course the inside is where the spiritual meaning of the object in question really lives. Eight takes you above the object in question so that you can step out for a moment and see the picture, (and be in it at the same time). Shemini Atzeret literally means the eighth that stops. It says “halt”. Don’t keep putting more and more ingredients into the stew. Taste it, enjoy it.
The Torah gives you the information that you need to be sensitive both to this world and its meaning, beauty and purposefulness, and the world beyond this world, the world of 8, the world of everything miraculous.
Learn a little every day. Most of you can learn at least something every day. The most important thing about the learning that you choose to do is that you really love it, that it speaks to you. What you gain from learning is not just the information; it’s the connection.
I will end here, because I’m off to the Winkler wedding, but maybe some of you want to share what you do to bring some spiritual life into what you do on a daily basis. Some of you work, some of you are in school, and some of you are part of the rare species that is on the verge of extinction - the happy stay home mom.