Now that Succot and even Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are behind you, you may want to ask yourself what you can take with you for the rest of the year. It's too easy to just file away the passion of Elul and the High Holidays.
Most of your life, like everyone else's, is replete with events that you will barely remember in a few days. You went to work, drove home (or road the subway or bus), ate dinner, had some (hopefully) blessedly undramatic conversation with your friends or your family. You learned, prayed, loved others, gave charity, waited, endeavored, and will do the same as long as G-d gives you the strength to continue. Will any of it be recorded in The History of the Twenty First Century? Probably not. Most of your life significant because it is really all about being. You have to respond to situations as they arise; some of them are joyous, some are tragic, and the vast majority are somewhere in the middle. Hashem selected each situation. He gave you whatever you need to make the person you will be at the end of your story fulfilled and actualized.
The last days of Succot give you insight into how to take the light and beauty of the holidays with you. All of the other holidays on the Jewish calendar commemorate events that happened. Pesach commemorates the exodus (and lets you reconnect to its very essence). Shavuos connects you to the day that the Torah was given, and each of us heard G-d's voice. Rosh HaShanah brings you back to the creation of the first human, the who gave meaning to the creation of the world itself. Yom Kippur celebrates the fact that G-d declared that He forgives us (after the sin of the golden calf). Succos takes us back to the restoration of the clouds of glory that surrounded our ancestors in the desert, and the succot that we dwelled in for close to forty years. Shmini Atzeret commemorates nothing. No "event" is its core. It doesn't sensitize you to what G-d did and does. It sensitizes you to what He is, and how profound and unchanging His love for us really is. It's about being, not about doing.
I can't help thinking about the events of last Motzei Shabbos. A couple visited their parents on a street called Chomah Shlishit, which is in one of the charming mini-neighborhoods between Meah Shearim and the walls of the Old City. It is presently an enclave of Breslover Chassidim (some of you might know Yehudis Golshevski who recently moved from there to another area). They were headed to the Kotel. They entered via the Damascus Gate (Shaar Shchem), the hub of the Arab Quarter. Normally on a holiday it is safe; the hundreds of visitors and the heavy police presence makes it very different than the ‘Do Not Enter’ abyss of hostility that is its norm. As they walked through the main street (HaGai) they passed the alley leading to Lion's Gate, which is one of the entrances to Har HaBayis. An Arab jumped the husband and attacked him with his knife. His wife began to scream. None of this is relevant to what you need to know to take the headset of the holidays to your real life. Read on.
When Nechemia Lavi, who heard the screams, he was in his succah. He had just finished a dvar Torah. He spoke about how only two commandments involve your entire body; dwelling in the Succah, and immersing in the mikveh. I don't know what was next on the menu-maybe it was ice cream, maybe fruit salad. Whatever it was, it was never eaten. Lavi grabbed his gun, and ran out to the darkness of the shuk. For our purposes, this is the only relevant part of the story.
Whether or not he would succeed in saving anyone (he didn't) and whether or not he would safely return to his family (ditto), he responded to the situation that G-d put in his access with courage, nobility, and compassion. That's what's life for.
When you have to deal with "stuff", you may make the kind of mistake that most of us do. You think that it is all about doing. Did you finish the report? Get the stove clean? Tell a few stories? Resist the temptation to daydream at the water cooler instead of working? Smile at someone who is socially awkward and will remain socially awkward? This is what being is made of. If you can stay in touch with the fact that your deepest (and scarcely describable) inner self wants to find connection with the Source of all Being, your life has more meaning, instead of just a kaleidoscope of pleasure, pain, friendship, jealousy, love, resentment achievement and failure that just doesn't hold together.
Have a wonderful, meaningful winter!