“How could there be tears?” he demanded of himself. “The nights in the succah (temporary dwelling) had been so joyous! The children, the song, the love, the life… And the sense that the spiritual and the physical truly connected – as the spirits of the giants of humanity, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob joined in the celebration.”
But the tears continued to fall – determined to ignore the joy that was so powerful and pronounced a few hours earlier.
And the tears were real – born from measurable pain and ongoing fear – that even the holiday of happiness couldn’t dispel.
They came from places that couldn’t be ignored:
Financial fear and concern – with few prospects in sight for improvement…
A health challenge that wouldn’t become the unrecognized stranger it had been until just recently…
The separation with another which wasn’t yet rectified – and seemed it might never be…
Although often quoted and clichéd – time hadn’t changed things. The weeks and months moved forward, yet the reality remained stubbornly entrenched. In fact, from time to time the challenges renewed themselves with layers of complexity that made the holes deeper.
“Is there something wrong with me?” the young man wondered. “Shouldn’t I be able to look past my pain and immerse in the joy of my life?” “The elements of joy certainly outweigh those that encourage tears… Can’t I be stronger?”
The answer is No. By design.
Man was not meant to shoulder life alone. The design of humanity and his universe established that man would sometimes be subject to the elements of existence shouting at him, and that shouting would get louder and louder – reaching a level that would exceed his strength, his perseverance and his wisdom. And it was determined that the shouting would not be selective -it would be unleashed at all men (and women) more than one time in life.
In fact, at certain times, there would be several voices shouting at once.
It was established as well, that the tone of the shouting would be piercing – with the power to break the individual if he or she would allow.
And to the man on the bench, and all of the rest of us whom are subject to this shouting, the holiday of happiness would only add to the shouting, and burden us with something we couldn’t feel – despite our belief in the life giving value of joyfulness.
In life, the cure precedes the pain – the treatment is endowed before the illness.
So for this young man, and for you and me – we have Shemini Aseret, the holiday of eight. This holiday is a single day that stands as tall as the many outstanding days that preceded it, with a message that encircles all that preceded it.
The holiday of eight is stripped of all symbolism – demanding that man stand unadorned before himself and his Maker, and re-learn a paramount reality:
That he is not, nor will he ever, be alone.
Shemini Aseret, the holiday of eight, is the testimony that:
- There is a Higher Power.
- That Power is in my life, by my side, allowing me to connect to Him. This, despite the fact that He is infinite and I am tiny. He is perfect and I am struggling each day to become better. He is in a reality that has no dimension or time and I grow closer to my end each day – as I am pushed further from my beginning.
- This relationship is unconditional. When I fail – He will be there. When I fail on the same issue again – He will be there still. And when I repeat the failure again – although I attempted to step away from it – He remains there – steadfast in His belief in me. He knows me better than I know me, and is not surprised by my failures, only affirmed by my successes.
This is the message of the holiday of eight. The perspective we must be certain of in this lifetime is much greater than death and taxes – it is an inseparable relationship with a Being within whom all began and all exists.
So it is no surprise that the day after Shemini Aseret, the holiday of eight, we dance as we carry the written testament to the reality that we are not alone.
For the young man on the park bench, for you, and for me, the shouting may continue but the joyfulness will pierce through – and life will be happy. There is no greater strength, nor is there a greater facilitator of joy, than knowing: “I am not alone!”