Beat the Blues
A group of professionals were debating which of their occupations was the first to exist:
The builder said that the builder was the first craftsman to walk the world. "Someone had to help Noah build the ark."
The surgeon said that the builder was a couple of hundred years too late. "After all, who performed the surgery on Adam's rib?" he argued.
The anesthesiologist countered that a member of his profession must have preceded the surgeon, in order to sedate Adam in preparation for the surgery.
The engineer argued that before the world was created there was Chaos. It certainly took an engineer to bring order to the Chaos.
That's when the politician said, "and who do you think created the Chaos?"
The festivities are over.
No more endless gourmet meals gathered around the table with family and friends, no more mornings and nights in the synagogue, singing and dancing, fasting and praying, hearing the shofar's call. No more spending hours outdoors, reveling in the sukkah and the joy of the holidays.
The month of Tishrei is over, and with it, the Jewish holiday season. After spending a month moving from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur to Sukkot to Simchat Torah, we find ourselves in the month of Cheshvan. Dreary, boring Cheshvan, with nary a holiday in sight. It is easy to get the post-holiday blues. We've just spent a month immersed in spirituality and holiness, praying and rejoicing. Who can think about going back to plain old life?
Turns out, in this week's Parshah, Noah was thinking much the same thing. Here's the story: G-d brought a flood that destroyed most of the earth but wanted to save all living things so the world could start anew afterwards. So Noah built an ark and went in with his wife and family and a sample of every living thing on earth. For a full year, these creatures, man and every type of beast, cohabited in the ark. And then the flood waters finally receded and Noah knew that the land was dry. But did he leave the ark? Was there a massive stampede as all the animals tried to get out of that little boat and out onto the wide open lands?
No. In fact, though it was clear to all that it was now safe to leave the ark, everyone stayed put, until finally, G-d issued an explicit command to leave the ark.
The Chassidic Masters explain that the atmosphere in the ark was infused with the spirit of the Messianic era. Peace reigned between all creatures, and there was a heightened holiness palpable to all. Those in the ark were, in a sense, living in Messianic times. Of course they did not want to leave. Just as we do not want to leave the spiritual heights of Tishrei.
But they had to leave. G-d told Noah, "Leave the ark." Living in a box of holiness is wonderful, and for that allocated time, necessary. But that's not the point. The point of it all is to take the holiness out of its box and bring it into real living. Noah had to exit the Ark and take his inspiration to rebuild a shattered world; take that Messianic experience and work so that it would be sustainable not just in an ark but would permeate all existence.
The month of Tishrei is our ark. It is suffused with holiness, peace, and spirituality. But it's not the end-all. Next comes the month of Cheshvan and the rest of the year, with its work and routine and regular living--and it's our job to take the spirit of Tishrei and with it uplift it all. Tishrei is a time set apart for sanctity; the challenge is to bring that sanctity into the rest of the year, to allow it to infuse our mundane existence.