We have just entered the month of Elul. So much has been said and written regarding this time of year. Preparing for Judgment Day is never an easy task. No matter how many classes we attend and how many commitments one promises to make and keep throughout this coming year, somehow we always feel as if it’s the first time. We get very nervous and are not sure how to enter the new year.
I’ve mentioned many times in the past, that I live in Jerusalem in a beautiful neighborhood and pray in a beautiful synagogue. The reason the synagogue is so beautiful is because everyone is welcome in this shul. No matter how you look, no matter who you are, what race, what color, even what religion you came from. There are many converts in this shul and they all find love, connection and comfort in this beautiful place. It’s a true Chabad congregation, with a wonderful Rabbi who leads the congregation with so much love despite the large mix of people.
There is a lot of happiness and joy during the services each and every day and especially on Shabbat. The room is filled with people, and the atmosphere inside is electrifying, no matter what is going on outside. There is so much singing and dancing as the prayers are being recited especially on Friday night during Kabbalat Shabbat. I stand at the front of the shul and usually start dancing first, I then make my way from the front to the back of the synagogue encouraging all the women to get up and dance along with me. Some join, some sit and smile, and some absolutely refuse. This past week as I was dancing and gathering the women to dance with me, a thought suddenly came to my mind. I compared the dancing in shul to our hearts and to our connection to Hashem. I thought as follows; sometimes we jump up and want to dance. Sometimes we just smile and sometimes we absolutely do not want to join. However even the women who did not want to join, the mere fact that I was dancing so vigorously next to them and spreading my happiness around them, this action made its impact on their hearts even if all they did was sit and watch. The ones who smiled, and the ones who joined, obviously each one on a different level, were all sharing a part of the happiness that was spreading around. But also the ones who refused to dance were a part of the happiness as well. This parable of dancing and joining the dance or not is similar in my opinion to repenting and coming close to Hashem.
Sometimes we have a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and the ability to jump up and do exactly what Hashem wants from us. To obey and to go in His ways and simply do exactly everything it is that Hashem wants from us. However sometimes we are less able to jump right in. We might be feeling under the weather physically, emotionally, or spiritually, and all we can really do is give a small smile. Meaning all we can really do is make a small effort to come closer to Hashem and to connect. This too is accepted, just as a smile is accepted by someone looking at you and smiling back. And then we have the last category which is the person who absolutely refuses to take my hand when I reach out for them to dance. They seem to be saying, I have no connection to you and I would not like to join, leave me alone, I’m happy where I am. And those types of people are the ones who are a bit far from Hashem and do not feel or wish to be closer despite their holy neshama, which obviously wants to be close and connect to Hashem.
This Shabbat when I saw those women who refused to take my hands and tugged their arms back in denial, I thought to myself even those who do not want to dance are still affected by my happiness. My request to them to dance touches their hearts, and despite their rejection of my gesture they are still affected.
Hashem is constantly reaching out to us. Hashem is always happy, Hashem is always there joyful and dancing so to speak. Even when we are far from Hashem or refuse to take his gesture to come closer to him the mere fact that He reached His hand out to us, even if we did not take it, this gesture has an effect on our hearts and on our souls. Week after week as I reach my hands out to certain women who at first refused, they eventually soften and accept my gesture. The happiness wins and has an effect on them, eventually making them smile and at the end even standing up to dance with me. Hashem is the King, He is our father, Hashem wants to only do good for us and is always giving us good.
Rabbi Nachman tells a story about a king who wanted to give over his throne to his son during his lifetime. The king throws a very big party and invites everyone to the party where he’s going to give over his throne to his son. While at the party, the king tells his son that he will rise up to glory and then he shall fall. The king urges his son to be happy while he is king, and to also be happy when he falls from his throne. “If you will be happy as a king I will be happy as well, however I want you to be happy even when you fall. If you will be sad when you fall from your throne, I’ll be even happier because then I will know that you are not worthy to be king.” This message is explaining to us that even when we fall we need to be happy because that is part of our growth. If we realize this when we are down, we will be strong and happy and work our way back up to rise to be kings and queens again. The ones who dance with me in the synagogue and the ones who do not dance with me, are all different sides of ourselves in comparison to our connection with Hashem.
I, like everybody else, have many challenges in my life. This month which leads us into the new year, which leads us into Judgment Day, reminds me that sometimes I’m the dancer, sometimes I’m the one who just smiles back, and sometimes I’m the one who refuses to take the hand. Refuses to see that when I fall and feel so broken and hurt inside everything is from Hashem. He makes me a queen and sometimes He also sees that I fall. Hashem wants to know how I’m going to fall. Am I going to be sad when I fall? Am I going to give up? Am I going to reach my hand out to dance? To be lifted up and connected to Hashem?
In this month, may I see Hashem’s hand and everything that comes my way. In my downfalls, as hard as they may be, and as hurtful as they might feel, I will reach my hand out to Hashem. He will be happy and ask me to ‘dance and dance and dance’ till my pain goes away, till my worries disappear, till my faith reconnects to my Master, to the King. May Hashem, in just a few weeks on Rosh Hashana, see my gesture to take His hand and, figuratively, dance with Him as I stand before the court with all the deeds of the past year. May Hashem look at me and reach out His hand and grant me another year of health, happiness and joy to serve Him and to ‘dance’ with Him and all of Klal Yisrael in a full redemption, please G-d, this year. Amen.