Embracing Challenges

Rabbi Zvi Teichman

For a Jew the journey from awe to joy is a short trip. We just cried our hearts out, appealing for a favorable judgment, and in just five days we will be dancing with joy.

Are we so confident to think we effected a full repentance that we deserve to celebrate? 

Is it merely our confidence in G-d’s verdict, that no matter the outcome, we accept our fate with joy?

There is a perplexing Midrash that reports how Iyov complained about his suffering and was only consoled, when he was shown by G-d, a Sukkah consisting of two [perpendicular] halachic walls and the third consisting of only a tefach, [spaced slightly within three tefachim, of one of those walls]. 

What secret to overcoming pain is encrypted within the image of this Sukkah?

There was a family that had the custom during the meal to break the fast after the inspired but long and arduous day of Yom Kippur, to go around the table and ask each member to share their highlight during the prayers of that day. Each child would point out their ‘moment’. For some it was Kol Nidrei, others during ‘Vidui’, perhaps U’Nesaneh Tokef, and for many it was Neilah.

One daughter though never contributed to the conversation in all her years at home.

When she graduated High School, she approached her father telling him she had something very personal to share.

Tears were already streaming down her face as she confessed to her father that she was embarrassed by what she was about to reveal. 

“Do you know why on all those Motzei Yom Kippurs I never shared my ‘special moment’? Because it was extremely difficult for me to fast, as you know. I always feel terrible, with a pounding headache. The most cherished moment for me — spiritually that is — is when I take that first cold drink after Havdalah and taste some delicious cake. I feel relieved and liberated and am grateful to Hashem Who bestows His abundance of good, and only commanded us to fast one day a year, and even forgives pathetic little me who rejoices when the fast is over.

“During these instances I feel an overwhelming closeness to Hashem, Who alleviates after difficulty, and does not demand from me more than I can handle. It is as if a gate opens for me after it has closed for everyone else!”

Her father calmed his bawling daughter, warmly validating her feelings. He affirmed how every good moment is special, and her ability to frame it and sense closeness to Hashem is so special and admirable.

He explained to her how everyone has their limitations, and how truly remarkable it was that she took a moment to lighten the load to a spiritual place. He added how fortunate and remarkable it is that there is a young Jewish woman who can open doors in heaven even while for all others they are closed! (המודיע וילך תשפ”ג- מגזין קראט)

The Holy Arizal taught that the minimum size Sukkah — two walls at a right angle, with a small wall of a tefach jutting at a right angle forming the beginning of third wall — is reminiscent of an arm extended with the intention to embrace another within it. This he says is the fulfillment of the sentiment expressed in Shir Hashirim, וימינו תחבקני — and his right hand would embrace me.

Iyov struggled and was frustrated. But when this image/message was revealed to him, he fathomed that amidst the difficulties we must learn to hurdle over and appreciate, there are precious moments of revelation of G-d’s kindness and love that are to be treasured and cherished.

Even as we cry from the lack of clarity in appreciating our challenges fully, we can still open a door to Hashem’s love and warmth.

So, even though we may have not quite reached the levels of repentance we yearn to achieve, we can still relish and joyously celebrate those moments of being in the warm and understanding embrace of Hashem!

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