Don’t we all have different games hidden deep on their third screen or in their folder titled “transportation”? (Please tell me this is not just me!) We can fool ourselves and say that we just keep them on our phones for when we need to entertain a kid, but then we find ourselves on the carpool line or showing up a few minutes early to a meeting and we open up that game for a few blissful minutes of zoning out. Back in the day we would have Solitaire, Minesweeper or even Tetris on our desktop, so now we’re spoiled with all the games awaiting us on our smartphones.
Thinking about video game levels, I shared a theory/mashal with someone during the Yom Tov season, wondering whether new spiritual heights can be reached like new levels on a video game. Each time we get to a new level of a game, we immediately have an instinctive reaction as to how we will pass that level. Either we come up with a simple strategy so we can pass it right away, or something in our gut tells us we have no idea how we will pass it, that this is just too difficult, that this is the level that will end us. We will simply have to give up.
So often we are faced with challenges in our life that we are so confident we will power through in no time. And then the struggle is so intense, you have no idea how you ever thought you would figure out a solution. Conversely, sometimes we have challenges that we think we will have forever, and then everything seems to work out and the pieces all just fall into place.
For the past couple of weeks we have all been inordinately focused on the Yom Tov season, but now we’re back to our regularly scheduled routines. Most people around me are really excited to get back into the swing of things and even wouldn’t mind some cooler weather. While we spend so much time thinking about what we will daven for before, now it’s time to really wonder what spiritual heights will be attained, as has been determined for us just a few days ago.
Just days before Yom Kippur, our world was shaken up with the tragic loss of Ari Fuld. One of the many quotes from Ari, Hy”d, was “If life is easy, you are living it wrong.”
What does that really mean? Should we specifically over-complicate our lives? No; definitely not. (This is why I have my groceries delivered when the weather is bad.) But we can have a new perspective on the hardships we are facing. As we sat and prayed on Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabba for certain aspects of our lives to change and others to stay exactly the same, Hashem was busy confirming what would really be the best for us. If we thought it was hard to figure out what to actually ask for, it seems infinitely harder to accept why it might appear that some tefillot and bakashot have certainly been answered, while others just seem to have been ignored by Hashem when we had such positive intentions. So many times in our lives we have heard “Hashem knew you could handle [insert challenging situation here].” My chortling response would often be that I wish Hashem would think a little less of me and maybe then I would just get to coast my way through life, just for once. But as we embark on the new year, maybe we can take all that faith we worked on developing and truly put it in to practice.
One of the many beautiful drashot and shiurim I heard over Yom Tov culminated with this point by Rabbi Glasser of the Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton. First we spend an immense amount of time connecting to Hashem through prayer and really developing so much trust that we go out into our sukkah. A sukkah represents our complete faith in Hashem; we leave the security and comforts of our homes and choose to live outdoors where we don’t know what to expect, but accept that we will be taken care of. But then we go back into our homes and have to face the reality of our lives without the intensity of Hashem’s presence as we felt during the Yomim Noraim. And that’s when it gets hard, but that’s when we get to do the work to make it great and reap the benefits.
Recently, a friend made a decision in her life that would make certain aspects of her life incredibly complicated and physically demanding, but ultimately would have incredibly long-lasting effects on her family. At first, I couldn’t understand why she was making this choice. Weeks later, I can see the positive effect the decision had on her family and how it was totally worth all the hardship to get to that place. Of course we all want to be able to know for sure how we are going to pass each challenge we will face. Sometimes we will fly through unexpectedly and sometimes it will shlep and shlep for what appears to be no reason at all. We know this year can be full of challenges that will ultimately lead to fulfillment, growth and simcha because we know that Hashem has given us the strength to get to the next level. So here we go!
By Rachel Zamist
Rachel Zamist has lived in the Passaic community for the past 32 years and has watched it grow and transition. She is the beaming mother of Mimi, a seventh-grade student at Rachel’s own alma mater, YBH.