Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Rendezvous in Space and Time

We, in exile, begin tonight a rare, twice a year, opportunity to commune with The Divine, a rendezvous in space and time. As you may or may not know, Pesach and Sukkos begin and end with holy days, which serve as bookends for the middle days which are called Chol Hamoed, and it is those days that I refer to. We find one other seemingly different circumstance in which the term moed is used: Ohel moed, which was the tabernacle or tent of meeting, in which the Torah tells us the Divine presence rested while the Jews traveled in the wilderness on their way to the Promised land.

Yet, I would contend, that their commonality is incredibly profound. Our sages teach us that a main goal in our short sojourn on this world should be to sanctify time and space, and to dedicate all that we do to elevating all that is given to us. But the essence of Judaism asks us to go one step further: We need to consider that just as the A-lmighty created and manifests His dominion over space, He created and rules over the dimension of time, as well. With this perspective, we can begin to think differently, to consider that both time and space overlap in a very quantum way. As Jews, this manifests in the following ways: first, we are taught that every event which occurs at a given time of year, leave an imprint and affects us, even if it occurred hundreds or even thousands of years ago. The Kabbalah teaches that the "light" from earlier events is accessible and shines during times of meeting, moadim. Second, we need to realize, that just as our actions leave an imprint upon the world, as significantly, our use of time leaves a mark upon the world as well. Third, from a medical perspective, we need to realize that not only does our use of time impact the world, but it impacts our bodies and souls as well!

Which brings me back to Chol Hamoed. Chol Hamoed, (the intermediate days of the Festivals) literally means the mundane or secular of the Divine convocation. The root of the hebrew word chol is chalal, which means a void or a hollow space. We acknowledge a similar void or emptiness when we make havdallah after Shabbos and declare the dramatic contrast between the light of Shabbos and the darkness of the week, with the statement, Baruch Hamavdil bain kodesh lechol (Blessed is the One who distinguishes between that which is holy and that which is mundane). It is, therefore, our task in each coming week, to attempt to fill that void. How do we understand though, the "void" between the two festivals: in our case, one commemorating the open G-dly revelation and deliverance from Egypt, and the other commemorating the splitting of the Red Sea? The holy Zohar give us some direction: It compares Chol Hamoed to the moon, which, although it has no light of its own, mirrors the brilliant rays of the sun. The "void" of Chol Hamoed, therefore, is filled in by the exquisite reflected light of the festivals that surrounds it. Our sages view Chol Hamoed with such reverence, that they tell us, "One who (looks lightly upon and) shames Chol Hamoed is considered like an idol worshiper" and ..."has no share in the World to Come!" Why such strong language? Because our sages needed us to reflect upon the awesome holiness contained within these days, (and not fall prey to the temptation of viewing Chol Hamoed as just intermediate vacation days) which contain powerful reflected light, a light that if we connect to it, will give us a unique opportunity to feel G-dliness, almost like our forefathers in the wilderness! And just as the generation in the wilderness, was protected much like a fetus in its mothers womb, so too, Chol Hamoed can have a wonderful impact on our health and well being, enabling us to feel G-d's presence. And just like Shabbos is a rare opportunity to free ourselves, body and soul from the slavery and idol worship of technology, so too, Chol Hamoed, gives us that opportunity. So if we dress like it's still Pesach, we eat like it's still Pesach, and we refrain from doing activities or work which distract us from the bliss of being in the presence of The King, we take advantage of a most wonderful opportunity. Try it, and see if it works.

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