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KEEPING TO YOUR SCRIPT
One of the biggest problems facing the Orthodox is not being able to feel closeness with G-d. “Rabbi, I want to feel the Yomim Tovim more, I want my Shabbat table to be more spiritual, I want my prayers to have more fire in them…”
We are talking about good, Orthodox Jews who are trying. People who really are close to G-d, who really are trying to be good Jews, but not feeling closeness, not feeling connected. It seems that feeling closer is obviously much deeper than doing something different. It seems to be more about being something different.
I would like to look at our role of serving G-d from a fresh perspective. I will call it “the Yom Kippur perspective”. There is a mitzvah to do teshuva every day of the year. What is special about the Teshuva of the Yomim Noraim, of the High Holidays?
The Teshuva that is to be made in these days is not just about what you have done. But about who you have become, and all that is a result. Yom Kippur is about doing Teshuva because you are not doing your Tafkid.
In the Viduy of Yom Kippur, we say something interesting. עד שלא נוצרתי איני כדאי. Before I was born, I had no worth. What? We are saying Viduy for how we were before our birth? What could we have possibly done wrong before we were born?
Before I was born, for almost 6000 years, my soul was waiting for this generation to be sent down by G-d. To be born into my family, with my parents and my siblings, into my community, and to be created the exact time I was created. At the precise, predetermined second. Your Neshama was destined to enter the world in exactly the minute it came, to exactly the parents you have and into the story that is specifically yours. Before I was born, I wasn’t ready to be born, for my destiny had not yet begun.
And this is what we say Viduy about. ועכשיו שנוצרתי כאילו לא נוצרתי. And now that I have been born, it is as if I had not been born. I was not worthy of being created by G-d until now, because before, I was not able to fulfill my tafkid. I could not bring G-dliness to the world, in my unique way, until today. And now that I have been created, I am looking around at everyone else, copying others’ ways of serving G-d, trying to be everyone else except myself! I waited so long to get on my unique stage for G-dliness, and I forgot the script!!! And now that I have been created, it is as if I have not been created.
This is the message of the story of Yonah, in its metaphoric version.(Vilna Gaon; Mishna Berurah 622 Sh. Tzi. 6) Each Jew comes down for a purpose; each soul is here on a mission. And sometimes, we try to run away from what we are supposed to be doing. And, when one runs away, G-d keeps sending the person back until the Tafkid is done.
How do we know what our soul’s mission is about? The Arizal taught his students that those things that you are having difficulty with are the reason you are here. And your Tafkid is for those things that you are needed for. We need to dedicate our lives to where we are needed most. We need to dedicate our energies to those areas in which we can make our unique contribution.
Sometimes, your “lot” is to be a “holy being”, something like the goat that is brought as a Korban for Hashem. And sometimes, your lot is to be like the “LaAzaze”l goat. To bring out G-dliness in what does not appear to be a G-dly way. I will explain.
Yom Kippur is the day that is like Purim. Purim is about Esther: a righteous woman who needed to be in the most impure places. To defile herself. That was her mission. That was what she was needed for, in order to save the Jewish Nation. And that is what her Rabbi told her to do. Purim is about Mordechai, a great Torah Scholar, one of the Gedolei Hador, from the head of Sanhedrin, who needed to sacrifice his high level of learning in order to save Klal Yisrael. Esther and Mordechai are the ultimate example of living your Tafkid. And sometimes in life, you think that you are being a tzaddik, but by not living up to your soul’s purpose, you can be this “passive-aggressive Haman”. עד דלא ידע בין ארור המן לברוך מרדכי.
Rabbi YY Rubinstein said, in the name of his Rebbi, something very powerful. We know that Reuven saved Yosef from his brothers, by putting him in the pit. Then, the brothers sat down to eat lunch, and during lunch, Shimon and Levi decided to kill Yosef. Yehuda saved Yosef by selling him. Reuven came back to the pit, and Yosef was gone. Reuven tore his clothes, and asked his brothers what they had done. And, now, how was he to face his father?
Rashi asks, where was Reuven at the time of the sale? Why did he disappear, when his brothers sat down for lunch? Because Reuven went to do his fasting, to clothe himself in sackcloth and ashes, for his hasty act of moving his father’s bed next to his mother, Leah’s, so many years earlier. He was doing his holy thing.
But, Reuven! You could have saved us all from 210 years of slavery in Egypt, had you just stayed there at the pit and watched over your brother! Had you not been busy doing Teshuva, but instead, had kept your eyes on your brother in the pit, you could have gotten forgiveness for your mistake from your father, just by being responsible and saving your brother Yosef’s life!! How many times do we not notice our “brother in the pit”, because we are too busy with our own lofty levels of spirituality?
What do Reuven and the brothers have to do with Yom Kippur? EVERYTHING! What are the words in Yom Kippur Mahzor, immediately before the words mentioned about the fact that we are not doing our Tafkid? כי אתה סולחן לישראל ומוחלן לשבטי ישורון For You are the One who forgives Yisrael, and You forgive the Tribes! Why are we mentioning the Tribes on Yom Kippur? Because we bring the sacrifice of a goat to remind us that the reason why we suffer so much is for not taking responsibility for each other and atone for that sin. The Tribes dipped Yosef’s striped coat in goat’s blood and brought it to their father Yaakov.
How can a person who is being so frum, so holy, be like a Haman? Well, I can’t think of something as aggressive as a Haman. But I can think of what would have happened if Esther had stayed away from Achashverosh. She could have let Haman do what he wanted to do. Because she was being holy. And the same could have happened if Mordechai would not stop his high level of continuous Torah study to guide Esther and take control of the situation.
So, how do we feel close to G-d? The Baal Shem Tov would say that if you want to speak to G-d, speak to the person who you have a hard time being nice to. Because G-d is right over his shoulder. שויתי יקוק לנגדי תמיד I will place Hashem opposite me always. The word לנגדי , the BSHT would say, is referring to the one opposite me, my opposition. But I would like to change that a drop, in line with the Arizal’s way of discovering our Tafkid. G-d is there wherever you have opposition in life. To fix the Middah that is hardest for you to fix. Jealousy. Self Centeredness. Lust. Anger. Our soul was sent to this world to fix that Middah that is hardest to fix, and if we do not, the Middah takes over our life. The Shofar is the acronym of the words שורש פורה ראש ולענה. The root of bad that is inside each and every one of us that if we do not uproot it it only gets worse. The Shofar blast is meant to wake us up and have us notice what we need to correct. No matter how many years we have been working on it, that is what we are here for. That is our Tafkid.
When you experience or encounter a difficulty in life, G-d is so close. He gave you that Tafkid. When you are facing a seemingly insurmountable difficulty, that is what G-d put us here for. Until you accept the fact that if you have no options, if you have difficulty, that is your Tafkid, the mission of your soul, until you humble yourself to the array of options that G-d puts in front of you, YOU WILL NEVER FEEL CLOSE. You might be very close to G-d, but you will not feel it, until you accept that your whole circumstance is part of your mission. And it is from that situation that G-d wants you to connect.