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BINA Beis Medrash

This week’s classes:

Sunday, July 21
Sunday Morning Beis Medrash
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00AM
Chaburah
BINA Beis Medrash
Starts 8:00PM

ARE WE THERE YET (REDUX)? AND OTHERQUESTIONS THAT ELUL RAISES

Airports are at one and the same time busy, crazy, stressful, hectic, and maybe (!) even enjoyable. But when was the last time you got to the airport and…stopped? Stopped to breathe and take in the scene around you – the people, the planes, the over-priced bottle of water, and yes, even the line that you are about to join. We are mostly one of two travelers: early at the gate and champing to get on board; or slow to board and with all the time in the world. This divergence highlights that the airport holds many lessons for us – as we look around learn, and pay attention. As a case in point, when was the last time you stopped and thought about your suitcase? Yes, your bag! Strange as it seems, this is what happened in 1970 when a trio of Yidden thought about this and reinvented our world: Stuck in an airport lugging his trunk through the terminal, Bernard Sadow saw airport workers effortlessly rolling a heavy machine on a wheeled skid and realized that there is a better way –wheels on suitcases which he promptly patented (and for gents called Schwartz and Levy from Macy’s to start selling his innovation).


If you have read this far, you are probably wondering, what does luggage have to do with Rosh Hashana; or what does stopping have to do with or the auspicious chagim that we now face in Tishrei? There are easy “lowhanging fruit” answers relative to the many double entendres we could explore from our “luggage” and the mussar relative to Rosh Hashana. After all, as Rav Yisroel Salanter zt“l tells us, the disorders (awakening) that the shofar in Elul causes is only sufficient if we pay attention to it and hear what that message is telling us – that we need to be open to the shofar to be inspired and elevate how we serve Hashem to a higher level, and that this comes through learning mussar – that for most of us the shofar can only help to inspire us to start working on ourselves through the time tested series of limmud hamussar and tikkun hamiddos and maasim. But that would be the easy way out – I mean, it is like a Rav looking around and ending his drosha talking about thege’ulah and our part in bringing Moshiach. Too easy.


Rather, stopping to think about such mundane things as the wheels on your bag really highlights for us that the key to our Elul journey into Tishrei is the Bina (I had to add the shameless plug in a BINA publication…) that comes from Teshuvah and the bitachon that provokes. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov highlights for us in LikuteiMoharan, teshuvah means returning a thing to its source, which for us is the wisdom of Hashem. When we doteshuvah and return to the source of our being – Hashem –


we can truly feel “at rest.” (and by inference, feel in distress when we are separated). In this state, we can live and work in the world with an inner sense of peace and repose because when we return to our true “place,” to the source of our being that teshuva imbues in us, we can fulfill our true potential — and as HaRav Yaakov Meir Schechter, notes, this fulfillment leads to an even greater sense of sheleimus, and completion. So, by extrapolation, spending time to stop and take in the world around us – especially at this time of the year – is a natural state of teshuva, if we allow this to be so because it forces us to separate ourselves from the noise (literally) that encompasses us during the year and leave or connect to the powerful


urge or impulse we have to return to the source of our being.


As we know though, if it were that easy, you wouldn’t be reading this (or sitting in shul reading this while thechazzan does his thing). Teshuvah is both easy and hard, making it confusing given that human nature means we perpetually seek clarity. As Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen of Lublin shows, however, in explaining a mishnah(Kelim, 17:13) that deals with the tumah and taharah of keilim, the general rule is that a vessel made from the skin of a land animal can become tamei, while one made from the skin of a sea creature cannot. Yet, the seal seems to be an exception – it spends most of its life in the ocean but is considered a land-based animal. Thus,keilim made from sealskin are subject to tumah. This explanation is logical though. As the Bartenura explains, using Rabbi Akiva’s svara, animals that live in the sea are tahor expect the seal because when it is scared, it flees back onto the land, which indicates its true home – the place where it draws its energy, seeks refuge, and spends most of its time is the land; its “place”. L’havdil, we are like the seal because our place is teshuvah. We return to this place which is deeply in our being, our neshamas – something we may simply not even understand. We return to the land and seek a state of peace by connecting to Hashem through teshuvah; our source of wisdom. In a time of distress, we return to our source, and figuratively that time is now.


If I lost you, I’ll admit that this connection feels too deep for me too (which is what normally happens when I read anything by Rebbe Nachman), so I keep on telling myself that the message is a natural one because this message on teshuva is something we can all internalize…if we do the airport thing and stop and take in what is occurring around us rather than let Rosh Hashana wash over us. We all have wheels on our suitcases. All we needed to do was use that bag as it was meant – dragged through Elul and Tishrei and into the year. Try it…


 


~ Gavin Schwarz

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