TAKING UP NO SPACE
he sound of the shofar has awakened our slumbering souls. The words of the rabbi's sermon have pierced the veil of spiritual complacency. Our individual and collective mission in this world has been brought into fine focus.
The sound of the shofar has awakened our slumbering souls. The words of the rabbi's sermon have pierced the veil of spiritual complacency. Our individual and collective mission in this world has been brought into fine focus. We are finally ready to step up to the plate, accept the yoke of heaven, and dare to be truly great in the coming year. After a year of spiritual meandering, we are ready to serve G-d.
'Tis the season for teshuvah (repentance), and with the high holiday season in full gear, many of us find ourselves feeling inspired and seeking to increase our involvement in Torah study, prayer, acts of kindness, and other worthwhile religious pursuits.
Unfortunately, as genuinely inspired as we may feel during the high holidays, many of us become disillusioned and soon abandon our passion for new and additional religious commitments. All of us, to some extent, are susceptible to the following argument: One might say, "Wait a minute. Why am I thinking about taking on more? I already have Torah commitments; there is simply no more time in the day to add any more! Hey, the time in my day is already carefully allotted to allow for some prayer and Torah study, and as it is, I'm already spread thin. Better I stick with what I am doing, instead of committing to something I know full well I have no time for."
This attractive argument takes a toll on each of us, appealing to our sense of pragmatism. Little by little, this "logic" works its magic on us until the desire to build on our Torah accomplishments is extinguished. What a sad ending to a high holiday season that started with so much promise.
However, we can defy the powerful forces of spiritual gravity that ultimately result in inertia and stagnation. The Talmud has an antidote to this self-defeating mentality that can prevent us from increasing in our Torah pursuits. Let's take a look.
Throughout the Talmud, the sages explain in fantastic detail many of the miracles that took place in the holy Temple in Jerusalem. In one particularly well-known passage, the Talmud discusses the physical dimensions of the Holy of Holies and the Ark of the Covenant that was placed inside of it. After some old-fashioned rabbinic number-crunching, the Talmud concludes that the Ark of the Covenant miraculously took up no space within the Holy of Holies.
What does this have to do with our New Year dilemma? What are we supposed to learn from this? The answer is that in a place of holiness, there is always room for more holiness.
All of us are involved, albeit to differing degrees, in worthwhile Torah pursuits. Whether we observe Shabbat, attend a weekly Torah class, or volunteer for Jewish organizations, every single one of us is involved in bringing sanctity into our daily lives and serving Hashem. Therefore, each of us is already a miniature Holy of Holies, a "place of holiness." The lesson we learn here is that no matter what level of Torah activity we are engaged in today, there is room to add even more holiness. Like the example in the Talmud, this applies even in places where a good bit of holiness can already be found!
Many people sincerely want to keep Shabbat, or attend a nightly Talmud class, yet many of these same people face an intellectual obstacle. Quite simply, they feel that no matter how worthwhile the pursuit, it simply won't fit into the "dimensions" of a lifestyle already crammed with other worthwhile pursuits. Next time you find yourself thinking this way, don't get hung up on the details. Just stop what you are doing and do a mitzvah. Above all else, don't expend your energy making calculations and wondering how it is going to fit into your already-hectic lifestyle. Many people have taken the leap of faith and added Torah commitments where there was seemingly no room for them, and Hashem has never disappointed them.
With respect to His commandments, G-d has not asked of us the impossible. The same G-d that has given us our daily responsibilities and mundane concerns is the same One who has demanded of us that we keep His Torah. Our job is to keep his Torah; His job is to sort out all of the other details. If the only way a Torah lifestyle will fit into our hectic existence is by an open miracle, so that holy pursuits "take up no space," so be it. If we keep our end of the bargain, Hashem will most certainly keep His.
Hashem is now banging the gavel, calling for order in the Heavenly Court. This year, let us answer the call.
Sammy Bregman is a second-year student at Emory University School of Law.
This article is dedicated to Rabbi Ahron and Gitty Golding and family, who have taught me a tremendous amount of Torah, provided me with inspiration, and without whom I would certainly not be the Jew I am today.
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