N’eilah: Locking the Door on the Summer Season
Rabbi Hillel L. Yarmove
One problem with writing a monthly column is that sometimes you just cannot make the deadline, try as you might. The other is that you often have to imagine what circumstances will be like when your article finally sees the light of day.
A case in point: this month’s column. Unable as I was to prepare my September column, since I was working at New York’s Camp Agudah in Ferndale (and not having schlepped my computer up to camp!), I had to settle for imagining in advance what I would write about for my October column. A daunting proposition!
Ah, October—that quintessential month of riveting change, when Hashem’s incredibly diverse palette of colorful brilliance bedecks our once-thoroughly-verdant trees. What shall I tell you, my dear readers? In late August, just having finished summer camp, I was unable to visualize that scenario of multihued wonderment.
So now (in early September) what am I going to write about, seeing that this year October is replete with yamim tovim—and, in particular, Yom Kippur?
Yom Kippur: pretty solemn stuff after a season of summer vacationing, no? Or even after a series of “typical” American summertime fun-filled events?
Well, it all depends on how you spent the summer. You see, the word “vacation” is derived from the Latin term “vacare,” meaning “to be empty.” Use summertime as the ikkar instrument of your growth in ruchniyus—and then you have something to show for your efforts. But if the tafel of “having fun” became the cynosure of your eyes, what can you now say as we close the door on this past season of tropical warmth? Anything?
And once we reach October, it becomes quite clear that summer has also certainly become a thing of the past, even if we do experience a few fleeting days of “Indian summer” along the way. So if we didn’t utilize our summer quite the way we should have, how evanescent and ephemeral the memories of summer fun will have become!
For we have now entered the season of “locking the gates,” the time of the climactic experience of Nei’lah on Yom Kippur. The Sh’lah HaKadosh maintains that when we intone the Shema for the last time on this Shabbos Shabboson—that is, during N’eilah—we should imagine ourselves performing the ultimate act of self-sacrifice al kiddush Hashem (and it will then be considered in heaven as though we had actually done so). What a far cry from “summer fun,” if that’s all we got out of the previous season!
Pretty solemn stuff after a season of summer vacationing, no?
So, what might we do, now that we’ve begun the serious business of living all over again? Business as usual?
I should say not. Instead, why not use the locking-up mechanism of our minds to retain all that was edifying and growth-oriented from our summer experiences? By so doing, we can employ this past summer as a fitting springboard for the preparation of a far-more-impressive year than we might otherwise have anticipated had we simply dismissed this past summer as a time of tawdry “fun.”
Certainly, if at N’eilah, this time of locking the gates, we can wholeheartedly affirm once again our willingness to give our very lives for the sanctification of Hashem’s name, then we can also sublimate our positive summertime experiences to become better avdei Hashem—far, far more-dedicated servants of the Basheffer than we have been heretofore.
Pretty solemn stuff after a season of summer vacation, no?
YOU CAN BET YOUR LIVES ON IT!
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Questions or comments? I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chasimah tovah, dear readers!