Over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we daven, we confess, we pour out our hearts to the Almighty, in supplication, in recognition of His sovereignty - or at least we try. Certainly this is the most intense time of the year spiritually- a time of cheshbon hanefesh, of serious evaluation of the soul's progress.

According to Chassidic sources the period of Tshuva ends, not at Hoshana Raba, but at Chanukah. During this period, a little under three months, we live on a slightly higher plane- we live with a greater consciousness of Ratzon Hashem, of our role as Jews- an Am Segula- a people with a greater connection to Hashem.

After Chanukah, sometimes during Chanukah itself, we already begin to feel our spirits flag. The momentum of those Tishreh petitions is fading, losing its grip on our lives. It seems to happen so suddenly, to take us by surprise. It slips away from us even while we try to hold on to it. It seemed quite easy up till now. We thought we had solved some of our many problems. But now we realise we are not in "Yerushalayim shel ma'alah" anymore - we feel a sense of loss, perhaps even slight anxiety- 'how can I get back? '

According to one fine Rebbetzin with whom I discussed this problem, this is all actually a sneaky strategy of the sitra achra. There we thought we were so holy- actually accomplishing a new madrega. Our yetzer hara was crouching in the door, merely biding its time. We were fired up by our davenning, carried by its impetus, by the power of the kavanos we managed to have- even a little kavana goes a wonderfully long way. Now, after tshuva time has ended we have been lulled into a false sense of security. Sure of ourselves, our resistance is down. The yetzer hara saunters back into the ring and kicks us while our back is turned, as it were.

Until we studied parshas pekudei this year I was convinced of the truth of this sad scenario. The parsha taught me something new, something much more wonderful and tremendously encouraging.

Between Motzi Yom Kippur and Chanukah all the celim of the mishcan were made. The materials were donated and the craftsmen with wisdom in their hearts gave their talents for this tremendous Avodas Hashem. Then, on Chanukah, on the first night of Chanukah, the celim were put away. They were put away, stored till Rosh Chodesh Nisan, when the mishcan was erected.

We have the principle, "ma'aseh avos- siman lebanim". All the deeds of our ancestors are precedents- they set the pattern for the future of Am Israel. Our ancestors made the mishcan from motzi Yom Kippur till Chanukah. In the same way, by our doing mitzvos, by our improved Avodas Hashem, by additional enthusiasm in learning, by our consciousness of spiritual matters, we also build a mishcan over these three months, a spiritual mishcan. Then, come chanukah, and the mishcan is put away- thus we feel a loss. The lights of chunakah are like a havdalah for this time period which has just passed. The festival of lights is like the twined candle of separation- distinction between kodesh and chol.

We feel a loss, the darkness of the sitra achra dims our vision. But we know that we have not lost our mishcan shel maalah. The celim have merely been stored away. This should be a tremendous solace through the sombre months of shovavim tet. We sink sadly as the winter wears down on us, trying to regain our place, but now aware that the celim are not lost at all, that they will be restored to us, fully integrated, complete, ready for Pesach, when we shall certainly need them! Thus the parsha of pikudei is so timely - helping us just when we might despair, imbuing us with hope and simcha to counterract the yetzer hara's dulling effects.

Building of mishkan- binyan- binah- understanding and integration of wisdom acquired since Yom Kippur. Hakama- erection- linked to "mekayem" to fulfil- HaShem's word.

* * * *

Soon it will be Purim- and time to remember Amalek. The weak and the tired in spirit were taken by Amalek- yimach shmam. Perhaps these are those who despaired- on that bitter road through the desert wastes. The inspiration of Har Sinai was a distant memory of light, the promised land was unknown, beyond present perception. Thus it is for the voyage of our souls through our lives- on a yearly timescale, the High Holy days are almost forgotten and the thought of Pesach is not always a welcome one. On the contrary, instead of recognising the immense spiritual greatness of Pesach ahead of us, the potential for Mashiach, for Geula, we lose our focus, and instead we start to worry about schedules, tasks and a year's accumulation of grime and clutter in hidden places. We should greet Pesach joyfully, we should be cleaning and ordering with a tremendous sense of anticipation and love of the Yomim Tovim, and of promised greater things ahead of us.

Copyright © 1999 Gila Atwood

Return to Torah page