The sun sets amid wild dancing and empty bottles of vodka. The Torah scrolls find their way back to the safety of the ark. The congregants, exhausted from a month of spiritual highs and a few too many lchaims, scrape themselves off of their chairs for the evening prayer.
There’s something different about this one though, something that sets it apart from the seemingly never-ending procession of services that have taken place over the course of the last four weeks. Because this time, it’s over.
The preparatory month of Elul. Rosh Hashanah. Shofar and apples and honey. The 10 days of Teshuvah. Kapparos. Kol Nidrei. Yom Kippur. Fasting and not even caring because you’re soul is so high your body doesn’t even notice. Neilah. Building a sukkah. Dwelling in the sukkah. Eating, drinking, and shaking assorted pieces of vegetation in the sukkah. A week of dancing in the streets, followed by Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, two days of dancing in the synagogues. Thousands of community visitors, dozens of dinner guests, 60 days of awe, and far too few hours of sleep. And then it’s just over.
The cantor’s voice rings out one last time over a new, almost muted reality.
“V’Yaakov Halach L’Darko!”
Where do we go from here? After a month of reaching ever higher and higher into the spiritual realms… we just… go home? And then do what? Check Facebook and fade into ‘normal life’ like nothing ever happened?
(You can probably guess the answer is ‘no’.)
There’s a reason that we part ways with the spiritual service of Tishrei with that particular phrase. The wording “And Yaakov went on his way” isn’t by chance. The word “way” (derech) is also used in Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs: “In all of your ways, know Him” (B’chol darchecha da’eihu). Ending Simchas Torah with “v’Yaakov halach l’darko” is meant to make the parting a little sweeter. It reminds us that even though we’re heading back to our own corner of the world after a month in the King’s palace, everywhere we go is just part of a journey He is sending us on. All of the “ways” we travel are His ways.
In other words, it’s not about leaving Tishrei behind.
We don’t just walk away from the holiness and spirituality and personal growth and reflection that took place in the last month. If we realize that heading back to “normal life” is exactly what we’re meant to do… that the day-to-day tasks are an essential part of the mission our King gave us while we were spending time with Him during the holiest of days… then that gives us the strength to not only go forward from Tishrei, but to take all of our accomplishments on the road with us.
When we do that, when we focus on taking Tishrei with us out into the world, and making all of our various “ways” into ways of Hashem… Then we get to the next part of the verse, where “G-d’s angels met him”. May we all meet such success and blessing in everything we do this coming year, and truly realize that this incredible journey we’re on is part of a bigger, holier plan than we could ever imagine.
Here’s to another great year on the way!
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