FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND | Stepping into the world of Avos

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Stepping into the world of Avos

Harav Y. Reuven Rubin Shlita

Now try this: kick off your shoes and socks and enjoy the sand. Of course, I advise this only if it’s warm, you are alone, and walking on a beach. One of my greatest pleasures is to walk at sunrise on a deserted beach and listen to the ocean. It speaks an eternal language, one geared to each person’s individual soul. If you follow my instructions you can actually feel the oceans pull. You can stand there at the water’s edge and feel yourself being sucked into the wet sand. Just as you sense that you can’t move any further the ocean crashes towards you and takes most of the sand away. You are left renewed and unburdened until the sand creates its gritty pull once again. The important thing to remember is that, if allowed, the ocean will always come and free you.

Standing this way some time ago, I looked down at the swirling water as it reached over my sunken feet and thought, ‘The Torah is likened to water, and its purity can always cleanse us.’ When we feel ourselves sinking into the quagmire of daily life we have the option of allowing our broken souls to become freed through the Torah’s cleansing energy.

Often we become stuck and feel as if darkness is all we can hope for. This is when we should become brave, remove the material burdens that clothe our existence and allow ourselves to become engrossed in the holiness of Hashem’s truth.

It is all too simple to forget why we are here and what our goals should be. In our world of instant gratification we lose patience, missing out on the lessons sent our way. There was a time when we were directly connected with our every need. Food grew because we sowed seeds, chickens found their way into our pots because a shochet came to slaughter them in our back yard and then we plucked their feathers. Nowadays, the link has disappeared; someone else does everything for us and all we need do is present our plastic card and schlepp ready-made produce home. I don’t think any of us would like to return to the “good old days” when mothers toiled by the washing mangle a whole day, but in the slipstream of modern comfort we have lost some very rare attributes. We don’t think deeply anymore; everything just rolls along and our hearts become desensitised.

At the end of each Perek we read:

“Rabbi Chananya Ben Akashyah says: Hashem desired to grant merit to Israel; that is why He gave them the Torah and commandments in such abundance.”

This Mishna is learnt after every session of exploring The Ethics Of Our Fathers, and ties together much of what our Torah existence is about. We are blessed with Hashem’s words and commandments and each mitzvah is a bridge that can carry us closer to our Creator. His love sees our turmoil, the seemingly impossibility of handling so much that comes our way. His commandments draw away all the doubts and wash away our fears. Pirkei Avos is about how to internalise and energise these commandments and find their real benefit. We are blessed with so many mitzvahs, each one with the ability to lift us out of our quagmire.

There are times when we feel drained and dejected, which seem constant in this era of difficult challenges. Circumstances are changing for many and the sands that seem to hold us down eat away at our very being. We need to become reconnected with the Torah that all too often washes over us. We can no longer live as if spiritually asleep. Hashem is calling us with His message of continuity. There is nothing holding us down more than our own broken spirit. Let’s take all the marvels of Hashem’s mitzvos and allow them to become real once again.

The ocean of the Torah is splendid with its spiritual opportunities.  The saddest thing is that we just don’t look into these jewels and sense their illumination. With all the immediacy of today’s world we should all try to go down to the edge of our existence, cast off our shackles for at least a moment and reconnect with our souls.

On a personal note, allow me to be forthright and open. I was blessed in sharing life with a Rebbetzin A’H who helped bolster me whenever life shlepped me into its quagmire. Mine was not a unique life of challenges, we all face moments where we must struggle in some way. However, there is a trajectory that goes beyond all confines. The sharing of life with a besherta partner, a neshomah that carries your shoresh is a sublime gift. Its loss cuts deep but the memories give so much hope.

As I write these words, I find a new surge of chizuk. I aim this last paragraph to all those feeling the loneliness of the absence of ones loved one. We are all humans, needing one another to bring illumination to our connection with The Eibishter. Pirkai Avos teaches us all about our human connections and how vital they are for furthering our reality of connection with Hashem. Cherish all the moments, they are gifts from Above, enriching your walk on life’s beach.