Making the most of the Grand Finale – Rabbi Y. R. Rubin

Making the most of the Grand Finale

Rabbi Y. R. Rubin

The days skip forward; yesterday becomes the day you had promised yourself would mark your change. Yet, maybe it will be tomorrow. All Yidden are holy and we all want to be close to Hashem. Sadly, we are bedeviled by the everyday and find ourselves slipping into old negative habits. Outlets that destroy our souls become a sad comfort zone that corrupts us further. We know we need change, but it seems beyond our ability.


Gutta Yidden tell us: “wherever a person’s thoughts are, that is where his reality is”. Yes, we harbour holiness, yet our fleeting thoughts fly from one subject to another and within moments our minds are alighting upon thoughts we dare not even recognise as our own.  This is the way our eternal enemy, the yetzer hora works; he will never allow you space; his is a constant drumroll of distraction.


Hashem knows His children and feels their bewilderment and in His overwhelming love He gives us tools to bring clarity into our chaos.


The Yom Tovim that take up most of the month of Tishrei are nuclear weapons that can blast through the maze of our day to day existence and bring new hope to the most broken of souls.


It starts even before with Selichos in the last week of Elul, followed by the majesty of Rosh Hashonoh, turning soon to Yom Kippur. The days march forward, keeping us involved, new timetables, different prayers. Everything seems more edgy; we are on call to hear our inner souls cry. There are moments when we feel so close, yet, in a blink of an unwary eye we can fall down. All these holy opportunities are building blocks that are cemented together with our fragile hopes, yet march on we do, with some inner understanding that Hashem knows our weakness and holds our hand.


Sukkos arrives; we sit under the stars and hear the whispers of the breeze as we catch our breath. It has been a rollercoaster ride, up and down, yet the question still hovers somewhere over the schach: have we succeeded? Success is something we really can’t measure when it comes to the spirit, one soul’s success is the next one’s failure. We must measure things according to who we are and what we need to fix within ourselves.


There is one last moment in all this that to me seems to be a grand finale; it expresses all that we have striven for throughout these special days.


On Hoshanah Rabboh we take together all the complexities of these Yomim Tovim, tie them together and proceed around the centrality of our faith with prayers that are tinged with our last minute plea for clemency. The bimah stands with the Torah scrolls surrounding it; we go around with our lulovim and esrogim seven times, as if to remind us of the creation of the world. We, too, want to recreate the world that is within us and now everything is possible. The different parts of our lulovim represent the entirety of our people; in fact our inner landscape. Each one of us has all these aspects, good, not so good, and everything in between; yet we are bonded together with cries of Hoshanah. Mi Keamcha Yisroel! What other nation is there, Hashem,that is so in love with Your Torah?


As a youngster I had the merit to spend many of these special days in the shadow of that great light the Bobover Rebbe, Rebbe Shlomo ztl and those last moments of the Hoshanah Rabboh service still shine in my mind’s eye. The Beis Medrash was a sea of lulovim, held preciously in the hands of a mass of talleisim. In the centre could be seen one long straight lulov held higher than all the rest. This belonged to the Rov ztl and it swayed and dipped with the grace of Melochim. His voice cried out, we all wept, then he would move forward, the lulav constantly showing the way. Hoshanah, Lemancha Hashem! , it’s all for You Ribono Shel Olam, Hoshanah. We are so wretched yet wanting to be good. Hoshanah! Remember the pain, the tears of those we have lost, Please, Hashem, Hoshanah.


The Rov’s voice would be choking with tears, his yearning was contagious. Nothing in that Beis Medrash was of the here and now; we were transported into a different realm, one sparkling with Hashem’s splendour. Hoshanah, one last chance please, Hashem. This time we will find the courage, this time we will be true.


The end of the davening drew near. Lulavim were set aside, the Rov picked up the Hoshanos, twigs bound the night before with strips of lulavim. We sense victory. The Rov holds the bunch high; we all dance in place, The Rov radiates such passion; we have striven over these weeks for this moment. We are one people; we are healed as we slap the twigs against the floor.


These words can’t do justice to what my heart experienced in those days, over half a century ago. I share this with you now so that we can all know that victory is ours, if we only keep on trying. Hashem will then hoist us aloft and give us strength. Hoshanah, Hashem, and the answer will always be “yes” because we are His children.