If you have ever experienced a tropical storm then you will understand what I am trying to describe. The best ones are in the early mornings, when the sky is first greeting the new day. From nowhere the clouds slide in, covering up the early morning sunrise and shrouding the world in a cloak of grey. Then, as the heavenly orchestra starts to tune up…. the light show begins, streaks of lightening flashing through the far off sky. The clap of thunder waits its turn, and then begins its drum roll. At first it is some distance away, so the crackle seems to be safe, yet there is a tinge of menace. As the minutes pass the wind joins in, and the clouds become thicker, the air becomes almost bereft of oxygen. Trees become ballet stars, as gusts bend them to their limit. Then things really kick off.
Before you know it the air is alive with energy, and the thunder seems ready to penetrate your very body. The bolts of lightening create a new sky line, powered onto your retina with searing new colours. The world seems somehow a different place, the crashing of the thunder, the flashing of the lightning. The entire environment is so alive, expectant, filled with awe. The kettle drum role is insistent, the beat pounding into your very soul. The wind gets stronger, you feel so vulnerable as the chaos screams. Then it happens, the heavens open up and the rain cascades down, pelting you with thick bullets of water. Usually such storms pass as quickly as they seem to have come. However, they leave the air smelling sweeter, the entire atmosphere is cleansed, and the chaos experienced moments earlier turns out to have been truly worthwhile.
One sometimes wonders….does the human experience replicate nature, or is it that nature reflects human life? In truth, all is Hashem and all is His will, so as with all such mysteries, the question becomes moot.
Many times we experience such storms within our inner landscape. They are spiritual, but no less exciting for that. It may well start with a small premonition, a slight rumbling of conscience that becomes too big to disregard. You are standing in the midst of prayer, or perhaps walking along deep in thought. Then the thumping of the heart grows louder, and the energy in one’s soul seems to become greater by the moment. You feel elated; your chest seems to be too small for your heart. Then things reach a crescendo, and as if a dam has been breached, your feelings flood forth in an emotional torrent. These moments are rare, but they have the potential of giving one new and higher expression. What is it that causes such uplifting emotional storms?
Let’s look at nature’s causes of such events and perhaps learn from them. A storm doesn’t come from nowhere; it takes certain conditions to set things off.
How do Tropical Storms occur? The air above the warm sea is heated and rises. This causes low pressure. As the air rises it cools then condenses, forming clouds. Air around the weather system rushes in to fill the gap caused by the rising air. The air begins to spiral. This is caused by the spinning movement of the earth. The weather system generates heat which powers the storm, causing wind speeds to increase. This causes the Tropical Storm to sustain itself. Such phenomena rely on plenty of warm, moist air from the sea – this is why they die out over land.
Ahh …..So it all starts with the heat rising, causing changes in the atmosphere that create clouds that are laden with moisture. In the human storm we see this as well. The neshomo becomes warm with its ceaseless need to find its place closer to Hashem. This warmth often becomes moist with the tears of our broken hearts, and this rises up towards the heavens. As the storm in our soul brews, our inner energy becomes laden with a current of true awareness until we are thrown into turmoil. We feel like climbing out of our “low pressure” and bringing forth new life. In each of us there are these moments of stormy, holy weather, spiritually awakening our sleepy selves, crashing through the every day humdrum existence, wetting our cheeks with tears of renewal.
Now just as the tropical weather has its seasons, so too do we. There are moments in the year where the heat is that much more intense, and the striving for renewal so much more vibrant. Hashem gives us these times as a gift, and we squander them at our peril. We can use the inner spiritual turmoil to build new connections, or we can hide foolishly away till it passes and worry that we don’t get too wet.
Many fear becoming too caught up with such moments of “holy” storms, worried that it will change their lives, buck old certainties. There are stages in life when some believe they have reached the level that is their personal best. This is the stuff of Yetzer Horah, and is meant to coax you into becoming a spiritual zombie. The storms that flair up in your soul are Hashem’s wake up call, the holy beseeching of a loving Father. As these High Holy Days approach, get ready to be soaked in their inspiration. When the rumbling starts in your heart, don’t run for cover; rather get out there and allow the rain to soak your inner being with its cleansing Mikveh of growth.