Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Secret

I have a secret to reveal. And its a secret I am sure you know even before my telling you. Yet its a secret we hide mostly from ourselves. The secret is a simple truth, "that which we most need is often that which we are most afraid of!"

What do I mean? Well think about it in its most obvious context. The alcoholic most fears being without access to his beloved addiction.
He imagines being without that which he has become dependent on will surely kill him. Yet truth is just the opposite. The very alcohol he assumes he needs, is that which endangers him. And the very abstinence he imagines will kill him, is his salvation.

The truth so plain in the life of the addict is true for most of us and often. We fear taking the very steps in our lives that, if we were to find the courage to take, would free us and enrich us. Another example, many are loathe to get rid of stuff they no longer have use for. They just can't throw things out. They fear taking the step of tossing things away as they would an operation. Yet if/when they actually found the inner courage to clear their clutter they find themselves free in away they never felt before.
Not only did getting rid of the 'junk' not cause them harm, it actually was the liberation they needed.

And the same is true, though more subtle, of those who fear intimacy, and hesitate to marry. They say they want to commit, its just they have not yet met the right one. Yet in their hearts they know they dread commitment and even were the perfect match to come along they would struggle to say "yes". In fact, for those who fear intimacy its almost a relief when they discover the person they date is not really right for them. It relieves them of having to make a decision they are too overwhelmed by to make.

Yet if and when they finally find the gumption to indeed say "yes" they find themselves free as they never were before. Wonderful new possibilities arise out of the gift of true intimacy, the very intimacy they feared. They discover to their amazement a happiness they never thought possible.

So you say, what does this have to do with Sukkot, the holiday at which we stand. Well I find something interesting here that relates to our secret. Sukkot is the holiday of 'simcha', joy, so much so that we refer to the holiday in our prayers as the 'zman simchatainu'. We can understand the joy as being connected to the season of harvest.During Sukkot, in the land of Israel, our forefathers and mothers celebrated the bounty of the in-gathering.

But one thing is troubling.When people have prosperity they typically like to show it off. The person with the most money usually has the fanciest car, the largest home, the most expensive clothes. It seems a big part of enjoying our prosperity is showing it to others. Yet Sukkot, the season which marks our bounty and largess gives us little opportunity to flaunt our riches. On the contrary, even the family with the largest home, leaves that home to sit in the same basic Sukkah as the poor person who lives on the other side of town.
The sukkah is our home for a whole week. Not only do we eat there, we sleep and live our life there. On Sukkot their is little opportunity to tell who is rich and who is poor. Class distinctions dissolve.

Many of us imagine that without our status symbols we would amount to nothing. Without that which distinguishes us from others we would be 'ordinary' and in that easily invisible. Our whole lives we fear being invisible and so we work and toil to be distinguished and to have status. We want a title to be called by, be it Doctor, Rabbi, or even Mrs. We seek wealth and position so as to be somebody. Our fear is that without the accoutrements we would be nobody and for all intense and purposes disappear.

Yet Sukkot teaches us the secret we have been discussing. That which we most need is often than we most fear. When we let go of our status symbols, the home being a primary one, not only do we not disappear and feel a prevailing gloom. On the contrary, we know a sublime happiness. In our ordinariness, the very thing we fear, we discover a source of joy. In being like every one else we are freed of the driveness to be special, and we find a profound joy that is oh so liberating, being part of the whole.

Truth be told, those who have developed a sense of humility haven't really made a sacrifice at all. It just appears they have to us who live in the world which says "you are nobody unless you have status, positions, wealth, and power". To them, humility is a gift, not a sacrifice. They are happier in humility than we are with all our distinctions. And we would be too if we dared get past the fear, drop the focus on being special and accept ourselves as one of community.

Sukkot tells us the secret of happiness is giving up the need to be unique. The bounty, the harvest, having G-d's wonderful material blessings is a necessary condition.After all, its hard to be happy on an empty stomach. But unless, with our wealth, we can live in the Sukka, and be part of the community of Jews everywhere and of all stations, we are prisoners of the very bounty that is G-d's blessing, and robbed of the real happiness available to us.

"That which we most need is often that which we are most afraid of."
All of us need to be happy. Most of us fear the very thing that will serve to get us there,that is, letting go of our prized status, position, wealth and influence.

In the very ordinariness we fear is our liberation and joy!

Chag Samayach
Shabbat Shalom

1 comment:

  1. what do you mean by ordinariess here? i think that it works exactly the opposit way -it is good to be like everybody else and it is scary to be not like others. why jews who are in galut in antiseic countries try to hide their nationality? coz they are not like others and hated for that. even though i dont agree with your analogy, chag sameah leha )