Sunday, October 16, 2011

Take a Step Back

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes find myself so caught up in my own perspective that I just need someone to come along and look me in the eye and tell me, “Snap out of it!” Well, enter the chag of Sukkot. Sukkot is all about taking a step back and looking at things from a new perspective.

Come on, leave your comfort zone, and step out to look at life from a new angle. It might not be comfortable, and there might be mosquitos or bees or rain or wind. But let’s get some new perspective on life. Why? Because the result is happiness, as Sukkot is called “zman simchateinu,” the time of our happiness.

Which is why one might find it ironic that during this time of happiness, Sukkot, we read what seems to be the most depressing sefer in all of Torah: Kohelet. But the message of Kohelet is the same message of Sukkot: Take a step back, get some perspective, and figure out what is really important in life. Life that is “tachat hashemesh,” that is under the sun, part of the physical world, is only about the moment. Things in the physical world come and go. Sure, pyshical pleasures, such as a nice delicious meal is good at the time, but life moves on. It is only “tachat hashamayim” under the shamayim, where there is Yirat Shamayim, where there is purpose that lasts forever. Of course you should enjoy the physical world right now, but realize that like the sun which rises and sets, it comes and goes. Focus on the things that last forever.

Another thing that Sukkot makes me think about is what I wrote here about trusting in Hashem and not in physical buildings. There was one day during the Chag when the wind was so strong and our Sukkah started swaying and I was afraid it would fall down, but it didn’t. It was not only because the Sukkah itself was strong, but because Hashem was protecting us.

When we step out of our comfort zone, it is not always so pleasant. We might discover things we don’t want to know, like that maybe we are wrong. Maybe we have been looking at things the wrong way. Maybe we are not who we think we are, maybe we need to change. But once we see things with new eyes, we have the ability to go forward and not just stay stuck where we are. We can take charge of our life and shift our priorities. Realize what is truly important and what is not quite as important.

Happiness is about changing perspective and looking at things differently. It is not always easy, and in fact, mostly it is not easy, and we have to work to get there.

May we all use this Chag HaSukkot, Zman Simchateinu, to discover a new perspective on our lives, one that will give us clarity, and give us the vision that we need to move forward in the right direction. May we take this chance to re-evaluate our priorities in life. And may this newfound perspective lead us to true happiness.