The two-month marathon of Jewish holidays is over. For many, (myself included), there is a feeling of some of relief -- no more cooking, no more emails piled up after missed days of work, back to regular life.
But there is also a sadness. All the amazing ways we've tried to come close to God: praying, singing, fasting, eating, blasting the shofar, dwelling in a Sukkah, waving the lulav, joyous dancing with the Torah and more... Gone. Over. The Talmud says that the very last holiday we celebrate, Shmini Atzeret, was ordained because God said "קשה פרידתכם עלי' -- your leaving is difficult for Me."
It's difficult on us too.
Perhaps we feel like we came close to the divine over these past few months, and now we'll miss that intimacy, that holiness. Or maybe we didn't come as close as hoped. Maybe we never reached that holy moment we were hoping for. Either way, we are now faced with the emptiness, the absence that is regular life, or chol.
But God leaves us with two parting gifts.
The gift of Torah.
This is how we end the holidays -- rejoicing on Simchat Torah. Torah, the timeless, portable, sublime vehicle that allows the Jewish people connect to God, whoever, wherever and whenever we are -- on the subway, in the beit midrash, with a friend, late at night, on a lunch break. For three minutes or three hours. It is free, it is real, it is yours.
The gift of each other.
The Torah portion we read right after the holidays end, Bereishit, tells us that human beings are made as reflections of God. The mystics teach us that inside each and every one of us is a little spark of the divine, hidden away, waiting to be revealed through moments of insight, kindness, and love.
God is far, far away. But at the very same moment, God can be so close. Through Torah, God's message is as close as a class downloaded on phone, as close as holy book sitting on the shelf. And through each other, God's reflection is as close as the friend a phone call away, the loved one in the next room, the stranger sitting across from you on the bus.
Through connecting to Torah and to our fellow, let this be a year of reaching up to and reaching out to God.