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Although the yearly cycle places us right before Pesach, it actually feels like we should be approaching the holiday of Sukkos. The Gemara teaches that Hashem commanded us: צא מדירת קבע ושב בדירת עראי, a person must emerge from the permanent residence in which they reside year round and reside in a temporary residence, the sukkah.
We all have “permanent dwellings,” routines that we are accustomed to and follow by route. Jewish life follows a familiar rhythm where we serve Hashem by davening in a minyan, learn in yeshiva daily, and attend weddings periodically. Just as before Sukkos Hashem asks us to switch gears and conduct our lives in an unfamiliar way, He is asking us now to reside in a “temporary dwelling” and serve Him in a new way. This unique course demands that we serve Hashem alone, away from the tzibor, without minyan and shiurim, and sedarim in yeshiva. It is just us and Hashem.
Appropriately, Sukkos is also זמן שמחתינו. Not only does Hashem bring a person out of his comfort zone during this time, He also commands them to be happy. The tachlis of life is to serve HaKadosh Baruch Hu, whether we are serving Him by going to minyan or by not going to minyan.
There is a story told of the two famous brothers Reb Zushe and Reb Meilech who were once imprisoned in a terrible cell full of criminals. Reb Meilech became broken over the incident and Reb Zushe tried to give him chizzuk, promising that they would soon be released from their terrible sentence. Reb Meilech explained the reason for his melancholy. In the middle of their cell sat a pail that was used as a lavatory. Because of the terrible odor coming from the pail, they were unable to daven to think about Torah, something that Reb Meilech could not fathom.
Reb Zushe explained their predicament in a different way. He said that by not learning or davening, they were keeping a different Halacha, the one that forbade them from davening during this time! The same Ribbono Shel Olam that typically wanted them to daven to Him, now wanted them to serve Him by refraining from davening and remaining happy.
The two Rebbeim were overjoyed by their epiphany and began to dance around the pot, thrilled to serve Hashem in the manner that He sent for them. The prisoners came to watch the commotion and stood around laughing and pointing, shouting and crying along with the Reb Zushe and Reb Meilech.The guards heard the commotion and asked the prisoners what was going on. When he heard that the Jews were overjoyed about the pail, he quickly removed it from the cell, determined that the Jews should not have any fun. Reb Zusha smiled and said, “Reb Meilech, now the Ribbono Shel Olam is saying to serve Him by davening.”
This is the dance of a Jew: serving Hashem in the way that He wants us to at this moment in our lives. We are now in a “temporary dwelling place” that will end soon, b’ezras Hashem. Let’s try not to despair or become depressed. Let’s daven for our brothers and sisters and for the whole world, continuing on with the dance that Hashem wants from us right now. Use it as an opportunity to grow closer to Him and even to each other, because the deepest relationship is when you cannot see someone with your eyes, but never stop thinking of them.