We are in the midst of the Ten days of Teshuva.
Holy, awesome, and exceptionally elevated days.
Days when our sages tell us that Hashem is particularly close.
“Seek Hashem when He is to found, call to Him when He is close”
But what does this actually mean? This closeness.
What is it?
Close. Deep. Ohr.
God is in no way bound by the parameters of space and place. Far? Close? In truth, none of these apply to Hashem at all. So what is meant by Hashem being closer at this time of year?
The answer is that by closeness, what we actually mean is that there is a more open and imminent revelation of God’s ohr, His light. Far or distant, in terms of Hashem, means that His light is more or less concealed. Let’s consider this concept a little further.
In truth, God’s light is always boundless, always infinite, it’s never more or less. At the same time, in the workings of creation, Hashem wanted to conceal His light in order to make the existence of evil possible. If Hashem’s light were always fully illuminated, so to speak, then everything in existence would be infused with that light; would be purified and thoroughly sanctified by the light, and people would be naturally, and irresistibly drawn to the light. There would be no possibility of ignoring or denying the light. Therefore, Hashem concealed His light in order to allow freewill to exist; in order for there to be a struggle in the choice between right and wrong, good and bad.
Yes, Hashem wanted the possibility for transgression, for wrongful choices to exist, but He didn’t want to abandon people to forever wallowing in the muck of the consequences of transgression. For this reason, at the beginning of the year, He strengthens the “brightness” of His light; He removes some of the layers of concealment, and bestows a life-giving flow of light on all of existence. This is the meaning of God’s closeness during these days.
Clearly, the closeness that is manifest during these days is not something that can be seen by our physical eyes. However, it can be sensed in the depths of our souls. Our souls are chelek Elokah mi’maal, “a bit of God,” they are rooted in Godliness. Therefore, when the soul’s root source is more strongly revealed, it senses that presence; it’s stirred from a spiritual stupor, and it feels a surge of strength and inspiration.
Think of a strong magnet that is set at a great distance from pieces of metal: The closer and closer the magnet gets to the pieces, the stronger the magnetic pull becomes, until at a certain point, they are all drawn to the magnet. This is precisely the dynamic that exists between the souls of Am Yisroel and Hashem; their root Source, and the wellspring of their existence and life. To the extent that Hashem strengthens His light, so the attraction is strengthened, and thus a greater closeness is made possible.
“Draw me towards You, let us run!” – Shir Hashirim, 1:4
Now we can understand the deep, beneath-the-surface meaning of these days.
Throughout the rest of the year, a person needs to proactively initiate inspiration and motivation; he needs to strive to awaken his soul, and to stride forward and upward. But these efforts don’t take place in a vacuum. We are surrounded by opposing forces that pull us in other directions, and so we find ourselves straddling the holy and the mundane, the pure and the impure, the light and the darkness.
Imagine a car that has become stuck in the mud, and the driver gunning his engine as he tries to free himself from the mud. That’s the rest of the year. But during these days, Hashem assists. When He is closer, when His ohr is brighter, He fortifies our souls. During these days, we don’t just have the power of our own engine, we’re hitched to a train that is pulling us in the direction we truly want to go.
We can state a principle: There are two sources that drive our souls inclination. First, there is the inner source that we are born with. This is the force of the king’s son that has become lost, and longs for his father’s palace. He has a deep memory of what once was, and he longs to return. That’s the neshama. It has a deep, inner memory of it’s original source, when it was there—brilliant, pure, and clear—beneath the kisa ha’kavod, God’s throne, from where it was hewn. And it never looses that inner longing for home. But there is more, there is another force that empowers us. This is a higher force, a Godly force from above, a force that draws us closer and closer, like the magnet, and like the train pulling the car. This is the Draw me towards You. The inner meaning of this force is God’s closeness, the higher illumination of His light. The unique light that shines now.s
Throughout the Year
Throughout the rest of the year, for the most part, Hashem leaves the neshama to operate on it’s own, and to draw from it’s own abilities, strengths, and capabilities. Only at certain instances, here and there, does Hashem increase His light for a person. In those moments of Divine kindness, we suddenly feel a flash of inspiration, and an out-of-the-blue yearning for more, for higher, for deeper. Suddenly we may sense the ephemeral emptiness of so many false illusions in life, and this awakens a drive for something else, something genuine and real. Or, out of nowhere, we feel an urge for a whole other kind of purity, integrity, and goodness. We can’t know how or why these moments burst upon us—why suddenly our souls are ablaze—for this is God’s secret way of dealing with each and every one of us. For whatever reason, known only to God, there are moments when He wants to lift, strengthen, and inspire our souls anew. There are moments when He hovers over us, like an eagle hovering over it’s nest.
The beginning of the year, however, is altogether different.
At the beginning of the year, Hashem infuses a uniquely powerful force into the great collective soul of Am Yisroel, so that each individual is able to achieve a fresh, profound, new beginning. So that everyone can receive a brilliant, new source of life that will now be with him, not just for a moment, but for the entire year.
This is why Hashem is close at this time. So that each of us, as a part of the grand spiritual all-of-us, can benefit from this great rush of radiant light that draws us to God: To purity, to integrity and goodness, to the source of life-giving light that gives us inspirational energy that will be part of us for the entire new year.
On Rosh Hashanah, the first blast of closeness arrives with great force. Then, as the days move forward, we absorb more and more of this particularly brilliant light, and we prepare, day by day, for Yom Kippur, the pinnacle of closeness. And then the summit. Yom Kippur; when all Jewish souls—all of Israel—stand in absolute closeness to the Godly Source of their existence. And this is the sōd, the deep, beneath-the-surface meaning of, lifnei Hashem titharu – “In front of Hashem you shall be purified.” On Yom Kippur we are all standing in front of Hashem. And that closeness is powerful, exhilarating, and filled with love. And the light of that closeness washes over us, we are cleansed from the taint of our transgressions. This is the deep, inner meaning of the powerful, inherent essence of Yom Kippur, it’s what enables our inner essence to shine a shine that lifts and straightens everything along with it.
My dear brothers and sisters.
That even if you have given up on yourself, Hashem never gives up on you. Never.
Search for him in these days; He will find you, and provide you with new capabilities—new wings with which to soar—and you will soar:
To endless heights.
To a place of pristine chidush, of absolute renewal, rebirth, and resurgence.
Like a newborn child, free of any blemish. Pure.
May we all merit to be written in the book of the righteous, for a blessed new year.
To receive weekly divrei Torah from Rabbi Sasson: Uh.firstname.lastname@example.org / Whatsapp: +972536240891 Translated and adapted by Shimon Apisdorf