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Thought for the Day: Exile Is Beginning of Redemption

My father, alav hashalom, was deeply moved by our Orthodox observance (he had grown up in a shomer shabbos/kosher home till age 12 and had very fond memories).  Even when he found it frustrating, he was always a good sport.  During one visit, he asked my why we were allowed to flush the toilet on Shabbos.  I looked at him quizzically and asked why not.  He replied simply, "How would I know?  I just see there are lots of things you can't do."  I finally "chahped" that much of our observance just looked like just so much unrelated rituals.  I was a bit more sensitive when he asked about washing on pancakes.  (At the risk of belaboring the point; keep this in mind if you have non-frum family.)

This time of year is a whirlwind of different emotional ups and downs.  First we have three weeks of mourning, culminating the most brutal day of the year, Tisha b'Av.  Then we have seven weeks of comfort/consolation that leads into Elul.  Hold onto your hats, but next is the 10 days of t'shuva (I just can't, in good conscience, use the English word "repentance" as translation of t'shuva), culminating in the expiation of our sins.  Then, WHOOSH, we jump into Sukkos - z'man simchaseinu.  Oh, and just for good measure, we have Simchas Torah tacked on the end; almost as an afterthought.

Did all this just happen to fall at the same time of year?  (Hint: nope.)

The Michtav mei'Eliyahu explains the deep connection -- in fact progression -- of these events.  We need to go back to the beginning of this chain; Moshe Rabeinu breaking the luchos.  Klal Yisrael had fallen and allowed themselves to be involved in the most disgraceful even of our history, the Cheit haEigel.  Why was breaking the luchos the appropriate response?  Klal Yisrael was just as obligated in mitzvos and just as culpable for transgressions as before the luchos were broken; so what was the big deal.  The big deal was that the luchos are the wedding present that HaShem gave to Klal Yisrael at the chupa of Har Sinai.  Nothing changes when a chosson takes back the pearls he gave in the yichud room, but the message is clear.

The Cheit haEigel -- and, in fact all sin -- is a symptom, but not the cause.  The cause is forgetting who and what we really are; becoming too attached to this world and distanced from our Creator, our Father, our King.  The first step in curing disease is to break the false and damaging attraction to this world.  Simple... just let the world run according to its nature; Attila the Hun, Vespasian, Haman, Hitler; this world is soon seen for what it really is.  Once that hold is broken, one begins to notice the beautiful spirituality that had been ignored; which is very comforting.  That comfort and revelation leads to t'shuva.  The t'shuva process automatically leads to expiation; there is no need to treat the symptoms when the root cause has been found.  That expiation leads to joy and closeness.

Finally we come back full circle, back to the intense closeness we experienced at Har Sinai -- Simchas Torah!

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