From the Infinite to the Finite

Moshe Kempinski

One of the moments in the year which invariably lift me to the greatest height is actually a moment of pure silence. It occurs at the end of the Yom Kippur prayers. After spending almost twenty six hours in Hashem’s very throne room we reluctantly take leave. At that moment of departure as the Gates seem to close we take leave with a great cry. We call out the “Shma Yisrael” declaration “Hear O Israel Hashem our G-d Hashem is one” with every ounce of strength we have at the end of this day of fasting. We then cry out the phrase “ Blessed is His Name forever and ever”. Finally we cry out with all the strength we have left “Hashem is G-d, Hashem is G-d”( I Kings 18:39), seven times.

When the sounds of the last cry ebbs there is a moment of utter complete silence. it can last seconds or maybe a minute but it feels like an eternity. At that moment ones senses a feeling of being washed over with the simple complete truth of G-d’s utter oneness. “ Ain Od Milvado..There is nothing but Him”.

The silence is then abruptly ended with the call of the Shofar.

In reality trying to return back into what we call reality becomes a very painful task, yet reality pulls us down very quickly and very decisively. Our souls, on the other hand remain yearning for that moment of infinite knowledge it had just experienced.

It is then that the Torah fills the emptiness with joy and fulfilment. “And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees (Etrog ), branches of palm trees( Lulav) and boughs of leafy trees ( Hadas) and willows of the brook ( aravot) , and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40 ).

There is no greater source of Joy than being able to fulfill the will of a beloved. Hashem our ultimate beloved tells us exactly what He desires.

When we returned from the synagogue at the conclusion of yom Kippur we eat something to replenish our bodies. Yet our souls yearn for more. It is then that it begins. All throughout the neighborhoods you begin to hear the sound of hammers and of boards being raised. Everyone is out on their balconies and yards building their sukkah. Others are out buying the four species gathered together for this holiday.” and you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days” (ibid ).

Anyone that has seen the frantic preparations for this festival may seem perplexed. People ar buying palm branches and citron fruit and they are checking out the wares like a prospective suitor looking for the perfect engagement ring. The lover looking for the gift for the Beloved. At that point every flaw becomes relevant, every turn of the branch important.

There are many from outside the Torah based community that have watched these proceedings with derision. They call these minute detail preoccupations, legalisms or rabbinic exaggerations. They are missing the point. G-d could be in the Heavens whispering to His children, “It is ok, I just asked for a palm branch”. Yet it is our gift. We want it to be the straightest and the greenest. The focus on the small details and the minor blemishes are the ribbon on the gift. They are the wrapping paper. In that detail and focus on the smaller picture, the yearning soul finds spiritual release and even comfort.

After the experience of basking in the Infinite, the individual soul finds joy and comfort in the details of the finite. That is the basis of our experience in the walk of Judaism ( Halacha) . In order to experience the larger picture we need to focus on the blessed details of our lives, our family, friends and the world right before us.

In this way we will truly “rejoice before Hashem” (ibid ).

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

1 thought on “From the Infinite to the Finite”

  1. Such a strong parallel here with Kierkegaards “Fear and Trembling” where he talks about the Knight of Faith

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