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Tuesday
Sep272016

1TISHREI: FROM THE DEPTHS

One year, M. Gilon spent Rosh HaShana with the Rebbe and he wrote his impressions about the moments of t’kias shofar from his perspective

It is seven minutes to ten o’clock, only a few minutes before the Rebbe will appear for Shacharis on the first day of the new year. The crowds are standing packed together and are eagerly anticipating his appearance. There is silence in the large room and all eyes are turned toward the door where the leader of thousands of Chassidim will appear in all his glory and majesty.

The hands of the clock that crawl slowly approach the appointed time and show four minutes to ten.

Those minutes seem like years, although what are these few minutes compared to millions of minutes, tens of thousands of hours, thousands of days, and dozens of years in which you never considered taking this “daring step,” i.e., to fly from your provincial little place to the royal locale of the Rebbe, if only one time! But the fact is, these minutes shake your very sense of self.

Teardrops are trying to make their way between your eyelids and you greatly desire to banish them at this time, to forbid them passage in your eyes for they will obscure your clear vision and block your gaze upon the Rebbe.

***

A frightening and heartrending sound of sobbing has stilled after the completion of the Haftora and its blessings. Preparations for the blowing of the shofar are underway. Another silence and all eyes are on the Rebbe.

Eyes are closed and one’s heart uses these moments of silence for a hasty spiritual accounting. This heart, so full and overflowing, with what was stored up for the past 365 days of immersion in material matters, is trying to express and release those hidden and deeply buried feelings which occasionally attempted, in moments of inspiration, to rise up only to be pushed aside by the yetzer, who trembles and shakes in fear over moments like these.

A silent cry whose sound is not heard moans from deep in one’s heart. You overpower it with difficulty. This pure heart yearns and climbs upward, wanting to rise up from the depths of slumber to the lofty heights of inspiration and nearness to the light of G-d.

You try to wrap yourself within the waters of regret that surround you but suddenly, you are aroused by the frightening sound that pierces the depths of your heart and soul:

Min ha’meitzar kara’si Ka, anani ba’merchav Ka.

These are frightening moments. The heart is too narrow to prevent its storms from bursting forth. The wellspring of tears opens suddenly and its waters that come out in droplets wash and cleanse the “stains” on your face. In vain do you try to stop your choked voice, which is wailing powerfully, from joining the rising voices of the masses as they sound forth in broken syllables as they repeat these verses that were just said by the one who read them.

The voice does not stop. That very same frightening and heartrending voice continues to flicker and ignite the spark in your heart which just now burst into flames. The sparks scatter throughout the limbs of your body.

Koli shim’a k’chasdecha – Hashem, k’mishpatecha chayeini.

The voice of the reader pours forth as he gallops into the pathways of mercy and tries, as he goes, to break the curtains which separate, and to destroy the iron barriers which conceal and prevent the prayers of the Jewish people from prostrating before the Heavenly Throne.

It is a quiet voice, but it penetrates and breaks hearts. Calm and simple, but it shatters the obtuseness of the heart to pieces. Finest of the fine, but it splits and pierces the innermost part of the heart.

This brief island in time makes you forget everything going on around you. There is no world and no concealment. No curtains and no separations. No barriers and no bolts. All, everything, is open before you. It is as if your soul desires and yearns in this moment to cast off its bodily confinement and fly to the source it came from, to cleave to and be incorporated in the life of lives, Ein Sof blessed be He. “My soul yearns for You, my flesh pines for You.”

And if you think you reached the pinnacle, you are mistaken. Before your thoughts, which run here and there, stop, there is the sound of the shofar with a t’kia that pierces your heart again. It also shatters the fine blockages which have yet to melt as they try, with all their might, to hide somewhere, deep, deep, in the far corners of the heart. No, this is not yet the end.

The quavering of the sh’varim and the t’rua that follows completely takes your bones apart. You think, that’s all, no more! I cannot stand anymore! Master of the universe …

And then how wondrous is the lofty sight, when you look up with moist eyes at the center of the bima. The Rebbe is wrapped in his tallis down to his chest and his head is bent over the bima on which lie bundles with thousands of pidyonei nefesh. They were written by who knows who, in order to be remembered for good and blessing. The sounds of silent and tremor inducing cries accompanied by melodies of d’veikus take flight and hover beyond the threads of the tallis which are damp with buckets of tears and sweat, to the air of the beis midrash before they fly upward.

The whole thing was all of sixty minutes, but who would dare to attempt to measure their worth and their sweetness as you stand there on the threshold of a new year, as you come to pave your way and behavior for the future in the coming year and those that follow? What is the standard by which to assign value and worth to these moments?

Your thoughts seem to leap to a conclusion almost involuntarily: If I toiled over many years to acquire the necessary means to attend this wondrous occasion alone – it was worth it!!!

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