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Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hit the Refresh Button

Daf Yomi Nazir 39

Remember how you felt as a kid when you came from summer camp?  You were on a spiritual high that lasted for months!  You felt so proudly Jewish and excited to do mitzvos!  Remember how you felt after your gap year in Israel after high school?  You could conquer the world!  You were ready to spread the light of Judaism and Israel to everyone!

How do you bring back that loving feeling?

Does hair grow from the bottom or the top?
What difference does it make?  It is of consequence to a nazir who was ambushed and shorn but enough remained to bend it over.  If you say it grows from the bottom, they have taken away his nazirism from him.  But if you say it grows from the top, then that which he sanctified is still intact.
Proof 1. A live louse stays at the foot of the hair follicle.  Now, if you think hair grows from the bottom, it should move up to the top!
Response: Indeed it very well may grow from the bottom, but due to its need to maintain a fresh, moist environment to thrive, it constantly descends back to the scalp.
Proof 2. A dead louse is found at the end of the tip of hair follicle.  Now, if you think hair grows from the top, it should remain at the foot of the hair follicle!
Response: In that situation, since it has no strength, it just slips down the hanging hair follicle.

For any creature to survive and thrive, it needs the right environment.  We are no different.  If you don’t maintain a fresh Torah environment for yourself, you will lose your spiritual strength and slip down.  How do you keep your Judaism fresh and moist?  Firstly, by keeping a good environment for your soul to thrive.  Find a shul that excites you!  Discover a shiur that you just can’t wait for each week! 

But even the most vibrant shuls and fantastic shiurim can lose their moisture with time.  You get used to seeing and hearing the same thing, week in week out, and it no longer enlivens you.  That’s when you need to refresh your spiritual connection.

When you were a kid, summer camp was an annual refresher that enlivened you and kept you going throughout the year.  The gap year in Israel similarly did wonders for keeping you dedicated over the ensuing college years.   How can you keep that environment fresh and moist as an adult?  How do you avoid growing stale and limp and slipping down that hair follicle of spirituality?

This issue is not a new, twenty-first century, matter.  Back in Talmudic times, they would close up shop for two months a year and go to the yeshiva to learn Torah full-time.  It was called Yarchei Kallah.  The only thing that has changed is that nowadays most of us don’t have the wherewithal to make that annual sacrifice for such lengths of time.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hit the refresh button.  How do we do that?

Today, Baruch Hashem, there are ample opportunities to spiritually refresh.  The OU runs an annual Torah convention in Los Angeles.  (For Edmontonians, December’s a nice time to be in LA!)  The Gateways organization runs regular Shabbatons and Yom Tov programs with wall-to-wall shiurim offered by incredible speakers and topics.  And despite the rap they get for their sweet indulgence, Pesach programs are marvellous opportunities for Torah learning, featuring many of the top Torah teachers in the world today.  I am currently scholar-in-residence at Passover Resorts in Valencia, California and I invite you to join us for some soul-refreshment! 

If you don’t keep your soul fresh, it will start to slip away.  That means finding the right environment at home and seeking opportunities for refreshment at various times during the year.  May you merit always keeping it fresh, invigorating and exciting!  

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