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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Reclaim your soul

Daf Yomi Nazir 61

The service on the morning of Hoshana Rabba (the seventh day of Sukkot) is long.  It’s the final day of judgment, and so we utter prayers of penitence.  We are happy in the knowledge that G-d will forgive us, so we include verses of praise from the festival prayers.  And it is the final day of circling the bimah with our lulav and etrog, which we perform a full seven times.  Most people just want to get the service over and done with, their minds preoccupied with the work they need to do before they are absent from professional life for another two days.

The most inspiring Hoshana Rabba service I ever saw took place in the Carlebach Shul with Reb Shlomo.  They sang each word with joy and soul.  No part of the prayer was too burdensome for them.  They understood that the day and each phrase was incredibly precious.  That is how Hoshana Rabba should be celebrated!

Mishnah: A gentile cannot become a nazir.  A servant may become a nazir.
Gemara: How do we know this?  The Torah states, “Speak to the Children of Israel,” implying not to gentiles.  “And say to them,” comes to include servants.
Why do we need a scriptural source?  We know that servants are able to perform any mitzvah that is not time-bound!
Rava answers: The Torah states, “When a person utters a vow to place a bond upon his soul,” implying that vows are only effective when uttered by one who owns his soul, which excludes servants for their souls do not belong to them.  I might assume that since his soul is not his own, the same exclusion would apply to nazirism; therefore the verse teaches otherwise.

There was a time when we all had soul.  Sadly, today many people have lost control of their soul.  We have become robots, programmed to just get through the day.  Even our religious life is affected.  We go through the motions, eager to move on to the next activity.  But where are we running to?

Does your soul belong to you?  Or can you not recall the last time you really felt passionate about spirituality?  Reclaiming your soul doesn’t happen automatically – it takes a commitment to living in the here and now.  To focusing on your present activity and enjoying it with all your heart and soul.

The second your mind starts drifting to ‘what’s next on my agenda today?’ you’ve lost your soul.  You’re no longer living in the moment; you might physically be present but your spirit has departed.  You’ve abandoned control over your soul.  That’s the wonder of meditation – removing any distractions from your mind and investing your entire being in the present.  It takes enormous effort and most people don’t allow themselves the patience or willpower to focus on nothing but the moment.  But if you can master the here and now, you are in control of your soul.

Especially during prayer, you must learn to take control of your soul.  You need to train yourself to remove every extraneous thought from your mind and only then can your soul flourish.  As long as there’s other rubbish in the way, your soul has no room to breathe.  For just a few minutes a day, clear out all the junk and let your soul soar!

It’s time to regain control of your soul.  Break out of the control that the world has over you; you are a Divine being, not a robot.  May you merit the self-control needed to master your soul!  

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