When we are experiencing joy, exhilaration, success, celebration, we often say “I wish this could go on forever!”
But except for God, nothing can last forever – there are limits.
Shmini Atzeret, the eighth day of the holiday that ends the festival of Sukkot, is also the finale of the whole intense holiday period we are experiencing during this month of Tishrei – corresponding this year to nearly the entire month of October. Shmini Atzeret (one of the meanings of atzeret is ‘stop’ or ‘conclusion’) puts a stop to the celebratory period, to the festivities, to the joy of the festivals, to the “exception” days as opposed to our “regular” days.
Shmini Atzeret reminds us of the importance and inevitability of limits. Just as the exceptional moments of observance and celebration that we relish come to an end, so too does life. It behooves us, then, as we contemplate the profoundly life affirming and life enhancing messages of these Jewish holy days, to consciously and continuously treasure life and all its gifts, be grateful for the exceptional moments of observance and celebration that are ours, cherish those who are special to us and bring meaning to our lives, and appreciate the blessings of the daily obligations and opportunities of our daily living.
With best wishes to all for you, from my family and me, for a good, healthy, sweet, and meaningful New Year – Shanah tovah and chag sameiach!
Rabbi Jonathan Pearl