These are truly extraordinary times! In the words of the UN Secretary General “The current pandemic is the biggest challenge for the world since World War Two”.
The impact is total. It is disrupting every part of our lives. The way we behave and interact with others. Many have become more anxious and fragile. Our perspective on life is being profoundly challenged.
Hundreds of millions are living under lockdown. Social distancing has shattered the rhythm of our daily lives. Communal and religious gatherings in physical proximity of all types have been outlawed. Society is being compelled to live alone.
The Baal Shem Tov teaches us that each and every thing we see or hear is a personal message to us from G-d. Certainly an event of such biblical proportions.
Every once in a while we all need to press the refresh (or reset) button on our operating systems. The world is no different. Each year the universe goes through the same phase. It is called the High Holidays, when G-d refreshes his relationship with mankind and the world we inhabit.
The climax of this experience is the closing moments of Yom Kippur during the final service called ‘Neilah’. The Rebbe explains that even though this is referred to as the ‘closing of the gates’, it is in fact the moment when they are most open.
It is called ‘closing’ only to convey that at this point in time, all doors are closed to the outside world. There are no trappings or distractions of any kind. It is only you in your most pristine state and G-d, alone together, who are present. It is the most private and intimate moment between man and G-d.
We are living in extraordinary times. Many layers and forms of our artificial identity are being stripped from us. The distractions of work and it’s protective environment have been reduced. Leisure and travel have been severely restricted. Socialising in the conventional sense in no longer an option. During these current conditions we are all being exposed to our more natural and pristine state of existence.
We are beginning to hear and even appreciate the sound of silence. We are starting to see a world of less pretension and inhibition. A world which is more conducive to people discovering a more unified existence and a greater sense of collective purpose. A world which would allow G-d to collectively embrace all of mankind.
Perhaps this is the ‘Neilah’ moment of history. Let us not be afraid to let go, so that we can all be embraced by G-d, alone, together.