I woke up this morning and my bones were aching. I guess that five hours of dancing with the Torahs can do that to you when you are out of shape. Aching is not a feeling that is usually associated with a feeling of pleasure. But this ache surprisingly was. I almost don’t want it to go away. I feel like this is the last vestige of the High Holiday and Sukkot feeling that I worked so hard to connect to. It is the way my bones and muscles are letting me know that we gave it our all over this last month.
There is a verse that we say every Shabbat morning in the prayer of Nishmat Kol Chai that states “All my bones declare, who is like you Hashem!” Based on this verse, many pious Jews have seen reference to the fact that the greatest service of God comes when you put your entire self into it: mind, heart and body. It is for this reason that Jews sway when we pray, pace when we study Torah, and eat, drink and dance on our holiest days. When we serve God, it is a full body workout!
So as I passed by the mirror this morning, I came to a new appreciation of the wide variety and number of Mitzvot that we are commanded to perform over the past month. They are there to completely engage every part of our body in serving God- from our head to our feet- and completely immerse us in holiness. So let’s reflect together on this past month.
The Shofar blasts transformed the breath of the blower into a holy sound wave for us to receive with our ears. We raised our voices in prayer pleading with Hashem to forgive our shortfalls as we pounded our chests during the Vidui confession.
We rolled up our sleeves and built beautiful Sukkahs using the best of our engineering and interior design skills and entered the Sukkah with our entire body, one of the few Mitzvot in the Torah that completely immerse us. We took the 4 species in our hands, as our noses encountered the sweet fragrances of the Etrog and Hadassim (myrtle branches) that represent good character traits. And as we shook the species, we recalled the symbolism of the Lulav which represents our spine, the Hadassim and Aravot (willow branch) whose leaves resemble the eyes and lips, and the Etrog which is shaped like our heart.
And, finally, on Simchat Torah we took the floor and danced as long as our legs and feet could carry us with the Sefer Torahs being held tightly in our arms.
And now, it is the morning after. It will be close to another six months until we will be crunching the Matzah with our teeth and dealing with the various stomach issues that come along with that. But, for today- at least until this aching wears off and life goes back to its normal routine- I feel like my body has been transformed in to a vessel for Mitzvah performance and Godly service. I can say with full honesty “All my bones declare, who is like you Hashem!”
And it feels wonderful!