Sometimes young couples appear so in love that I can’t even look. I see them entangled on a park bench, eyes only for each other. So sweet. Candyfloss.
Just a few paces away, worlds apart, sits an elderly couple. He has a dreamy gaze as she hollers commentary on the park moms into his ear. I suspect that he has seated himself with his bad ear to her side.
The young lovers giggle. He hops up to buy her ice cream when the vendor cycles past. She blushes and titters at his thoughtfulness.
“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” the old fellow bellows. I don’t hear her response, but I see their eyes lock briefly as the faintest smile plays on both wrinkled faces.
Hollywood love is glossy. With the right moves, you can make it look great in public. Well-matured love is rich and deep with nothing to prove.
Newly engaged couples live in a bright, optimistic world. They laugh easily at each other’s comments and foibles, and they boast about how connected they are.
More inspiring is aged couples, who may no longer have rose-tinted glasses, yet remind us that still love runs deep.
New love flames; old love glows.
When you’re new to love, you have to keep checking yourself. You have to constantly test your input and analyze what you get in return. Young love, albeit dynamic, brings considerable angst.
When you have weathered decades of life’s storms together, your bones know that your love is there. We watch older couples bicker and imagine that the spark is gone. Actually, it’s the unease that’s gone. Their connection is powerful enough that they never question it. They don’t wonder if their needs are met or if they’ve stepped up to the plate. Instead of being self-conscious, they are in touch with the stability of their relationship.
Then there is another experience of love. Family love usually hides behind chores and squabbles, only to erupt when a family member leaves. As long as they sprawl across the couch, you don’t feel the love. When they video-call from across the Atlantic, you pine for them. When they visit, you laugh late into the night, hanging on to every moment. The mother who eventually traces her biological daughter can never do enough to reclaim the lost decades.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur represent different love experiences between us and G-d.
And the Moon holds the key to decode them. Our Jewish calendar tracks the lunar cycle because Torah compares us to the Moon. As a nation and as individuals, we experience our phases of growth, brightness and decline.
Astronomy 101 tells you that a full moon occurs when the Moon is farthest in its orbit from the Sun. Just before New Moon- when we see nothing in the night sky- the Moon is closest to the Sun.
Jewish mysticism teaches us that these phases offer insight into our love phases with G-d. Like the misleadingly shiny love of newlyweds, Full Moon’s is when the partners are not as close as they imagine. Rosh Chodesh is like the humble love of an older couple. Not much to see, but the connection is real.
You could say that there are three types of love. Early love is bright, exciting and uncertain. Mature love allows us to let go of the “I” and melt into the beauty of “we”. Then there is urgent love that reacts to the lost opportunities for connection. Once we realise how much we’ve missed out on, we feel compelled to catch up.
Rosh Hashanah is the only major Jewish holiday that falls on Rosh Chodesh. King David nicknamed it the festival of concealment. We tend to think of Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgement- crunch time to pray for everything we’ll need in the coming year. The mystics teach us that it is the day when we, like the Moon, feel closest to our Source. On Rosh Hashanah, the essence of connection to G-d comes to light. It is an awakening, where we temporarily forget our persona, as our soul bonds with the Source. On Rosh Hashana, we realise that our love for G-d is greater than our misdeeds.
Following Rosh Hashanah, we are left with one nagging question.
My soul and G-d are so connected, so where have I been all this time? I’m that kid who was somehow adopted by “The World”. Rosh Hashanah placed me face to face with my “biological” Father in Heaven. I now feel the lost opportunities of my life, which propels me to an urgent need to connect.
That is Yom Kippur. Not as we often think, the day to wade through a laundry list of apologies. It is the day of urgent love. Yom Kippur is when we will do anything to reconnect to Him again; to get our light to shine again.
As we head into the High Holiday period, it is empowering to consider that this is not simply a time of regret. It is certainly not a time of sadness. It is an invitation to reconsider a deep love we may take for granted and reignite it with enthusiasm.
Wishing you and yours a Shana Tovah, please G-d this year should be filled with revealed blessing for all. May this be the year when G-d takes us back home, with the coming of Moshiach.
Based on the teachings of Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe of Chabad