Schvitzing, I collapsed with a weary groan onto my bed, but managed a smile of satisfaction and thanked G-d it was all done: my longtime goal of tidying, organizing and rearranging my room was finally accomplished.
People think I’m so neat – and to be honest, so did I – until I got into the ‘dirty work’ for myself and witnessed how much accumulated… including dust bunnies under the furniture. Hey, I’ve had a lot going on lately! Nevertheless, procrastination doesn’t nullify a task; and with each new day and excuse, it may just grow more challenging to tackle. My undertaking commenced two afternoons ago, consisting mostly of pushing around smaller fixtures and feeding a kaleidoscopic pile of books, school supplies, tchotchkes and other forgotten treasures atop my blanket. Needless to say I had to reclaim my bed that night; and I did just that, as well as vacuum, move furniture with a brother’s help, and sort through needles and thread, pencils and papers – the latter which carried on into 2:00 AM! After Shacharis and learning yesterday morning, I threw myself into finishing the extensive work my room presented, operating from a different level of consciousness, or maybe lack thereof – it’s debatable; I was practically caught in a frenzy. There is something profoundly cathartic about disposing of ‘stuff’ no longer needed, or passing it on to someone who may actually benefit from it – either way transferring it from your possession, and also recognizing the difference between what is of value or necessity and what is not. I excitedly envisioned the freedom of movement, creative expression and spirituality the new simplicity and orderliness of my room would help facilitate.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m no ascetic, and I definitely have an appreciation for attractive and quality things. Most importantly though, authentic Judaism is a far cry from denial of the physical, but is rather an earnest advocate of finding the spark of Divinity and purpose imbuing absolutely everything. We aim to elevate materiality through the sanctity of Torah and Mitzvos, so that the G-dliness within it may be recognized and expressed, founding a “dwelling place”, as it were, for Hashem in these lower realms. Gashmiyus (the material, physical) makes an exceptional servant, but a dreadful master, to play on a quote by R’ Mendel Kalmenson in his Seeds of Wisdom books. Are we utilizing our gashmiyus to harness its potential in our service of Hashem and refinement of this world? Or do we abuse it (or allow it to abuse us), locked in an insatiable pursuit of more possessions as an end unto itself? At the end of one hundred and twenty years, none of them come along with us on the journey; only do the merits of the Torah and Mitzvos, achieved through what we had and properly used in this world. So, let us make the most of it! Every Jewish home is a “mikdash me’at,” a microcosm of the Holy Temple which was the epicenter of fusion between Heavenly and Earthly, and we are endowed with the ability to recreate such a holy atmosphere today. We strive for mindfulness in all our earthly affairs, to become conscious of a Reality greater than our selves. There is more to life than what I think, want and feel; what does HE desire of me, here, now? I was clearly placed into these circumstances, my footsteps directed to this point in time, for a reason, for a purpose… and that is simply to bring more G-dly light into this universe, starting with my own inner world and branching outward.
All these lofty ideas can culminate in one miraculous message: the light of Chanukah. It’s not just a thrilling drama in our history, but one that is perpetually and recurringly unfolding today: ever-increasing illumination; preserving our values and faith, and adhering to our mission, even in the face of adversity; dedicating all of our beings and assets to serving Hashem mindfully; being a selfless ambassador of His light.
This is what I hope to achieve, at least on some level, through something as practical as turning my room upside-down. As I declutter, I am reminded I am not living just for myself, but for others, and my task is to make a home for G-d; I need to make space, in my room, heart and mind to allow such bonds to flourish. Now the enhancement of my room’s appearance is laced with an elevated intent. I am removing the excess which is a distraction, or serving no purpose – the accumulation and keeping of, which may even hold me back from achieving my soul’s full potential – and also focusing on increasing that which can be transformed into something spiritual. During the Greek dominion over Israel at the time of the Chanukah story (about 200 BCE), they profaned the Beis Hamikdash, filling it distracting things and negative influences, such a statues of their pagan deities. When the Hasmoneans triumphed and reclaimed Jerusalem, restoring the Temple service to its former completion and glory, it was called “Chanukas Habayis* – Dedication of the House!” Likewise, I am rededicating my room to Hashem, with greater purity and beauty, focus on His mission and awareness of His Presence, reflecting my ancestors’ deeds so long ago.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory urged every Jew to make their home, and even personal bedrooms, a Beis Chabad… an abode of mindful Jewish living. Ensure that your room has a mezuzah, Torah texts and a Siddur, a Tzedokoh box and anything else you might need to welcome Hashem into your day and inspire others to do as well! A Jew’s very body as well is esteemed as a mikdash me’at; you carry the essence of the Beis Hamikdosh with you, so become a Lamplighter, a positive example for the rest of the world. You are showing us the way! Remember, it may seem to start small – with you, your room, or your home – but you can be confident knowing the effects ripple and are far reaching.
How will you personally keep the spirit of the Chanukah flames burning throughout the year?
With warm wishes and blessings for only revealed miracles, especially the Ultimate Geulah!
*NOTE: The Midrash teaches that the very first Chanukas Habayis of the Mishkan in the wilderness, could technically have been commemorated on Chof-Hey (25) Kislev, the first day of Chanukah, when it was physically complete and ready to be inaugurated. However, Hashem wished to delay the dedication ceremony until Nissan – Rosh Chodesh Nissan to be precise – to honor this month in which Yitzchok Avinu was born. (Therefore it was after Rosh Chodesh Nissan that each of the Tribes’ nesi’im [princes] brought their offerings – holy housewarming gifts!) Nevertheless, Hashem still wished to recognize Chof-Hey Kislev and ‘compensate it for it’s loss,’ and therefore He made Chanukah to be celebrated then, after the Jewish People’s restoration of the Beis Hamikdosh succeeding the Greeks’ violation. This became the Chanukas Habayis we associate with the Chanukah story – the anniversary of the original potential Chanukas Habayis/Hamizbeyach.