Ignition Switch

Friday, 29 March, 2024 - 3:11 pm


It was an hour before the Purim party where close to 90 people were scheduled to arrive at the Shul when we noticed that we were out of a few paper goods, so my daughter quickly ran over to Party City to get them, but as she was ready to rush back to Shul, the car wouldn’t start. More accurately, it would start; but wouldn’t stay on once she let go of the key. In her defense, it happened a few times in the weeks prior, but since I was too busy with holiday preparations, I was planning to bring it into the shop right after Purim. Now, however, my hopes that it would last until after the holiday of Purim, were dashed.

When you ignite the engine, it is expected to stay on for as long as you wish to drive. After having the car towed to two mechanic shops (the first one couldn’t fix it,) I learnt that the ignition switch on our car is faulty and turns off the engine as soon as you let go of the key. As I am writing, the car is being worked on and I really hope they can get it fixed.

I’m not telling you this story to simply kvetch (although kvetching can sometimes be fun.) I’m telling it to you because, in one anecdote, this is an issue G-d has been dealing with for far too long.

“I’m on a thirty-day diet; I already lost 21 days,” says the comedian. The way we live our lives often leads us to situations where even when we get inspired, awakened, or motivated to make a healthy lifestyle change or commit to do something noble, the inspiration doesn’t stay with us for too long. The human species isn’t so good at sticking to what it resolves to do, and we quickly default back to our less-than-desirable behaviors. It needs to be something of significant magnitude to keep us at our resolutions for a long time, and a herculean strength of character is required to make lifestyle changes that are permanent.

Our spiritual life reflects our physical one. Throughout our lifetime, we can suddenly feel various spiritual inspirations and awakenings. Without an apparent reason, we feel the need to reconnect with a Jewish custom or generally with our Judaism. We suddenly feel motivated and inspired to become ‘a better Jew.’

We mistakenly call these feelings ‘Jewish guilt.’ In truth, these are ‘pings from Heaven,’ it is G-d sending us signals that He’s thinking of us; it is G-d turning the key in our engine.

These calls are meant to get us excited and involved in our Jewish life, to let our soul’s flame burn brightly. While the ‘turn of the key’ certainly starts our engine, all too often the moment G-d’s hand leaves the key – when the inspiration dissipates – our engine shuts off and the soul once again gets covered up by the nitty-gritty of everyday life.

When King Solomon described the Exodus (Song of Songs 1:4) he writes: “Draw me to You; after You we shall run.” The Chassidic sages have explained this verse to mean, that G-d sent us a signal through Moses, an awakening, and we responded in kind and ‘ran’ towards Him, accepting the Torah and becoming the Jewish nation. We didn’t let that inspiration float away with the wind, we did something about it.

Kind Solomon is telling us that the solution to this problem is to put our engine into drive immediately. When our spiritual engine is ignited – when we feel a Jewish inspiration – we should follow the lead of the Jews of the Exodus and ‘run’ with it. We should do something to anchor that feeling. Our sages promised us that when we put feelings into deeds and translate our spiritual inspirations into actions, they will stick around and last.

So, the next time our engine is started, we should quickly think of a Mitzvah we can do, and then do it immediately. Let’s ‘run’ towards Him, towards our Judaism, towards Shul and towards Jewish activity.

As I learnt this week, running towards a solution is a lot cheaper than having to be towed to it. So let me wish you a Shabbat Shalom and a week of revved up Jewish engines.

Rabbi Mendel Greisman

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