By Rabbi Yona Matusof
As we approach the new year, we are in the midst of an unprecedented dilemma that evokes many thoughts and emotions that are truly unique to our lives' experience. Most of our world is living with a sense of fear, uncertainty, emotional stress, economic challenges, and loneliness.
Yet we Jewish people are accustomed to facing challenges and hurdles which only make us stronger, more resilient, and more determined to overcome these difficulties.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that whatever happens in our world has a lesson for our spiritual service.
This foreign virus entering our bodies can be compared to negative traits that attempt to infiltrate and lure us to behavior that is both counterproductive and destructive for our spiritual and emotional well-being. By strengthening our holy, G‑Dly soul, we can expel these foreign invaders from hijacking our consciousness.
The path to success is through summoning our inner resources.
Chassidic thought teaches that at our essence, every Jew is pure and beautiful. Any negative qualities are superimposed over our pristine core. When we are in touch with our Divine core, we have the power to triumph over the strongest obstacles and, through our struggle, reveal our soul's exquisite beauty.
Mitzvah means connection. By performing mitzvot and studying Torah, we strengthen our connection to G‑d and His wisdom. Torah and mitzvot buttress our spiritual immune system so that our soul can shine and even transform negativity into light.
Now is the time more than ever to take on a new mitzvah, to study Torah, particularly those areas related to faith and solace, as well as connect to others, especially friends and mentors who can help support us.
This year our Holy Days, starting with Rosh Hashana, fall on Shabbos. Shabbos is a day of rest, tranquility and respite from the difficulties of the week, joyfully celebrating G-d's constant providence over every aspect of this world. When we sanctify the Sabbath with the special Kiddush prayer, we say that Shabbos is a reminder of our exodus from Egypt and becoming free - free of all encumbrances and constraints.
G-d loves us, and that's why we are here against all odds. We do not only live with hope but with assurance and faith that all will be as G-d wills, which is at the end result positive and good.
We will continue to be the lamplighters who bring light to the world, even in the darkest places. Light is the most powerful force that dispels darkness. Let us proclaim this year as "a year of light", when each of us, wherever we are, under whatever circumstances, will bring some more light to our environment and into our lives, doing positive and good, fulfilling G-d's will. Performing a mitzvah brings an illumination that has eternal and powerful impact.
May only goodness and kindness pursue us all the days of this year, as we look forward to removing all shackles and constraints and breathe G-d's air with a sense of freedom and positivity.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a sweet and successful year. L'Shanah Tovah U'metukah.
Rabbi Yona Matusof is the Director of Chabad of Madison. Born in Casablanca, Morocco and studied in Paris, France. After completing his studies at Rabbinical College in New York where he was ordained, he moved with his wife, Faygie, to Madison in 1980 as Rabbi of Chabad (Lubavitch) of Madison, serving the Madison and Dane County Jewish Community.