Life for most is a gradual ascent, a plateau and a nostalgic sigh. There is ambition. Struggle. Exhaustion and for most, ultimately success. From atop the mountain we breathe in crisp air, raise a victorious fist and savor the decades long trek. And then we plan for our shrinking future as we descend knowing it’s OK and life’s timetable. But for some it is a meteoric rise and then sudden bewilderment. Goals rapidly achieved. Red carpet strolls ducking the paparazzi. Celebrities who cannot yet vote nor sidle up to a bar and order a Heineken.
The Olympics are the fast-paced journey of the young who achieve fame, catapulted to the pinnacle in head spinning adolescence. How do they cope with their glory? Their popularity? I am awed by the talent of the Olympians. The world class athletes who defy gravity and ferocious split-second competition but who probably never filled out a tax return nor balanced a check book. Suddenly, they are endorsing products. Guests on the talk show circuit. Heroes on a box of Wheaties. Summit dwellers waving gold, silver and bronze and then it’s over. Dreams fulfilled. Goals completed. Records set and then home to the quiet banality of routine. No ovations. No applause. The yawning cadence of life.
We can only imagine what Moses went through after forty days atop Sinai, hanging out with angels and God and then coming down to the Golden Calf. Revelation and then revulsion. Life cannot be a never ending high. If that’s what we seek we will destroy ourselves in an impossible quest. Life is pandemonium and silence. Frenzy and calm. Adulation and anonymity. Laughter and tears.
Perhaps within the holiness of Shabbos, there is a lesson. Shabbos is the highlight of our week. A time of song and fragrance, beauty and prayer. To enjoy this divine gift, tradition teaches that each Jew receives a ’neshama yeteira, a second soul’ at licht benshen so as to cherish every moment of this holy day. With the conclusion of Havdalah, the soul departs and within seconds we go from kodesh lechol. From the sublime to the pedestrian. Yet what do we say at this instant? We cry out ‘Shavua Tov, a good week’. We don’t wallow nor lament. I would like to suggest that when we utter such words there is a hidden meaning behind the obvious expression. Not just ‘Have a good week’ but ‘The rest of the week is also good’. Not Shabbos, but sacred in its way. Hallowed but with only one soul.
The art of life is to enjoy it all. The ascent and the descent. The majestic and the humble. The mountain top and the valley.