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Religion

The wheels of the bus

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I’m sure many of you remember the childhood song, “The wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round”? It’s one of my favourite tunes, and I still sing it with my grandchildren. It has the beat of repetition. Its tune elicits a sense of predictability, a trust that, come what may, the “wheels will go round and round, the door will open and shut, and the bus driver will say, ‘Move along, please’”. I smile because isn’t this a song about life? In fact, the analogy is unbelievably relevant.

While most of us perceive that our life is linear, that we start off in one place and land in another, in truth, it has a more cyclical quality to it. We are born and then we die, we come into this world, and then we leave, and in between that space of 120 years, we cycle through life events. More so, Judaism strongly believes in reincarnation, and so we cycle in and out of lives too. What is the purpose of the wheel going round and round? Some might even ask: is there a purpose?

Chassidic philosophy teaches us that we come into the world to make a dwelling place for G-d – meaning that we transition through this crass, materialistic world in order to find the sparks of G-dliness embedded in it and release them back to their source. We are miners, so to speak, on a mission. Our lives on this planet are transient, we’re merely passing through. But in that journey, we seek to find that which is eternal, that which has lost its way, and return it back to its rightful owner – G-d. It’s not only about returning the world back to a G-dly existence, it’s also about returning ourselves to who we really are – a chelek elokai mima’al mamosh (a veritable part of the divine).

So, our motion on earth is cyclical – we measure our progress at every birthday. How did we grow, what did we become? What did we achieve? We also experience it at every Jewish holiday. Every year, we revisit the same time and space, the same energy, and we ask ourselves, did I take the yom tov message to heart, and did I grow? Did I change myself, and did I effect my sphere of influence?

Even more, this experience isn’t a solo one, it’s a collaboration of many people, places, and times. We aren’t alone when we board the bus. There are many passengers, each on their own ride, going to a place unique to them. Remember – “The babies on the bus go ‘waa waa waa’, the mommies on the bus go ‘shh shh shh’.” What’s important, though, is that they are all on the same bus, and for everyone, the wheels of the bus go round and round.

We’ve just closed a wheel – the month of Adar – a time for joy when we were taught to serve G-d from a space of positivity and gratitude. Each day, we tried to look at this world through a positive lens and see how G-d does good and bestows so much blessing in our life. Simply put, we were challenged to practice the art of focusing on the glass half full not half empty.

And now that this wheel has closed its cycle and we have internalised that lesson, we enter the month of Nissan and the energy of freedom beckons to be discovered. Now is the time to work on freeing ourselves from the shackles of our idol worship. No, no. I’m not delusional in thinking we live in biblical times and are bowing down to molten, graven images! You see, we have even cycled through the annals of history. We now have developed into “sophisticated”, 21st-century idol worshippers – we worship fashion, status, money, and the pursuit of honour. We worship our egos, our selfish inclinations, and the incessant need to be something.

Comes the month of Nissan when we celebrate our nation’s release from the shackles of Pharaoh, and we are challenged to get out of our personal Egypt, to move beyond that which is shackling and holding us back from who we can truly be.

The one – most important – key, though, is to understand that true freedom doesn’t mean an abrogation of your responsibilities. It sadly doesn’t mean just lying on a beach with a pina colada watching as the world goes by (though it sounds unbelievably tempting when contemplating the cooking and cleaning we need to do before the holiday starts). True freedom is throwing off the shackles of self-imprisonment and reuniting ourselves with our true existence – a connection to G-d and his world.

This past year, more so than other years, we have been in bondage, physically and socially distanced, quarantined, and isolated. It’s undeniable that Mrs COVID-19 has been a very harsh taskmaster to us all. But at the same time, we have started to taste a deeper, truer level of freedom. We have been challenged to throw off the shackles of peer pressure, of keeping up with the Joneses, or was it the Cohens? We have been pushed to look inside and ask very real and relevant questions about our purpose, who we are, and why are we here. We’ve questioned our lifestyles, our modes of work, the style of education we offer our kids, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

This year, our bus certainly went on a detour into uncharted territory, but the journey showed us that there is more to life than wandering around aimlessly accumulating things and living empty lives. The bus driver on high is chiding us with a “move along please, move along please”. No, we are not going back to “normal!” Let’s seize the energy of redemption, and start living redeemed! Let’s reconnect to our original selves, take on a good resolution in the realm of spirituality, another small mitzvah which will add to the goodness and kindness the world so desperately needs. You’ll then be able to start seeing the enormous change this life cycle has brought, and you’ll be on the bus that will bring this world to its final destination, with the arrival of moshiach and a world filled with health, happiness, peace, and prosperity. Wishing you all a redemptive Pesach and a chag sameach.

  • Rebbetzin Aidel Kazilsky is a radio and television host, and an inspirational speaker who teaches the wisdom of Torah and applies it to contemporary times.

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