One of the more dreaded destinations these days is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It’s a place that many try to avoid as much as possible. But sooner or later a visit there is almost unavoidable.
Recently, I had one such visit. For those unaware, as of October 2020, regular licenses will no longer be accepted in airports for national flights or to gain entry into government buildings throughout the country. Going forward, one will need an enhanced license. So begrudgingly, I went off to the DMV to get my enhanced license. I will leave the discussion about my DMV experience for a future article. For the moment, I wanted to share that, although I am gratified to have my enhanced license, and am able to cross that off my list, it is tinged with a bit of sadness.
My original license picture was taken when I first got my license, when I was 16 years old. Since then, every time my license needed to be renewed, I would send in a check and the necessary form, and they would send back the new license with the same picture. So, until now, my license had my picture from when I was 16.
Whenever I travel and present my license, security personnel always do a double take, “Is that really you?” And now, almost 25 years later, that cute experience is coming to an end.
For my new enhanced license, I was required to get a new picture taken at the DMV. Among many other gripes about the DMV is the fact that the “photographers” seem to be trained to make sure the picture is unflattering. So now, instead of looking 25 years younger in my picture, I look about ten years older. I guess that’s part of the price for a new enhanced license.
Rabbi Shalom Schwadron related that one time he was in the mikvah when an elderly fellow next to him took off his shirt to reveal a very small pair of tzitzis. When Rabbi Schwadron gently noted to the man that his tzitzis were rather small, the man explained that he had them from when he was a young boy. He had never gotten a new pair.
Rabbi Schwadron quipped that many people are metaphorically similar to that man. They learn the stories of the Avos and the Imahos, the stories of Yonah, David HaMelech, Esther, and Rus. But they maintain that childlike understanding of those stories throughout their lives. They never seek to understand the incredible depth and profound life lessons that are to be gleaned from our foremost heroes.
My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, often notes that although the stories don’t change, we do. We need to grow with the parshiyos and with the lessons they impart to us. Otherwise, we are no different from the older man wearing a child’s pair of tzitzis.
Like people, relationships have ups and downs. They do not remain static, and require constant nurturance and attention to maintain and enhance them.
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus zt”l noted that Chazal compare the Jewish year and its holidays to human maturation.
Pesach is the birth and genesis of our nationhood. Shavuos is our national bar mitzvah, when we accept the Torah. Sukkos is the wedding between Hashem and klal Yisrael, with Sh’mini Atzeres/Simchas Torah symbolizing a level of intimate closeness, as it were. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur represent the forgiveness for all sins granted to a bride and groom when they marry (see Yerushalmi Bikurim).
Rabbi Pincus continues that when a couple gets married, we dance and sing joyously in celebration of the new home being created. But, in truth, at that point, we don’t know if that home will endure and withstand the tempests and challenges of time. It is only when the couple have a “good fight” – and are able to work things out and get past their differences – that we can be confident that the marriage will withstand the inevitable vicissitudes that arise.
In his inimitable fashion, Rabbi Pincus asserts that “Chanukah and Purim were that good fight.” At that time, the Jewish people felt isolated from G-d as a result of their sinful behavior. There was national despair and despondency, and the Jewish people questioned their enduring relationship with G-d. The salvation that occurred both times was proof and reassurance of the perpetuity of our status as the chosen nation and of our eternal relationship with G-d.
There is only one thing in this world that is immutable and unchanging. “I, Hashem, have not changed; and you, the children of Yaakov, have not been destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). But all relationships wax and wane, even our feeling of closeness with Hashem. Chanukah and Purim remind us and strengthen our conviction that the relationship will never be broken and we can always come home.
The Gemara (Shabbos 88b) relates that at the time of Kabalas HaTorah on Har Sinai there was an element of coercion. At the time of the Purim miracle, however, the nation reaccepted the Torah, this time solely with love and joy.
In that sense, although Kabalas HaTorah was when we received our license to be the Chosen People, on Purim we received our enhanced license. Indeed, Chazal say that on Purim all celestial doors and gates are open to us.
Just don’t go for the road test on Purim afternoon...