The Happiest Place on Earth

For our 20th wedding anniversary, we decided to make a dream come true—a trip to Disney World without the kids. As we entered the parking lot of the resort, the attendant at the gate warmly said to us, “Welcome home.” Wow, that’s so nice, I thought, impressed with Disney’s hospitality training.

As the car ride to Orlando was a long one, by the time we arrived, the floor of the front seat was strewn with empty coffee cups and wrappers from bags of chips and organicI looked carefully into his eyes to determine in the smile was genuine coconut cookies. Having no plastic bag, I clumped the trash into my hands and headed for the hotel, assuming there would be a trash can outside of the lobby entrance. Alas, there wasn’t. But as I walked into the elegant lobby, awkwardly clutching my garbage, the hotel greeter (who was dressed like a guard from Buckingham Palace) held out his big hands and said, “Here, let me take that.” I was mortified and refused the offer, preferring instead just to be directed to a trash can. “No need for that,” he replied with a smile. “After all, you’re home now.”

I looked carefully into his eyes to determine if the smile was genuine. According to French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, authentic smiles based on positive emotion involuntarily engage the muscles around the eyes, as opposed to fake smiles in which only the mouth moves. There it was—a genuine Duchenne smile. Realizing he was sincerely happy to be handed my garbage, I weakly raised up my hands, loosened my grasp and let go.

I liked this new “home” I found myself in. After all, no one cheerfully asked to throw out my trash in any home in which I ever lived. As I looked around the well-appointed lobby, I noticed the flowers, the music, and everyone moving about with happiness and delight. Compared to what I was used to, it was so perfect. Maybe I’m dead, I wondered. Maybe my husband and I had died instantly in a car crash on the way to Orlando, and now we’re in heaven. Could be worse. Just then, I saw a frustrated mother dragging a crying, balking child by the hand. Oh good, I’m not dead, I realized, as reality checked in.

The Song of the Soul

Life, as we all know, is not a Disney movie, and home is not a Disney resort. With all of its suffering, stresses and tests, however, real life is still one colossal ride. In the Torah portion of Ha’azinu, which is referred to as Moses’ farewell song to the Jewish people, Moses recaps the good, the bad and the ugly. Neither holding back criticism of past behavior nor mincing words about the dire future consequences of bad choices, he nevertheless inspires the people with a vision of ultimate victory and final redemption. No matter the trials and tribulations the Jewish people endured (and will endure), the deep connection between G‑d and the Jewish people is an everlastingly unbreakable and unshakable bond.

Sympathetic Vibration

So, what is a “song?” The notes in a chord and theOur imperfections form part of a perfect destiny-driven whole voices and instruments in an orchestra blend together to form a single sound. Ha’azinu is written in the form of a song, so we are to understand that whether for good or bad, all of creation resonates in harmony to proclaim G‑d’s unity.

Thus, our imperfections form part of a perfect destiny-driven whole. In fact, the very heaven and earth that G‑d created in the opening verse of the Torah—those eternal sentinels—are now beckoned to hear and witness Moses’ song, in which past, present and future combine in a timeless coherence. Although Ha’azinu is the next to the last chapter of the Torah, we read it most years on the first Shabbat following Rosh Hashanah (the New Year). As endings merge with new beginnings, Moses is about to pass away, and then Adam is born.

Our Heart Song

Often occurring between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Ha’azinu falls on one of the holiest Sabbaths of the year, where we engage in deep introspection and reset our intentions for the coming year. Ha’azinu, however,reminds us we were imperfect in the past, and despite our best intentions, we will be so in the future. But just as G‑d doesn’t expect perfection from us, neither should we expect Disney perfect lives. While it may sound discordant at times, we each have a song to sing and a voice to be heard. Inner harmony is not about perfection; rather, it’s about connection. The music we make becomes the songs of our lives, blending into the vast timeless symphony of Creation, which, nevertheless, connects us to G‑d and each other. It’s a small world, after all.

Internalize and Actualize:

  1. Where do you feel most at home? And do you feel at home within yourself? Do others feel at home when they are with you? Write down the qualities that define “home” for you. Are all of these healthy qualities? Are there any you want to work on or add?
  2. Think about where you were at this time last year. How have you grown and developed in this year? What has changed about you? Write down five positive things that have happened that could not have happened a year ago. Then write down five areas you would like to work on. Think about yourself a year from now, how do you want those five things to be different? What can you start doing now to ensure they will be?
  3. You have a song, a unique song that was written and continues to be written and sung just by you and for you. How do you want your song to sound? What do you want it to say? Think about the voices and instruments you want representing it. Then try to listen to it in your head. How does it make you feel? Can you sing your song?