I am experiencing a major lull in my spiritual motivation. I started getting into Jewish things around a year ago, but now I just don’t have the passion for it anymore. Rosh Hashanah is coming—last year I was all inspired, this year I don’t feel any drive whatsoever to attend services. Is there something I can do to revive my enthusiasm?
Do you remember how you learnt to ride a bike? Your first bicycle was fitted with training wheels on both sides, to keep you from tipping over. The training wheels allowed you to get the feel of riding the bike and build confidence. You felt so good, speeding along and never falling.
Then, just as you started to get comfortable, your parents removed the training wheels and told you to get on the bike and ride. So you got on, rode for half a second and then lost balance and fell flat. “How can I ride without training wheels?” you thought. But your parents insisted that you try again. So you did, and again you fell.
Your frustration built up, to the point that you were ready to give in. You may have wondered why your parents took the training wheels off in the first place. But had they not, you would never learn to ride your bike all on your own. It’s harder to ride without training wheels, but only then is it really you riding the bike, using your own skill rather than depending on outside help. You may fall a few times, but as long as you get back up and keep pedaling, eventually you get your balance and the bike rides smoothly along the road.
When someone gets in touch with their Jewishness for the first time, there is a thrill and an excitement unlike anything else in the world. This initial inspiration is a little helping hand from G‑d, spiritual training wheels that help us start our journey. But once we get the hang of it, once we have advanced along the spiritual path and are ready to go deeper, the training wheels are removed and we have to ride on our own. The inspiration disappears, the motivation fades, and we are left dangling.
Here’s the real test. When the excitement wears off, there are those who drop out of the spiritual life. They think that the fun is over, this spiritual stuff isn’t for me, and they move on. If we do that, then we miss out the chance to go to the next level: to connect to our souls through our own efforts. Precisely the moment when the inspiration fizzles out is when the real soul work begins. Rather than being propped up by divinely created inspiration, we have to look within and start riding on inspiration that we create ourselves. The spiritual path has to become ours, something we work for and earn.
We will fall again, but every fall brings a chance to take things to a new level. Keep on pedaling, inspired or not, and you will advance further and further in your soul’s journey.
Feeling uninspired? Your training wheels are off. You don’t need them anymore. Get up and ride.