While the holidays give us opportunities of change and uplift, it is good that there are also time periods that are more or less “flat.”
These ordinary periods are, in fact, the time of the trial:
Did the person, on his own, truly accomplish something within his own being?
Or perhaps everything that happens to him comes from without?
A person may be artificially placed into an atmosphere of burning enthusiasm and exaltation, but this cannot last for long.
A candle may be lit once, twice, or three times, but if it contains no fuel, it will not burn, even if one stands constantly beside it with a match.
In an experiment performed on human beings – and which is also used sometimes as a method of torture – a person is put into a place where there are no external stimuli whatsoever: soundless, sightless confinement.
After some time, many people start yelling, “Let me out of here!”
They cannot bear it, and some even lose their sanity.
But there are also people for whom such an experience becomes a turning point; precisely the absence of external stimuli causes them to bolster their inner essence.
This is exactly what God does with us in the ordinary periods of the annual cycle.
He gives us a time period in which there are no special occasions, as though calling to us: “Let’s see what you are when you’re alone!”
Sometimes, even a decent man does not wake from his slumber, but rather continues to exist as though he were merely a copy of something or someone – until he is shaken up.
Only then does he wake up, change, and take on the form of a human being.
That is why sometimes the request is made in heaven that something should happen to a certain person – so that he should awaken and begin to move.
We, however, wish to not experience trouble or misfortune.
Here, our human power enters the picture, the power we have by virtue of our being human – our ability to accomplish through inner effort.
In other words, the only remedy for ordinary days and ordinary life is avoidance of living life haphazardly; rather, we should build our lives consciously, with premeditation.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz