There’s a long, long backstory to this, both about who the late Dr. Herman Prins Salomon was, and our relationship with him, as well as how and why 180 large totes of his books and papers in five-plus different languages ended up in our basement – but the point I’d like to share with you today comes from watching the two movers, a big muscled guy and a small but strong lady, carry two or three totes of these books on their backs using thick cloth straps, carrying them up the stairs and out – to be brought for sorting, analysis and inclusion at UAlbany’s University Libraries. The move took place on the day before Yom Kippur.
It’s not easy, these are very heavy totes. Books are not meant to be carried in large plastic totes. Ideally, books are supposed to be stored and carried in wine-sized boxes. And these movers are stacking two of three of them with that cloth strap and carrying them on their back.
Watching them do it, on the day before Yom Kippur no less, gave me a few some inspirational thoughts:
THE MENTAL FOCUS & FEEL
They line up the totes on a table or raised surface (above other stacked totes, there are lot of them here!), get the big cloth strap aligned right and just as they are about to lift, actually just after the initial lift and tilt, but before they walk off with it on their backs, you see them intensely focus. There’s a moment of mental tension, focus, tightly closed eyes and such. I asked them about it, basically, they are getting a feel for the weight, they wait for it to tilt and shift towards their back, its a concentration moment to get the right feel of what’s on their back.
THEY TALK TO EACH OTHER, THEMSELVES & THE BOOKS
They coax themselves along, they talk to the books to stay in place, they encourage one another. It’s more than chit-chat at work, there’s that, too, but part of it seems part of a strengthening, like the “I think I can, I think I can…” verbalized by the little Blue Engine, in the old classic “The Little Engine That Could.” They know, of course, that books are inanimate and don’t hear them, but they talk to the books on their back now and then, especially when it feels as if they may shift or tilt the wrong way.
Tonight is Yom Kippur. We each have a lot of weight to lift. We carry a lot on our backs. Even those of us whom it appears go through life effortlessly and cheerfully may have issues and struggles that are hidden underneath. Certainly, there are those in our circles that its more evident that they carry heavy emotional loads.
The tilt is crucial, the shift matters. You don’t want to lose grip, you need the right balance and in the right direction. Sometimes we’re trying to get rid of the weight altogether. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but even when we can’t or shouldn’t get rid of the weight, the tilt and balance can make a huge difference.
Prayer has that mental component. The Rebbe speaks of that “untergarteling” moment, that mental preparedness, that focus shift, that moves us into the right space for prayer.
I’ve seen the word “Mentality” on some of the new UAlbany Great Dane shirts. Turns out it is a big theme for the new basketball coach DK Killings. We heard similar language from Ryan F. and Owen S. of the UAlbany Track and Field in their day, from their coaches. You’d think sports is mostly a physical thing, but mentality is a huge part of it. Tanya 26 gives an example of wrestlers and the role that mentality & emotional weight plays into it.
But prayer also has words. We talk to ourselves, we say words in response, and words aloud and words in silence. We say words as a community and as individuals.
Also, beyond prayer, as we go ahead into a year of choices and challenges, dealing with weights and balances and all that, both mentality and words can help us a lot.
Like these movers.