‘Inception’ is an ingenious science fiction film that is based on the premise that we can access the subconscious via dreams. For the uninitiated, this essentially amounts to parallel universes within universes, with each deeper layer being created by a dreamer in the layer above. In each layer, time passes more slowly, until you get to Limbo, where time stretches out almost for eternity. Crucially, death in Limbo brings you back to the previous level.
During his experiment, the film’s protagonist - Cobb, becomes trapped in Limbo with his wife. For 50 years they remain there; unaware that their universe is but a stimulated reality that spans mere seconds in the real world. Eventually, Cobb discovers this truth and yearns to return to the real world. His wife, though, refuses to accept it until he plants the idea within her subconscious, and they finally ‘kill themselves’ and awaken back in the real universe.
Soon though, Cobb's wife becomes convinced that they are still living in a dream world. She tries to convince Cobb that they should kill themselves to return to reality. When he refuses, she jumps off a building; committing suicide to ‘wake herself up’.
Harking back to the beginning of time, we find the creation of man. A mere 5784 years ago on the first of this month, Adam and Eve were formed in the Garden of Eden. The universe Adam and Eve came into was the absolute reality; one where G-d’s presence was manifested and undeniably apparent to every living being. Unfortunately, just a few hours later, Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge, thus bringing devastation to the perfect universe G-d had created.
As a consequence of their sin, G-d has since hidden Himself, withdrawing the clarity of His presence from the world. Man became mortal, and was cursed with the need to provide for himself. No longer would it be apparent that G-d is indeed the puppeteer who designs and manipulates every aspect of creation. Instead, we now wander in the absence of His presence, convinced that we dance to our own tune; masters of ourselves and our fate.
Indeed, so convincing was this fake reality subsequent to Adam and Eve’s sin, that upon hearing G-d they tried to hide from Him in their embarrassment, prompting G-d to call out to them, ‘Ayeka’ – ‘Where are you?’
And it is not just Adam and Eve who have become lost in a pseudo-reality of their own making. We read on Yom Kippur the story of the prophet Yonah, who fled Israel on a ship to avoid receiving a prophecy from an omnipresent and omnipotent G-d. And time and time again throughout our history, we as a nation have attempted to hide from Him. We believe that He cannot see us, that the universe we walk in is ours alone, and that nothing lies beyond it. We forget the world of light and clarity and eternity that we came from, we forget our purpose in this world. Instead, our dreams become our reality.
Yet every year, when Tishrei swings around again, we are given the chance to recapture our lost truth. In Elul and Tishrei, G-d calls to us with love; ‘Ayeka’ – ‘Where are you?’ G-d reaches out to us, drawing us close to him. We experience two days of Rosh Hashana, the holy day of Yom Kippur, and then an entire eight days of Succot followed by Shemini Atzeret which we spend in ‘Tzel Hashem’ – the ‘Shade of G-d’. Throughout the month, we bask in G-d’s closeness, culminating in the unconfinable joy of Simchat Torah.
This glimpse of G-d’s might and this closeness to Him that we experience each Tishrei is what will drive us to continue to seek reality. To work to bring Him back into our lives, by finding Him even in the darkness and by bringing Him into the seemingly empty spaces that He has created. To keep His Torah and Mitzvot which originate from the eternal world, the true world, and which have the power to pull us back there. And when we can achieve this as a nation, we will step out of our make-believe world into the absolute reality, the real and eternal world that is waiting for us. For we cannot afford to remain mere dreamers.