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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Hear the Knock?

What if today was your wedding anniversary, and you had plans for a romantic dinner? Would you be able to disengage from your work stresses, frustrations over our crazy politics and your ordinary distractedness?

I hope so. Because it's more than worth the effort. Every relationship needs its pause button, a sacred time when the partners put aside their busy pursuits and focus on each other, re-committing for an even stronger future together.

It works the same way in our relationship with our Creator. The High Holidays, which are 30 days away, aren't just a time to show up in synagogue. They are special days, set aside for spiritual intimacy; days when we focus on the purpose of our lives, our personal relationships with G-d and with life itself.  

Ideally, one doesn’t just walk out of a business meeting and sit down to an intimate dinner. One first takes the effort to mentally disengage from one's distractive world, shut one's smartphone, and mentally zero in on the importance of the relationship.

Similarly, Jewish life gives us the month of Elul, a preliminary month leading us up to Rosh Hashana. During Elul, G-d helps us edge out of our own self-absorption, so that we’re in psycho-spiritual shape for our ‘anniversary get-together' on the High Holidays. 

In Jewish tradition, Elul is known as the 'Month of Mercy,' a time when we each go out of our way to empathize with others’ needs, give more charity etc.

But Mercy means more than empathy, it means genuinely feeling the needs of someone who doesn't have any real claim on your time and resources. You have no concrete responsibility to this inidvidual, just a genuine sense that he/she is in need. And that sense creates enough connection to prompt you into action.

Elul is the Month of Mercy, a time when G-d gives us extra capacity to reach beyond our personal sensitivities and needs, and truly open our hearts to another. This makes Elul a great warm-up for the High Holidays: Rising above our self-absorption allows our internal G-dliness to shine, which  in turn primes us for intimate time with G-d on the High Holidays.

The month of Elul begins tomorrow, on Shabbos.  G-d will be knocking on our door, trying to draw us out of our self-directed perspectives in advance of Rosh Hashana.

 Open the door.

Finding Comfort

'Comfort.' 

Think of a comfortable scenario in your life. Is it a state of ease and quiet enjoyment? A time when you have no worries, just relaxation? A great escape?

Sounds wonderful. Enjoy.

But then engage real life.

Finding authentic comfort isn’t about escape. It’s about finding inner peace and equilibrium. True comfort sets in when we satisfy our existential emptiness and find a balm for the psyche.

Not a job for a Pina Colada.

Genuine comfort comes from meaningful living.

A lot of our internal unease – the “quiet desperation” that is the stuff of poetic angst - comes from living in a world which doesn’t seem to make sense; it looks shallow, random and meaningless.

And, deep inside, we know we can do better. We can find symmetry, integrity and meaning. Watching the world's madness violates our sensibilities, because we know something’s not right.

It bothers us, as it should. And our – yours mine - responses should be to act, working within our own spheres of influence to make this a brighter world.

Do a Mitzvah. Touch someone’s life. Upgrade your own. Just do something positive.

Our soul-irritations are G-d’s way of prodding us to jettison inertia and status quo. The internal disquiet is designed to provoke pro-active responses, propelling us to act and bring sanity to the chaos.

This goes to the very core of our existence, life’s purpose:

To elevate the world.

And elevate ourselves.

And, in that process, to find genuine peace and comfort.

Because, perhaps counter-intuitively, real soul comfort doesn’t come lounging around. It comes from meaningful struggle and productivity.

Finding meaning is what brings us comfort. genuine comfort.

In the Torah, G-d says that He will yet ‘comfort us’ in future days. G-d’s not promising Pina Coladas, nor am I awaiting them.

I’m looking for an embrace. I want to experience the true beauty and meaning in what I do. I want to see the richness of the human journey and its accomplishments.

I can handle the work. But I could use the comfort.

It’s G-d’s promise. And the future starts now.

The Heart of Sadness

I don't like feeling sad. 
Melancholy has a sneaky way of draining energy and paralyzing life. 

But here's the problem: Life isn't a string of happy occasions.  I make mistakes, causing discomfort to myself and others. Others make mistakes, causing discomfort to themselves and to me.
We all have problems. To ignore them is naïve. To face them is depressing.
So what can we do? 
First, let’s keep our expectations reasonable, since frustrations are a function of expectations. Everybody on the planet has stress, so we can't honestly be surprised by our own. Expect it.
Second, I need to carve out time to face my personal weaknesses and warts. That's the 
only way to an honest life. 
While I don't want to harp on my failings, I need to face them. And deep inside, as disquieting as this introspection may be, I'm glad that I'm going through the exercise. I'm happy that I have the maturity to face myself, and glad that I'm self-aware enough to be somber about my mistakes. a
Then there's a third element: 
I recognize that my full plate of relationships and responsibilities come with a price tag: Some stress is inevitably attached. I pray to G-d for more manageable stress. At the same time, if that's the price of my life and its blessings, I'll deal with it. 
Watching the Rebbe as I was growing up, I was always awed by the genuine pain he expressed when speaking of humanity's misery. I was watching a Rabbi crying real tears about people across the world whom he'd never met. 
As a teen, it was striking. I didn't have that genuine empathy for a stranger's problems, but I envied the depth of the Rebbe's.  I would've taken the pain of sadness for the power of real connectedness. 
A day like Tisha B'av (a fast day, when we commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temples) is set aside for this type of painful introspection. Aside from mourning our painful history, we take an honest look at our own self-destructive behaviors. 
It isn't pretty, but it's necessary. 
And, deep inside the sadness, there's gladness to be found.

And that’s key to the exercise.

When Tisha B’av falls on Shabbos, the fasting is pushed off until Sunday. This gives us an opportunity for the gladness, the sense of deep connection with our loved ones and the world, but without the attendant sadness.

It's a special Shabbos of joyous introspection. Let's make it productive.

Today's Potential

Ten brilliant scholars stood outside the Rebbe’s study. They were waiting for Rabbi Schneur Zalman, Chabad’s first Rebbe (1745-1813), to share a mystical discourse. When the door opened, they all entered the room. Except for Rabbi Isaac. He was much younger than the others and held back.

The Rebbe asked, “Who remains outside?” Someone responded, “A young man.”

“A young man can become an older man,” the Rebbe replied, and Rabbi Isaac rejoined the group.

Later on, Rabbi Isaac related that the Rebbe’s comment energized him with a profound psycho-spiritual boost. In the Rebbe’s words, he had heard "Don’t be limited by your present capacity. You have an older, wiser man inside of you. Unlock him. Live the future now."

From that day, Rabbi Isaac’s deeper potential began to unfold. His firm self-awareness, and his profound confidence in the Rebbe’s guidance, triggered an internal transformation. He walked away from the Rebbe’s room able to see past today’s limitations and live tomorrow’s potential.

Half a century ago, my father (Rabbi Moshe Herson, the Rebbe’s chief representative in the State of NJ, and Dean of the Rabbinical College of America in Morristown) stood in a private audience with the Rebbe (the 7th Rebbe in the Chabad dynasty). Still in his thirties, my father was Dean of a fledgling College in Newark, and tasked with growing both the College and the [then virtually non-existent] presence of Chabad throughout the State.

The Rebbe blessed him and said, “G-d will grant you the ability to evolve today into the person others will become tomorrow.”  

Perhaps the Rebbe was giving my father a similar jolt of confidence as Rabbi Isaac received. Perhaps the Rebbe was gifting my father with an awareness of his own potential by giving him a frame of reference as to who he could be. The Rebbe may have been saying: “Identify someone who you feel is successful, experienced, accomplished. And remember, that is who YOU could be. Today. You don’t need to postpone maximizing your potential until you’re older. Be that person now.”

Look around. See what’s possible. Visualize a greater tomorrow. 

Live it today.

Summer of the Soul

Are you getting away this summer?
Taking some weekends off? Maybe a week or two abroad?
These months are commonly a time to slow things down a bit, or at least carve out more time for 'self' and family.
After all it's summer, and summer has a special rhythm.
Every season has its unique beat; so it's good to pause and identify each season's tempo, embrace its particular character and grow with it.
So, what's particularly striking about this season?
Especially this week, we can see that summer is a time of increased light and warmth. We have longer daylight hours, and higher temperatures. In other words, summer is a time when the sun is in fuller glory and effect.
That’s summer in ‘macro’; but this also applies to each of us in ‘micro.’
In a way, we each have our own internal seasons. We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.
There are times when we go through an internal winter, when our moral vision and priorities don’t express their full light into our daily lives. There are times when conscience and values are in relative hibernation, when the spirit is cold, and moral growth seems a part of the distant past.
Then there’s summer. Summer is about letting my internal sun shine. Summer is about feeling my own internal capacity for spirituality and warmth, a capacity that might recede in the face of a hectic schedule. 
So if I’m able to relax a bit from the everyday stresses and ‘get away,’ then I need to use that to synchronize myself with nature; I need to create my own internal summer by increasing the light and warmth in my life.
Your internal sun - your summer of the soul - doesn't let off oppressive heat; it brings fuller brilliance into your life. 
We each have valuable relationships - with loved ones, with our community and with our G-d – and relationships need nurturing. So if you’re running on fewer cylinders this summer, and have some extra space in your brain and heart, those relationships could probably use some extra warmth.

You have a sun inside of you. Let it shine.

Self Image

How do others perceive you? How much do you care?
Do you spend as much time thinking about ‘how you are’ [as a person], as you do about how you seem [to others]?
Sure, we should be sensitive to public perceptions; others' feedback can be helpful (even when it’s a bit painful).
But others’ impressions shouldn’t be a prime mover of our life-decisions.
The Talmud teaches us that “one who pursues honor will have honor flee from him.” This can be understood very simply: Let’s say you and I are friends, and I act in a specific way because I want you to perceive me in a certain light i.e. I ‘pursue honor’ in your eyes. It's very likely that you'll sense how much I care about your opinion of me, and recognize that I have put you on a pedestal as the judge of my worth. 
Is it any wonder, then, that ‘honor flees’ from a person in such a case? Once one knows that another is vying for his approval, is there any chance for real respect?
Another point:
We find in this week’s Torah portion that, as the Jews travelled in the desert, they sent spies to reconnoiter the Land of Israel. When they came back, they told of the huge, fearsome people they had encountered there. But their language was a bit strange: "We were like [tiny] grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were like in their eyes!" (Numbers 13:33).
We can understand the spies saying that the natives were so large that they (the spies) were like grasshoppers in their (the natives) eyes.
But what about the first part of the sentence – "we were like grasshoppers in OUR eyes”? What does that mean?
The Torah is teaching a basic lesson of human interactivity. We project our own self-image. The Jews felt like grasshoppers, so others perceived them that way. Their own self-perception influenced and created others’ perception.
Notwithstanding the value of feedback, we should never give them the keys to our self-esteem.

Get comfortable with who you are. It will help others get comfortable with you too. 

Set Yourself Free

Do you want to meet your personal potential?

Psychologists have long recognized self-actualization - or self- fulfillment - as a deeply rooted human drive. We want to be all we can be, to spread our wings and soar.

At one level, the path to this goal takes a lot of introspection and mental/emotional toil. I need to know myself –my own weaknesses and habits - if I want to grow into who I can be. I need to be pro-actively self-aware, consistently observing how I react to various stimuli in my day, and watching my sub-consciously ingrained patterns.

At the same time, hyper-focus on self can actually get in the way of personal growth. When you can’t sleep, and focus on falling asleep, the self-focus obstructs your goal of relaxation. Paradoxically, trying to sleep itself prevents your sleep.

Psychologists have identified something called ‘hyper-reflection,' or ‘thinking too hard.’ When we focus excessively on our potential pitfalls they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, true self-actualization needs more than self-awareness; it needs self-transcendence, or self-negation. G-d created me for a purpose, something larger than myself. So leading a meaningful life isn't achieved solely by focusing on who we want to be. We also need focus on who we’re needed to be.

It’s not a mindset “what do I want out of life?”, but rather “what does life wants out of me?”

When we adopt an other-centered attitude, we free ourselves of the limitations that come with self-focus. We're swept up in our responsibility to life, to the world around us, to our Creator.

This freedom is part of the Passover mindset. The enslaved Jews weren’t a self-aware, spiritually-evolved group. But they did believe in a Creator and a destiny. They were focused on who they needed to be. So they were open to redemption.

So Passover is about humility. About faith in something Higher. About rebirth.

Please join us at our Community Seder (guess who will be wearing a Moses costume!:)) on March 30th, as we taste the freedom experienced by our ancestors.

Let's make this Passover count.

Relationship With A Capital 'R'

 

Relationships are the stuff of life.

They are the attachments we share.

Think of a relationship as a rope that joins two people. Each show of love, each demonstration of respect, adds another strand to this cable of connectedness, increasing its overall strength. Though individually miniscule, hundreds of threads woven together can create a rope that becomes more and more unbreakable.

Similarly, relationships reflect what we invest in them. Some are so weak that they are derailed by relatively minor incidents, and some so strong they can withstand a storm. It all depends on the strands.

But a parent’s love for a child would seem to be different; it seems to transcend the ‘relationship rope’ metaphor. Certainly, threads of positive interactions are critical to a healthy parent/child relationship, and a damaged ‘rope’ will make for a great challenge. At the same time, a parent/child relationship isn’t only about the threads. It’s elemental; and it’s not something we can break.

No matter how frayed the ‘rope’, a healthy parent can never really divorce a child. A child is – biologically and spiritually – an extension of his/her parents.

The creator is fundamentally invested in the created.

This is important to remember when we think of our relationship with G-d. The Torah tells us that “G-d’s portion is His people; Jacob is the rope of His inheritance”. The Torah compares our relationship with G-d to a ‘rope’. Every time we honor our relationship with G-d, we express our soul identity and add a strand to the rope of connectedness.

But there’s something else in that verse: It says that we are G-d’s “portion”, we are each a piece of the Divine. Just like a parent never divorces a child, we can never be truly disconnected from our Divine Parent. We may go through some tumultuous times, and the rope may become quite compromised, G-d forbid. But the elemental relationship transcends it all.

Today – the 10th of Shevat - celebrates 68 years since the Rebbe assumed leadership of Chabad. A genuine Jewish leader never gets distracted by the extraneous ‘disconnect’ that may arise between his people and the Divine. He focuses on identifying, and bringing to the surface, our unbreakable bond with G-d; and then inspiring us to rebuild the rope, one strand at a time.

This was the Rebbe’s life.

Thank you, Rebbe.

 

The Pit Or The Well?

 Ever feel like you're 'running on empty'?

Some days, we feel like we have what it takes. We're in the right mental place. We've got the enthusiasm and wisdom to deal with life’s challenges and opportunities. We’re in the right ‘zone.’

Other days it feels like we're at a dead end, mentally and emotionally exhausted. We don't have the inner strength or insight to get over the hump that seems to block our way.

What to do?

The Torah describes each person as a metaphoric 'well.’ Before a well is discovered, it can appear as nothing more than a large pit; a ground cavity, yielding nothing but emptiness. But beneath that apparently desolate bottom lays a reservoir of water, the stuff of life and growth.

A pit is a lifeless abyss, with no hope for growth and vitality. Conversely, a well may  look like a pit, but it actually has a hidden treasure waiting to burst forth. One just needs to keep digging.

When the Torah tells us that we are each a ‘well,’ it is declaring that we each carry a rejuvenating natural resource deep inside. We just need to tap it.

It’s normal to feel like you’re 'running on empty,' that the day feels like ‘the pits.’ It's human. But we need to envision the water that lies just beneath that lifeless bottom. If only we keep digging.

Chassidic thought tells us that struggle is what yields the greatest reward. When I face an obstacle, that problem is actually beckoning, calling out and saying "conquer me." And when I face that challenge, I need to know that engaging my difficulties is my soul’s greatest exercise. My destiny.

So, the Torah, by calling me a well, gives me important encouragement. When we’re feeling empty, alienated and disconnected, when we feel like we’re at bottom, our 'well' self-image can give us the strength to dig just a little deeper. And when we do, we'll hopefully access that special geyser of hope, strength, inspiration and wisdom that we carry within us.

We need to visualize the life affirming water lies just on the other side of that lifeless bottom.

And keep digging.

Pharaoh Syndrome

 

 

 

It’s probably a common human experience. 
You’re at a crossroads in life, and need to choose a direction. Considering the facts as you see them, you choose a course of action, believing that it’s the correct one. 
Now what happens when you come across new 'evidence' which undermines your original decision? Oops!

You’re already invested in your decision. You’re headed in a direction. Your family and friends all know about it too.

Now what? 
That's where character comes in. People with moral strength have the guts to stop short and admit a mistake. They have the courage to do the right thing, even though it may be seen as a public acknowledgment of their own inadequacy. 
People with weak values keep boring ahead, irrespective of the facts. 
It's what we call a Pharaoh personality. 
Pharaoh devised his evil slavery program because he didn’t like the Jewish people’s presence in his land. But maybe he also had some grandiose vision of a Divine destiny to be visited upon the Jewish people.

After all, G-d had told Abraham his descendants would be enslaved for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13-14), and we can assume that Abraham didn’t keep it a secret.

Maybe Pharaoh thought he was fulfilling a historic mission.

Maybe. But that could have only taken him to a certain point. 
Pharaoh was eventually confronted by Moses, a man who showed his G-dly credentials and gave clear instructions: "Let these people go. You’re doing something wrong. You and your people will suffer if you continue." 
Yet Pharaoh continued. Pharaoh suffered terribly, yet he refused to change course. It took ten devastating plagues to loosen his grip. What kind of a person looks facts and self-destruction in the face, and continues on his wrong-headed path? 
A person who can’t admit he made a mistake. A person who can’t find the courage to change direction. 
The Torah is the story of our individual lives.

We each have an inner Moses, an inner Pharaoh, and personal Egypts that trap us in our daily lives.

When we rise above our egos to hand our inner Moses the reins of our lives, we can find the strength to push past our personal Pharaoh, escape our individual Egypt and find the way to our Promised Land. 
It happened then. It should happen today.


 

 

Apology With A Soul

We all make mistakes. And sometimes there’s collateral damage. Others can get hurt.
So what does the moral person do?

Apologize.

And then move on with life. 
It happens all the time. We discomfit or embarrass someone, defuse the situation by expressing regret, and then continue unscathed down life's path. 

But the critical question is: Did we grow from the episode? Did I take the time to analyze why I was so careless as to step on someone else's proverbial toe? Did you process and internalize the situational dynamics so that you’re more sensitive to my surroundings next time?

If an apology is blurted out to navigate an awkward moment, or because one was caught doing something wrong, then the apology is unlikely to be a self-transformative one. 

It’s an escape tool, not a step in personal evolution.
When the Jews were in Egypt, Moses kept begging Pharaoh to "Let my people go." When he didn’t listen, G-d directed calamities to afflict Egypt, to help ‘convince’ Pharaoh to let the Jews leave. 

Makes sense so far. The powerful oppressor is afflicting the vulnerable victims and G-d wants him to stop.

But, the Torah tells us that G-d "hardened Pharaoh's heart" so that he obstinately refused to let the Jews out of slavery.

Why? Wasn’t G-d working against His own interests? If G-d was indeed trying to free the Jews, why get in the way by hardening Pharaoh’s heart?
Our Rabbis teach that G-d never prevented Pharaoh from feeling and expressing genuine remorse. At the same time, G-d didn't want a shallow, forced apology. G-d didn't want Pharaoh to recant his ways in order to stop the pain; that would be an easy - in fact, deceptive - way out. 

G-d strengthened Pharaoh’s psyche against issuing a shallow ‘I’m sorry.’ The stakes were too high; G-d wanted authentic self-reflection, genuine internal change. 

Absent real remorse, G-d preferred nothing. 
The same applies to our own, personal 'Egypt’, our individual life-ruts. Superficial apologies are good for getting-by; but they stand in the way of doing-better.
'Getting-by' or ‘Doing-better.' 

It's our choice.

We Are the Flames

 

Flames have a special place in Judaism.
Consider the Shabbat candles which we light every Friday evening: On Shabbat, we take a step back from the week's hectic pace, disengaging from our smartphones and task-lists, to focus on life itself. We elevate our spirits to soak in an aerial view of ourselves, rising above our splintered weekday-personas to consider our more wholesome potential.
Tonight, we'll kindle Shabbat lights which grant us illumination and perspective; allowing us to see where we've been stumbling and which paths we need to pursue.
So, as you watch the Shabbat flames, try to rise above your personal stress and struggles. Try to absorb the glow inward, and search for a part of yourself that isn't defined by the pain; a piece of you that is whole, an internal place of faith and confidence in the future.
That's the Shabbat experience.
But this evening we'll also be lighting a different type of flame: The Chanukah Flame.
Whereas the Shabbat candles foster personal/familial balance and peace, the Chanukah candles are outwardly focused.
The Talmud describes the Chanukah candles as tools to 'illuminate the outside.' The flames need to transform the external darkness, bringing warmth and illumination to an otherwise dark place.
Finding our personal sense of wholeness, faith and confidence, isn't enough. Chanukah instructs us to share it with others, to illuminate the 'night' outside our four walls and beyond our respective driveways.
Today, the world is experiencing upheaval in various ways. One might say, especially for the Jewish community, that there is a global sense of unease.The world needs a candle, a stabilizing beacon of light.
That candle is us.
If we can share hope for the future, we will have brightened lives. If we can lend mental clarity to help distinguish between rational and irrational concerns, we will have illuminated hearts. If we can inspire faith and trust in the Divine Parent who loves us all, we will have provided warmth to a cold spirit.
We will have extended the flame of our own souls to ignite another's wick.
We will have lived the Chanukah message.

My Oasis. Our Oasis.

Why is Monotheism such a big deal?

I can see why G-d, and responsibility to a Higher Authority, is a critical backbone to morality. But who really cares if it’s one, or two, or seventeen gods?

We do.

Or at least we should.

Accepting Monotheism isn’t just committing ourselves to one Deity. Monotheism, at least through a Jewish lens, means committing ourselves to a life of Oneness. When we recite the Shema, a thrice daily prayer which proclaims “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One,” we’re proclaiming that our complex lives, the disjointed and sometimes fractured reality we experience, are all part of the great Divine Oneness. My health, my kids’ soccer game, my boss’s attitude and my 401k are all part of my Divine journey. Scattered as my life may seem, everything can and should fit into my expedition toward a life of meaning.

In my mind’s eye, each of my life’s facets is a distinct pearl. When I consciously infuse these ‘pearls’ with vision and purpose, I am stringing them together with a strand of Holiness. My life is now a beautiful necklace.

This helps explain why we traditionally cover our eyes when reciting the Shema:

My physical eyes, my natural instinct, show me a world of pain and fracture. Where’s the Oneness? So I cover my eyes, because I need to the world see with my soul. I need to envision a world created by One G-d, with One purpose, with an inherent Oneness waiting to be discovered.

I need to see my world as a Shema world. That gives me a clear compass, a safe haven, and an energizing motivator that I really need in today’s world.

Which is a reason Chabad Chassidic thought is so central to my life. In a way, Chabad theology is one large ‘Shema,’ a drive to find unity and connectedness within all parts of the Torah and within life itself. Chabad thought allows my mind to hover above reality, so that my life’s details don’t seem like disjointed puzzle pieces. They come together as parts of a holistic, meaningful life.

Chassidic thought is an oasis in a rocky world.

So thank you, Chabad Rebbes.

Thank you so much.

Why 5000 Rabbis Gathering in NY Is Good For You

Last night, I received a text from a Rabbi I hardly know. He sent me a photo of a dear local friend, who had been hospitalized while travelling. The Rabbi was there at my friend's bedside; visiting, laying Tefillin, providing words of support. The Rabbi was fulfilling a stranger’s request that he reach out for me, his local Rabbi and longtime friend.

All for a stranger.

This scene could have taken place in Kinshasa, Puerto Rico or Capetown. Or Basking Ridge. Every day, Chabad Rabbis step up and lean in to help strangers.

Because we don't believe in strangers. We believe in family.

Who is 'we?'

'We' is the Rebbe's army of G-dliness and goodness. 

Consider the reality that observant people generally gravitate to observant communities. It’s the natural way to support an observant lifestyle, and to perpetuate that observance within one’s family. Yet, beginning in 1950, the Rebbe inspired observant couples to reach beyond their own religious comfort to settle in communities which need their spiritual influence. The Rebbe was going against the grain, but – one couple at a time –Chassidic men and women committed their lives to bettering the world, by moving to places where they could make a difference.

In the early years, there was a trickle of  'lamplighters' (called Shluchim - literally 'emissaries') moving out to bring warmth and illumination to a world in need. But over time, that trickle became a stream, and then a steady flow of couples setting out across the globe to make this a better world.

Today, we have roughly 5000 Chabad Shluchim, spread throughout the world. Aside from being your local Jewish resource, they are the people embracing your child on campus, providing schnitzel to your niece backpacking in Cambodia, and providing you with a home away from home as you vacation in New Zealand.

In a world that seems more fractured every day, Chabad Shluchim provide love and spiritual sanity. Without reservation.

This weekend is the international convention of Chabad Rabbis (the women convene in February) in Brooklyn.

5000 purveyors of goodness, coming together to recharge their batteries and recommit to their mission of spreading light.

It’s good for the world.

And it’s good for you.

Rebel With A Cause

 

It feels to me like our election cycles have turned into a series of ‘revolutions.’

It’s becoming a familiar dance. The public rebels against the status quo, ushering in ‘fresh blood.’ The victorious rebels in turn become the next status quo, and the object of the next election’s revolution. And the beat goes on.

Revolution should be a mindset, not an action. When someone successfully overcomes the status quo, he has won the opportunity to make positive change.

But the rebellion has just begun. Because this fresh vista only translates into actual, meaningful change, when the victor takes the fight to his own natural tendency of complacency, self-protection, etc. The victor becomes the new problem, unless the victor wages inner rebellion.

The spirit of rebellion is a life-long attitude. It takes courage and determination, because effective and lasting rebellion is against one’s own weaker tendencies.

Sure, we need an ‘establishment’ in our lives. Discipline. Norms. We raise children to respect manners, decency and protocol. And, in matters of faith, rules have a Divine importance.

At the same time, rebellion keeps that ‘establishment’ crisp and viable. In order to maintain fresh relationships and attitudes, you need to constantly outrun yourself.

Even when you’re – functionally – in a good place, your soul can be asleep. You can go through the motions of being a loyal spouse or parent, while your brain is still engaged at the office – or the smartphone. We can do wonderful things for others and G-d, but there’s no fire in the belly because our primal passion is still self-focused.

If we’re living a life of complacency and self-satisfaction, a life without the fervor to rise up against ourselves, have we not become ‘spiritual bourgeoisie?’

 It’s time for revolution.

And we want the same for G-d.

G-d’s [meta]physical system has been our established order since time began. But it’s time for a radical change. It’s time for G-d to buck His own system, and bring out the meaning and beauty - the Harmonious Oneness - that’s inherent in our world.

We call that a world of Moshiach – a Messianic era. A world actualized.

And it’s G-d’s promise to humanity: When we rise up against our limitations, G-d will rise up against His.

So look at your life and rise above your limitations.

And let the revolution spread.

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