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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Do You Krechtz?

 The year was 1862. In the Russian town of Lubavitch, two young brothers - sons of the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe - played. Little Sholom Dovber was just over five years old, his brother Zalman Aaron was eighteen months older. 
Cops and robbers? Cowboys and indians? 
Given the home in which they were raised, these boys decided to play Rebbe and Chassid (spiritual mentor and disciple). Being the older brother, Zalman Aaron donned an adult hat and positioned himself as the ‘Rebbe’. Meanwhile, Sholom Dovber presented himself as a 'Chassid', saying “Rebbe, I’m very troubled. Last Shabbos I did something I later learned to be inadvisable, albeit permissible (the boy actually spelled out an aspect of Shabbos observance). What can I do to atone for this inadvertant slip? How can I bring my life and behavior into a better place?” 
The 'Rebbe' was ready with a response: "Be careful to look into your prayerbook, actually reading the words, when you pray; don’t recite the liturgy by heart”. 
Little Sholom Dovber (who was destined to become the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe) quickly responded “Your advice won’t help, and you’re not a Rebbe!” 
"Why do you say that?” protested the older boy. 
“When a Rebbe hears a person’s plight, and senses his/her pain, he emits a ‘krechtz’ (Yiddish for sigh or groan) before he says offers any guidance (i.e he empathizes and feels their pain before offering any advice)." 
"Your advice – in and of itself - might have actually helped, but since you didn’t ‘krechtz’ you’re obviously not a Rebbe and your advice won't work!” 
What was this little boy - a Rebbe-in-waiting - actually saying? 
When someone share his/her pain or struggle with you, and are positioned to give advice, remember that there's an important pre-requisite: Genuine empathy. You need to truly understand any problem if you're to be of use in solving it. The first step in solving a human problem is empathy. 
If you feel the 'krechtz', if you can experience a bit of the other's pain, you are in a position to give good guidance. And feeling the 'krechtz' isn't enough. Show it. Don't be afraid to express your pain. 
Sometimes the 'krechtz' itself, the hurting person's knowledge that someone else cares, may be more helpful than any advice. 
So give a 'krechtz'. Care. 
It may mean more than you can imagine.

I Believe in Miracles

Miracles.

Have you ever experienced one? Think back on your day, to the moment when you first opened your eyes. Wasn’t that itself a miracle? How about your mobility, hearing, cognition? Are these things that ‘just happen,’ or are they Divine gifts that should make our hearts swell with gratitude?
How about the loved ones in your life? Are they anything less than a miracle?
It’s often just a matter of perspective. Every life takes twists and turns. Every day, some things will go right and some things won’t. The important question is: Which takes up more space in our eyes? The good or the not-so-good?

When I genuinely appreciate the good, it helps me see my journey – in its totality - as a blessing.
Once I see I see my life as a gift, the aggravating bumps take on a different, more manageable, context. They become lessons, exercises in self-betterment, tests of character.
(I don’t mean to diminish the pain of our individual problems; on the contrary, I pray that G-d give us all tranquility and revealed good. But – until then – we need to find a productive way to deal with our obstacles).
This is the powerful lesson of Purim, the Holiday which we’ll celebrate this coming Wednesday evening and Thursday.
We have Holidays like Passover, which celebrates the open miracles we experienced in the course of our Exodus from Egypt. In our lives, that corresponds to the ‘over the top’ moments of good fortune we may experience in the course of our days.

But those are the ‘Passover’ moments in life.

Purim is different.
There is no blockbuster miracle to celebrate. No supernatural event.

In the Purim narrative, life just seems to turn out right. We – one could say – simply had the right person (Queen Esther) in the right place (the palace) at the right time (when Haman’s evil plan was being fomented).

But that’s not how the Jews saw it. When things turned out right, they had the vision to see it as a miracle.

And Purim was born. 
In the scope of your life, the ‘Passover miracles’ will probably be few and far between. Most of your life will be like today, a ‘regular’ day with nothing ‘special’ to celebrate. Unless you choose to celebrate ‘natural miracles.’ Because, rest assured if you’re reading this, you’ve had some ‘miracles’ today. 
Purim teaches us that every day’s a Holiday.
Time to celebrate!

This May Be It

We know the basic Purim story (The Holiday begins on the evening of March 20th):
2500 years ago, the Jews were in trouble. Haman, a wicked advisor to the Persian King Ahaseurus, had engineered an evil decree to exterminate the entire Jewish population.
Unbeknownst to almost everyone, including the King, the Jews had an ‘inside woman’ at the palace. Queen Esther, Queen of the entire Empire, was a Jewess! What’s more, she was related to Mordechai, the prominent Jewish leader of his time. In response to the threat, the Jews rallied and spiritually rejuvenated themselves, while Esther worked to save the Jews.
The Purim story is replete with messages for life.
When Mordechai found out about this terrible plan, he sent a secret  message to Queen Esther about the impending danger, imploring her to beseech the King. Queen Esther sent back a sad but reasonable response, basically saying: "This is terrible; but there's very little I can do. I haven't been summoned to the King's quarters for a month now. We all know that no one - under penalty of death - can come to the King's quarters unbidden. Really sorry"
Mordechai responds with a theological statement that re-frames her world: "If you choose to keep silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere...Who knows whether it was for just such a need that you were able to attain a royal position?!?”

In other words, Mordechai is saying: “You are in a unique position to help people. That’s not an accident. It may very well be that this opportunity is the entire reason G-d enabled you to achieve what you have achieved.”

It’s an inspiring, yet weighty, thought. When I find myself in a position to make a difference, I need to take a moment to recognize that what has presented itself isn’t just a burden or a responsibility. It may very well be an opportunity for me to actualize my entire purpose for existence, or at least the Divine objective for this specific area of my life.

None of us knows what G-d has in mind for our lives, but we know G-d has something in mind.

Your next choice may just be it.

A Half Makes You Whole

Money is an incredible tool. It gives you power and broadens your horizons.  

At some level, the money in your pocket can buy you pleasure and prestige; it can also give you peace of mind and security for the future. The dollar represents so much of what we want, so much of what we’d like.

Think about how much of your life, maybe even your self-image, is relying on that dollar.

Now let’s back it up a bit. How did you get that money? Imagine that you’ve worked very hard, taking risks, beating off threats, putting in long hours to earn the money you now possess. In this sense, the money also represents your hard work, the lifeblood you’ve invested in earning a living.

In our society, dollars are more than currency: They embody yesterday’s struggle and tomorrow’s pleasure.

With that in mind, we can appreciate the immense beauty of giving charity. When someone gives money - THEIR money - to a greater need, they are parting with something very essential, an embodiment of their personal toil and their pleasure. By gifting of themselves to something beyond themselves, they elevate those funds – and the personal attachment to them – to a level of selflessness. We call that Holiness.

Charitable people tend to recognize that they are part of a greater whole. When someone realizes “what I need is only half the picture, and the other half is what I’m needed FOR,” life’s equation changes. My assets don’t only represent my pursuits in life; they represent my responsibility to life.

That’s why we call charitable giving ‘Tzedakah’ (in Hebrew). ‘Tzedaka’ means justice, because generosity reflects a mindset of responsibility to the world.  

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d tells each person to give a ‘half-Shekel’ to the communal fund. The Shekel was a silver coin, which the Torah specifically describes as weighing 20 ‘gerahs’ (a Biblical weight measurement) of silver. So why not just say “donate 10 ‘gerahs?’” Why phrase it as ‘half a shekel’?

The Torah is driving home our point.

When we recognize our own ‘half-ness,’ we’ll be ready to give ourselves whole-heartedly to our neighbors’ needs.

The half-Shekel makes the giver whole, because recognizing that we’re half of the picture allows to appreciate the fuller perspective.

Tzedaka. What a concept.

Does Time Need to Fly?

Our youngest daughter, Faigie, just got engaged, thank G-d.

So many e-mails and voice messages seem to echo my gut reaction: Where did the years go?

Why does time seem to fly, and melt into a blur? Is it only as we grow older?

Perhaps.

Let’s look at how children operate.

Watch a child’s wonder at observing an ant, the moon or a river. My grandchildren’s lives seem to be a string of exciting adventures, capturing their full curiosity and engagement.

Adults tend to live differently.

We aspire to stable relationships, jobs etc., which means we live with a lot of repetition. The stream of new curiosities is largely replaced with a to-do list of things which we've done countless times before.

Repeating an exercise will often generate less emotional engagement, since one’s “auto-pilot” often kick in.  

For example: I've noticed that when I am finding my way – especially sans GPS - to a new location, my trip home seems quicker than my original journey. I think it’s because I am thoroughly engaged – all synapses firing - during my initial trip into unknown territory, engrossed in my directions, every street sign, traffic patterns.

On the way back, more familiar with the way, I can drive on semi auto-pilot - listening to music, conversing (hands-free of course) with others or lost in my own thoughts.

When a day is filled with discovery, every moment is an experience; so a day is truly a FULL (experience-filled) day. It thus takes up more space in my life.
Conversely, a day that's basically a 'repeat' tends to quickly fade into the background. It’s more likely to fade into the blur of my past.

But even we adults can pro-actively bring our days to fuller life.

The Torah describes the aged Abraham as being “elderly, coming into his days.” The Rebbe explained the second (unusual) adjective as meaning that Abraham internally experienced every single day. Every day was a meaningful adventure, in that every day was a gift from the Divine, full of opportunities for strengthening his moral character, his relationships, his soul.

Abraham experienced no time-blur. There was full appreciation for – and wholesome engagement with - the now. So, his hours and days remained in full color. We can safely assume that Abraham never asked Sarah: “Where have the years gone?” 

Some days are especially memorable for me, like when my youngest daughter gets engaged. I’m sure you’ve had special days that resonate in your memory.

Today, with whatever it brings, is a whole new day. A day with entirely new opportunities. For all of us.
 Make this hour an Abraham hour. Then make it an Abraham day.

Happiness

Happiness. Joy. Contentment.

We want all of these. And, at the end of the day, this very pursuit is what guides so many of our efforts and behaviors.

When you think about it, ‘happiness’ (to use a catch-all word) isn’t something you can purchase, and it’s not synonymous with pleasure; it’s a balanced state of inner wellbeing.

It’s also a tricky thing to achieve.

Yet, every year, we have the Hebrew month of Adar (this year, we have two of these months, Adar-a and Adar-b, since it’s a Jewish leap year), when we’re instructed to “increase Happiness.” How does that work? Where would I purchase it? How can I pro-actively get myself into a happy state?

Adar-a begins this coming Monday evening, so we’re fortunate that the Shabbos Torah reading actually provides us with insight into a formula:

1. We’re told to lend money, interest-free, to a person in need. This Mitzvah is about genuine empathy. Maimonides lists eight levels of charity and considers a loan to be the premium. Why? Because it preserves the recipient’s dignity and self-worth, since the person need not see himself as a ‘charity case.’ So while giving charity is a great Mitzvah the Torah is teaching us to go even further, by taking the effort to step outside our own [good] feelings and consider the recipient’s broader emotional needs. It’s not only about doing good, it’s about feeling the other’s pain.

2. If you see your enemy’s animal “suffering under its load,” the Torah tells you to assist the animal repeatedly. Imagine that: Someone has done you wrong, and is now in need. The Torah wants you to transcend your own [legitimate] hurt to acknowledge his - and his animal’s – pain. And lend a hand. Not easy, unless you can transcend your own resentments.

3. We shouldn’t bully anyone. But G-d singles out those who may feel specifically vulnerable and tells us “Don’t taunt a stranger…don’t cause pain to the widow or orphan…if you cause them pain I will heed their cry…”. Some people are in situations which make them more sensitive than others. Pay attention, because people’s feelings matter.

This brings us back to the joy of Adar: There’s no greater recipe for happiness than stepping out of your own self-interest. Devote effort to something outside of, or larger than, yourself, and you’ll be refreshed by the beauty of the experience.

It’s Adar. Give yourself a reason to be happy!

Creating a Home

“Home is where the heart is”. It’s a great quote; but what does it really mean?
Well, what is a home? Obviously, it’s not just a structure for
habitation. A ‘home’ is not just a house. A home is a special place. A place that’s truly yours, and truly you.
Home is where I belong, without any whys or wherefores. No particular reasons, responsibilities or needs bring me there. It’s simply my place. I never feel like a guest, or like I don’t belong, because I’m at home.
At home, I am who I am, with no need to hide behind my protective psychological shields. I feel safe acknowledging and facing my flaws, because my home genuinely supports me.
At home, it’s not what I do, but who I am. I am perceived – by myself and others – in my entirety.
Home is a place of emotional and psychological security, a place where I operate with my fullest sense of being.
“Home is where the Heart is” means that my home isn’t merely my physical abode. Home is wherever I feel - or I’m made to feel - genuinely secure. I’m at home where people truly feel that I belong; it’s where the heart is.
Following that line of thinking: When I make someone else feel entirely welcome and wholly embraced, I am creating a home for them. A home for their heart, within my own.
That’s the bottom line of creating a home.
And that’s also the bottom line of Torah’s objective for us all.

Just as I make total space for someone special, making them at home in my life and heart, I need to create similar space for my own Divinely-ordained destiny, space for Torah and Mitzvos, space - a Home, so to speak - for G-d.
How do I create a Home for G-d? When I do something meaningful, when I consider my purpose before acting, when I spend a few moments in prayer and contemplation, I am welcoming G-d into my life. Slowly, through practice and growth, that mindset can become a standard operating mode, and G-d is at home within me.
G-d’s home is where my heart – your heart, our hearts - can be.

Feel the Wonder

 

As you read this, take a minute to imagine your next interaction with your spouse, child, parent or close friend. How will it feel? Will it be functional, as you faithfully discharge your responsibilities to those you cherish? Or will it be enthusiastic and alive, reflecting the deep gratitude, love and appreciation you've felt - and can still feel - for these very same people?
In practical terms: When I pick up my children from school today, will I be in middle of a phone call, focused on where I’m going after I drop them at home? Or will I be the parent who once stood in awe of a new life, and is appreciative of a fresh opportunity to honor the relationship? 
Whatever’s going on in my head at the time, we’ll both know the truth. When a person has a spring in his step, a quickened pulse, a sense of wonder and enthusiasm...it shows. When you're happy to do something, your demeanor and actions come ALIVE. You can’t hide it. And you really can’t fake it. 

This also applies to my Jewish practice: When I perform a Mitzvah, am I merely discharging responsibilities? Or am I joyfully laying another strand in the cable which binds me to my G-d, my people, my destiny? 
What message does my observance send to my family? When they see me practicing my Judaism, helping my parents, etc., do they see me carrying a burden or delighting in a relationship? By sensing where my excitement lies (and where it doesn’t…), what am I broadcasting to them about my deepest sense of priorities? 
Of course, it’s human nature to lose our sense of wonder as we become accustomed to someone or something. No matter how outstanding a relationship is, the excitement eventually settles. By nature, we eventually take our greatest blessings for granted.

But we can rise above human nature. 
If I believe in the deep value of a relationship, I need to be pro-active to make sure that it doesn’t dull. I need to consistently re-awaken my initial sense of awe and attraction. 
When I next see my loved one, I should bring myself back to the wonder of our relationship. I should let that awe take me over for a moment. And if I feel it, my demeanor will show it. 
The same applies to my Judaism. G-d cares about our lives. G-d cares about our daily struggles and achievements. What we do is important. So my - and your - next action can be cosmic. 

It may feel ho-hum, but it doesn’t need to be.
As I sit by my computer, I believe that my writing this little essay, my small attempt to brighten the world in my own way, is part of my destiny. That’s cosmic. And I’d believe the same if I were a dentist bent over a patient or a lawyer representing my client. If my actions are contributing to making this a better world, if they're consistent with a Torah attitude to life, if I’m living the destiny G-d set out for me, then I'm doing something monumental.

Your next interaction at home or in the office can be cosmic. And when you feel it, it’ll show. 

The Moses Method

So you’re thinking about 2019 and your mind opens to the reality that something in your life isn't working. You resolve to do better, and that feels good.

Except that you know change is difficult, because we're notoriously ingenious at outsmarting ourselves. 
Resolving makes us feel good, but effecting actual change usually hits some inner roadblocks. 
One common problem is described by ancient Jewish texts as ‘Pharaoh syndrome.' 
The Exodus saga – with the Jews gaining liberty from the enslaving Egyptians - is also a personal narrative. It depicts my/your continuous struggle for freedom from our personal 'Egypts' (behavioral traps and limitations). We each face our personal ‘enslavement,’ and our inner Pharaoh stands in the way of freedom.

So who is [our inner] Pharaoh? Scripture describes him as having a 'hard heart.' 
What does that mean in practical terms? 
Pharaoh understood that his actions were self-destructive and bringing ruin upon his country. He even fleetingly agreed to stop the madness. But he couldn't finalize change. Why? Because his heart just wouldn’t follow his mind’s vision. He knew what needed to be done, but he couldn't close the deal.
This is the internal 'Pharaoh,' stubbornly disregarding the healthy way forward and clinging to self-destructive behavior.
So, whence the salvation? 
Moses, of course.
Moses is described in our Scripture and tradition as a man of total, super-rational commitment. Brilliant as he was, he didn't guide his life by intellect alone. He felt a profound relationship with the Divine, and that's what guided his behavior.
Deep relationships – like the parent-child connection – have a deep, super-rational core, so we know what that feels like. Well, Moses directed that level of commitment to the vision of who G-d created him to be.

We can too.

The 'Moses method' is feeling a transcendent responsibility to G-d and personal destiny, not just logical calculation. And as effective as the 'Pharaoh Syndrome' is against logic, it’ no match for selfless commitment.

The ‘Moses method’ is a much deeper expression of your inner self, so it’s working a different wavelength. 
Here's the bottom line: Sometimes, life's richness is reached when we can step beyond the limitations of the mind, following the soul's lead and expression.
So when you resolve to change your behavior, see it as a part of your commitment to G-d, see it as an exercise of your relationship with your Destiny, see it as an expression of your very reason for existence.
Then see if excuses can block your way.
Pharaoh couldn't.

Traveling Light

The Jewish traveler was aghast. He had come to visit Rabbi Dovber, who would eventually be known throughout the world as a premier spiritual master (Rabbi Dovber of Mezeritch, 18th century leader of the Chassidic movement), and was dismayed by the Rabbi's poor living conditions. 

When the man entered, Rabbi Dovber was sitting on a wooden (no chairs in sight), and teaching young children Torah. The scene seemed out of kilter; rich spirituality framed by such raw poverty. The man couldn’t imagine living under such conditions. 

Unable to contain himself, he asked the Rabbi how he could live without the basic amenities of a normal house. Why was his home so bare? 

Answering his question with a question, the Rabbi queried “well, where is your furniture?” 

Perplexed, the man replied “Rabbi, I’m obviously in the midst of a journey, and I don’t take my furniture with me when I travel. At home I’m set up fine. That‘s where I'm really invested and that's where it matters.” 

Rabbi Dovber replied “I, too, am in the midst of a journey. G-d sent my soul to this world for a purpose, just as he sent yours. I'm traveling through life and will eventually move on to a higher plane. 

The material is all part of life's impermanence, and I treat it as such. I, too, don't care that much about furniture when I'm 'traveling'. 

I invest my attention and energy in to my ‘home’, my soul condition. That‘s where it matters.” 

Rabbi Dovber was teaching that we’re all on the road of life. We’re each put here for a purpose, and what matters most is the objective. The rest is the trimmings. 

When you're traveling, the mint on the pillow is nice, but it’s not a priority. 

We should focus our attention on life's fundamentals, that's where 'home' is. And at home, everything matters. After all, it’s your home. 

A daily question to ponder is: Where do I really live? 

Which areas of life are genuinely important to me? Which areas of life are just parts of the journey, a means to a greater end? Does my investment of time and effort reflect my priorities?

Putting significant attention into fleeting, self-serving pleasures is kind of like carrying your sofa with you as you travel. It’s putting too much focus on a brief jaunt. 

Travel light.

Live well.

 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

When I was a kid, I begged my father to take me to a baseball game. I nagged and badgered like only a little boy can. He had absolutely no interest in baseball, and he probably dreaded the idea of spending four boring hours at Shea stadium, but he took me anyway.

People sitting near us may have thought this bearded Rabbi was an interested fan. But I knew that was the furthest thing from the truth. He was sitting at Shea for one – and only one - reason: To make me happy. Tom Seaver was but a piece of my father’s end game: Making his son happy.

His presence at the ballgame wasn’t what it appeared to be. Appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

‘Deceptive’ is a negative word; ‘misleading’ doesn’t sound kosher either. But how do you describe an exercise which appears to be self-indulgent, but is actually being pursued for a higher purpose?

Deceptively meaningful? Meaningfully deceptive?

Here’s a more common example: You see someone eating a tantalizing meal, and assume it’s in the pursuit of self-gratification. What if she simply wants to be healthy, so that she can actualize her Higher purpose by leading a meaningful life? The food happens to be great, but that wasn’t the primary point.

What about someone avidly pursuing his business, who actually places a high priority on bringing quality to his customers’ lives? And wants to earn money to support his community through his take-home revenue?

These individuals may look like they’re serving themselves, but their intent reflects a strong other-centered and G-d-centered ingredient.

Life is full of these opportunities to pursue exercises which have a meaningful essence, even though they look shallow on the outside.

We’re not created to be angels, and we’re not supposed to be sitting in prayer all day. Our purpose includes engaging the material world, whether it’s on Main Street or Wall Street. We need to pursue human endeavors, but the key lies in the intent of our pursuit. Are we conscious of our Higher Purpose? Do we guide ourselves by a Higher Code? If the answer is yes, then the pursuit– notwithstanding its appearance – is very much Divine.

As a people, we are known by the name of our Patriarch ‘Yaakov’ (Jacob). Linguistically, the word Yaakov connotes ‘deceptiveness’. Not a pretty thought. At least on its face.

But Yaakov is actually a name that shouts our mission and calls us to action:

Engage the world, the Torah tells us. You may appear to be pursuing self, but keep your priorities at a high level, and you’ll actually be pursuing G-dliness.

Sometimes it’s about the relationship not the ballgame. And that’s up to us.

Light Your Candle

Have you ever thought that someone looked absolutely radiant? Have you ever been awed by by a teacher’s brilliance? How about the warmth you felt when you saw a joyful child’s beaming face?

Look at that paragraph and think about the verbiage we so commonly use. We use ‘light’ metaphors to describe the often-intangible beauty of the human experience.

And this isn’t a new linguistic phenomenon. The Torah describes Moses’ face, pursuant to his other-worldly experience on Mount Sinai, as “radiant”. Scripture tells us that “one’s wisdom illumines one’s face,” and offers a blessing that “G-d shine His countenance” upon us.

So 'light' is a Torah symbol for full spiritual, physical, mental and emotional expression. With light, we see ourselves and the world in full glory. When we see the world in an ‘illuminated’ way, that means life is making sense to us.

The Torah is telling us that we are all Divine candles, trusted by G-d to shine light in a world that is often ‘dark.’ As we journey through life, we pray for G-d’s help in dispelling the darkness of our confusion, self-absorption and lack of moral focus. We pray for our souls to shine.

We ask for G-d’s help in lighting the wick of our own Divine candle.

When the Temple stood, its majestic Menorah – the seven branched candelabra – represented our multi-faceted nation. When the Kohen (Priest) kindled its flames, he was drawing light to our souls, illuminating our psyches. Lighting our ‘wicks’.

In the days of the Chanaukah events, the Hellenists took control of Israel. They wanted to extinguish our spiritual candelabra. They fed us hedonism, trying to cloud our souls with a self-indulgent veil. The Hellenists presented their lifestyle as the brilliance of societal evolution, but it was actually moral darkness. They weren’t so much trying to annihilate our bodies as they were seeking to extinguish our spiritual light.

They wanted our Holy Menorah - in all its dimensions - to go dark.

The Maccabees heroically fought back and they miraculously won. They preserved Divine light for posterity.

For us.

This Chanukah, dig deep inside yourself to find your own Holy oil. And kindle your inner flame.

Connect with Chanukah’s energy by lighting a Menorah for eight nights (not just the night of the family Chanukah party:)).

Add your candle to the brilliant blaze of our history.

Light up your life.

 

Best wishes for a happy and meaningful Chanukah,

Rabbi Mendy

 

P.S. This coming week, we’ll be launching our end of year campaign, in which our dear friend Mel Feldman will be matching donations up to $60,000. Watch out for our e-mails, and please add your match to the blaze of goodness. Together, we’ll light up the world.

Relationship Ingredients

Love: You know it when you feel it. Your heart feels like it’s surging, pumping on all cylinders, ALIVE. 
Awe: You know it when you feel it. It’s what happens when you’re in the presence of a larger-than-life personality, someone so awe-inspiring that you’re totally overwhelmed, dumbstruck.  
Awe is thrilling, but not in the same way as love. With awe, you're heart isn't on fire, feeling like it is about to jump out of your chest. To the contrary, awe makes you emotionally stand back - shrinking - to make way for the awesome experience. 
Think about how you felt when you saw your baby for the first time: Did you automatically reach out in love? Or did the sight make you pause in wonder, taking your breath away? That’s awe. 
Awe is an emotional force that blows away your normal ego posture, that "I'm the center of the universe" attitude, and it creates a wide psychological berth for the object of your wonder. 
So Awe and Love are two very different emotions, one expanding the sense of self and the other abating it. But they work best in tandem. 
Imagine if you took the opportunity to feel the wonder, the marvel of a loved one, before allowing the love to flow? When you relax your ego, your love can be so much more powerful. So awe – deep respect – is actually a love multiplier. If you're looking for deep connectedness, this combination gets you there.  
Our model for a healthy relationship is our personal relationship with G-d, and Judaism has a two-pronged approach to forging healthy connectedness with G-d. We begin our morning prayers every day by contemplating the miracle of the human body, nature’s mind-boggling complexity and the universe’s majesty. We put life on pause, standing back in wonder at G-d’s creation. Then, once we've felt touched by Creation’s majesty, we can begin to generate closeness with, and love toward, our Creator.

Our relationships, beginning with our relationship with G-d, are the stuff of life. They deserve work and mental exercise to make them the best they can be.

Think about the quality of your Awe and Love. They are the wings that can make you soar. 

 

What Does G-d Do All Day?

The Talmud asks a seemingly unanswerable question:

What does G-d do all day?

Generally speaking, Jewish tradition tells that G-d is consistently – longingly - waiting for our attention. Yes, G-d is hoping for us to see beyond the haze of stress and the gleam of desire, to recognize that we’re created to live a life of meaning. A life connected to G-dliness and Holiness. And when we do, G-d is thrilled.

Like when we start the day with prayer, with introspective thoughts of how we need to align our day with a meaning-centered life. Or at night, when we revisit the day’s choices and how/whether they reflect a purpose-driven life.

But morning, before the day begins and nighttime, as the day winds down, are relatively easier times to focus on life’s purpose.

How about in middle of the day? Can you imagine making time for quiet reflection between meetings, as your mind is racing to “keep all the balls in the air”? Is that even realistic?

Jewish tradition says it is. And the effect is cosmic.

It’s what gives G-d His greatest “thrill”.

That’s why, although we pray three times a day - morning, afternoon and evening - the Talmud finds special value in the afternoon service. It takes more proactive effort to focus on G-d in middle of a busy day. And that makes it all the more beautiful.

So what does G-d do all day?

Let’s focus on one part of the Talmud’s answer: “in the last three hours of the afternoon, G-d frolics with the Leviathan”.

Huh?

Chassidic thought points out that the Hebrew word for Leviathan means ‘connectedness;’ “Leviathan” thus represents the awesome beauty that human beings create when they rise above their egos to find connectedness with something Higher, the Divine. 

So every afternoon, as millions of people choose to put their respective days on pause, to contemplate their priorities and behaviors and connect with the Divine, G-d “frolics”.

Think about the metaphoric word that the Talmud chooses.

Not just a smile.

Not just happy.

Frolicking.

Joyful exuberance.

And it’s up to us.

Resist

Do you resist?

I'm speaking about life here, not politics.

The question is: Do you rebel against your own norms? We all have temptations, habits, and norms we should discipline, if we only have the strength. So the question is: do we have the guts to resist our instincts?

Sometimes we need healthy rebellion in society at large, pushing back against an unhealthy status quo. We need a stirring of the collective spirit to bring consciousness and moral direction to our communities.

But I’m speaking about something more personal. I’m speaking about the person we each see in the mirror. If we consciously want to live a meaningful life, we can push past our norms and so many of our 'limits,' and evolve into more actualized people. But do we want to? Is that fire of rebellion burning inside?

Let’s face it: Even when we’re in a proper functional rhythm, our souls can be asleep. You can go through the motions of being a loyal spouse or parent, while your brain is still in the office – or at the stadium. We can perform good deeds without any excitement or enthusiasm, on auto-pilot. It’s being alive, without really living.

Doesn’t that call for resistance? If we’re living a life of complacency and self-satisfaction, a life without the passion to rise up against ourselves, have we not become ‘spiritual bourgeoisie’?

Time for revolution.

And we want a Divine uprising too.

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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