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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Hug A Tree

Mobility can be a double-edged sword.

‘Growth’ sounds great.

‘Unsettled’ not so much.

As human beings, we find basic peace when we’re at rest. That’s how we fall asleep and that’s how you catch your breath. But inertia and paralysis are unhealthy. Where do we find the balance?

When it comes to material objectives, we can never ‘spike the ball,’ because physical fulfilment is a moving target. When we’re bombarded by a hodgepodge of desires and fears, we end up chasing illusions from one end of life’s field to the other.

The pursuit of spiritual fulfilment is different. Our souls have a core desire to touch the Divine, always yearning for something higher, pushing to rise above life’s mundanity. We’re figuratively standing on our spiritual tiptoes, trying to touch something meaningful, which often feels just beyond our reach.

But it’s not.

Scripture quotes G-d as saying (Hosea 14:9): “I am like a supple Cedar…” The Cedar is a tall tree; the ‘supple Cedar’ imagery is that of a tree we can bend all the way down to our level, so that we can hang on, and be catapulted aloft, as it returns to its natural position.

G-d is that Cedar. G-d ‘bends down,’ making Divine meaning accessible to us at our human level, by giving us tangible, physical Mitzvos. Once we grab on, we are propelled to a higher state, coming closer to the Divine, closer to ourselves.

G-d being described as the 'supple Cedar' tells us that meaningful human life is within our grasp. Hang on to the Cedar, and the soul flies higher, the bond grows deeper, the embrace intensifies. 

This Yom Kippur, disengage –at least for a day - from the material-focused frenzy. Commit yourself to a deep relationship with G-d.

Hug the supple Cedar.

The King and I

It’s that time of year again.

It’s time for me to engage the ‘King.’

You see, Rosh Hashana is coming, and we’ll have an overflow crowd at services.

For me, that’s a precious opportunity to unveil and articulate the Judaic tradition which I hold so dear.

I can express our belief in G-d as a Parent, Who devotedly cares for each of us. This helps us envision how we each matter to G-d.

I can depict our embrace of G-d as a spouse, with whom we share a loving – if sometimes challenging –relationship. That opens a vital window into our deep bond with the Divine.

Loyal and Loving. That’s my G-d.

But here’s the problem. This fundamentally-Judaic image of G-d doesn’t easily dovetail with the Rosh Hashana liturgy. When we open the prayer book, we find a consistent theme of G-d - not as Parent or Spouse but - as ‘King.’

Our Rosh Hashana services are one big Coronation.

That metaphor isn’t a natural for Americans. We’re very happy to have ejected King George III from our lives, and we’re generally not big on respect for the monarchy.

In my experience, Parent and Spouse imagery work. King? That’s a tough one for many people.

So, let us – you and I - [re]frame and [re]define the King concept.

Building on the image of G-d as wholly committed to our welfare (like a parent) and deeply loving (like a spouse), we also see G-d as our [devoted and loving] King.

Why? Because it introduces a wonderful new element: Surrender.

No human – even family - can say to me: “I know you, because I created and designed you. Relax and stop clinging to your self-image and shallow perceptions. I will guide you toward becoming the person I created you to be.”

Only G-d can say that. And I can handle it when it’s coming from G-d. Because G-d DID create me; G-d knows my strengths and genuinely perceives my weaknesses. So I’m comfortable surrendering to my loving and devoted King. Because I’m actually surrendering to my own destiny, my best self.

Yes. ‘G-d as King’ works for my prayer imagery.

How about you?

Now is the Time

Once I’ve made a mistake, can it ever be retroactively un-done?

Of course, we can make amends and learn for the future, But can we ever un-speak hurtful words?

In the concrete sense, that’s not possible. But there’s more to life than the concrete.

So let’s look at regret through a spiritual lens.

Sometimes, we rue an action because it created unpleasant consequences. When you’ve hurt someone important, and the relationship has become uncomfortable, and you apologize: Is it ever because you simply want the pain to go away?

If yes, that's regret of a sort; but it's not transformative remorse. It's more like ‘relationship management.’

In this scenario, you haven’t experienced any real character modification.

You’re uncomfortable with the REACTION to your behavior, not your action itself. Maybe you’re modifying your behavior from now on, but it’s because of someone else's response, not your own principles.

Real behavior modification doesn't usually happen that way. And you never end up ‘un-speaking’ those hurtful words.

But there’s a deeper way.

We can use our mistakes as profound teachable moments. As powerful springboards for positive change. And when you do that, you’ve reached into the past and transformed past mistakes into shining opportunities for present growth and self-improvement.

You’ve done the impossible, by restructuring and upgrading ‘spilled milk.’

Of course, what’s done is done, and you can’t control people’s memories. But you can control your own NOW, and grow from your own past. And, when real change happens, the rest of the world will eventually catch on.

We’re fast approaching the High Holidays, a time for introspection and re-alignment. A time to fine-tune our behavior for the New Year. And G-d is the wind at our backs.

The High Holidays ‘behavioral transformation project’ comes from a deeply empowered place. We believe that G-d created each of us with the capacity to be a true mentsch, living with character and integrity. Our innate potential, which no one external can control, is our gold standard. Every day, we should envision that potential as our gold standard, and measure our behaviors against that potential.

Because we want to do better. And we really can.

What better time to start, than now?

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


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?


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.

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