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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Trust

Trust is the foundation of emotionally security and trust can be seriously shaken, especially when disturbing events hit close to home.

Thirty years ago, I knew about the horrors of terrorism, but conventional wisdom said that it couldn’t happen in America.

So, I trusted and slept peacefully . . . until September 2001.

Twenty years ago, I believed that financial slumps were just part of the normal market cycle, and that our economic system is solid and reliable. I even believed that some companies are too big to fail (TBTF) and here for the long run, no matter what happens in the short term.

So I trusted; and I slept peacefully. Until 2008.

When I was in High School, I studied about the ravages of the 1918 Spanish Flu. At the time, it felt like ancient history, before our incredible strides in science and public health.  I was certain that could never happen again. So I trusted; and I slept peacefully. Until 2020.

We’re living in a world virtually unimaginable only three years ago. What and who can we trust? Is anything in the world truly secure? TBTF?

Of course, I believe in G‑d, and I believe that G‑d loves, guides and helps me. But believing in G‑d is one thing; genuinely trusting G‑d is quite another.

When I trust someone at work, I’m fully expecting them to carry a load. I expect good results from that person because I trust him/her. In Jewish theology, that’s what ‘Trust in G‑d’ means. It means relying on a G‑d Who cares and is able; a G-d Who loves us so much that He’ll even help the ‘undeserving.’ Trust means expecting good results, appreciable in the here and now. Why? Because G‑d is carrying the burden.

That kind of trust isn’t instinctively easy, because it’s somewhat counter-intuitive.

In life, we need to expend human efforts to achieve results, so it’s natural for us to attribute the results to our own efforts. We don’t usually see G‑d carrying our burden.

The Torah tells me to actively invest effort into my life, even as the Torah tells me to trust G-d to come through with the results I seek. G‑d wants His blessings to flow through a human conduit, but G-d wants me to trust that the final results will be His. And G‑d wants me to trust that those results - - because they flow from the Divine - will be appreciably good.

The third Chabad Rebbe had the following advice: “Think positively and it will be positive.” He wasn’t only giving psychological advice, it was innately Judaic guidance.

My trust in G-d, my absolute reliance on a loving G‑d to deliver positive results for my efforts, is a critical spiritual trigger for good things to happen. And the results reflect the amount of my trust.

Trust – especially today - isn’t easy. But looking at history, G‑d has earned our trust.

So I’m in.

Doing Better

We all make mistakes. And sometimes others get hurt in the process.
When I step on someone's toe, I've caused someone discomfort – and metaphorically, that happens more than I wish. My response? I apologize.

It's a very common phenomenon: we cause pain to someone, defuse the situation by expressing regret, and continue down life's path.
But do we grow from the episode? Do we take the time to analyze why we were so careless as to step on someone's toe? Do we process and internalize the other’s pain so that we’re more sensitive to our surroundings next time? 
An obligatory or perfunctory apology is unlikely to cause internal change. It's only when we focus on a sincere apology intended to help heal the pain we have caused another rather than on a superficial apology offered to avoid the discomfort and embarrassment from being called-out for our transgression that growth can happen. 
When the Jews were in Egypt, Moses kept begging Pharaoh to "let my people go." When Pharaoh didn’t listen, G-d directed calamities to afflict Egypt to help ‘convince’ Pharaoh to let the Jews leave. 

Yet this week’s parshah, Parshat Va’era, tells us that G-d "hardened Pharaoh's heart" so that he obstinately refused.

Why? If G-d was trying to force Pharaoh's capitulation, why get in the way by hardening Pharaoh's heart?
G-d didn't obstruct genuine remorse on Pharaoh's part. He just didn't want Pharaoh to recant his ways in order to stop the pain; that would be an easy – but deceptive – way out.  G-d didn't allow for that, because G-d wants authentic self-reflection and genuine internal change. 

As the plagues became more severe, so too did Pharaoh’s motivation to offer insincere acquiescence.  So G-d hardened his heart to assure that Pharaoh, who never genuinely regretted his actions, didn’t feign regret just to stop the plagues.
The same principle applies to our own personal 'Egypts', our individual transgressions: superficial apologies are good for 'getting by'; but they often stand in the way of 'getting better'.

Breaking Free

There's something especially beautiful about reading the Torah as a personal roadmap.
From that angle, the Torah's narrative about our slavery in Egypt becomes a directly relevant story of our own personal struggles and successes.
This week’s Torah portion, Shemot, speaks of the enslavement of the Jews in Egypt. The Egyptian oppression was something of a double-edged sword. While it was a horrifying illustration of human cruelty, Torah wisdom also points out that this terrible experience was an important contribution to our maturation as a people. That we journeyed to Mount Sinai and received the Torah directly after the Egyptian slavery suggests a connection between the two experiences. Our slavery in Egypt followed a long period of complacency and assimilation. Could it be that what we learned from our difficult period in Egypt was an important precursor to receiving the Torah?
Let’s look at how the Egyptians mistreated us. They weren’t just looking for free labor, they were trying to crush our spirit. Scripture describes one method employed by the Egyptian slave masters as being: “crushing work.”

The Egyptians understood that people naturally develop behavioral patterns that become difficult and uncomfortable to overcome. So, the Egyptians devised a devilish plan to break the Hebrews' bodies and spirit: They didn't just burden the Jews with physical work; they chose labor that grated against their ingrained habits and self-image.

In the Talmud's words: "They gave women’s work to the men and men's work to the women." They didn’t want to simply assign difficult work that would only break the body. They wanted to disrupt the Jew’s self-image as well. They observed that in which the Jewish found comfort and gave them work that was psychologically uncomfortable for them.

Cruel.

At the same time, enduring that experience gave the Jews a hint of how to achieve their spiritual freedom.

Some of life’s greatest straitjackets are our own less-than-productive habits and patterns. They're so ingrained it's difficult to even notice them, which makes them especially insidious and difficult to change. That’s exactly why addressing them is such an important part of our own personal Mount Sinai experience. 

We can find the strength, self-awareness and fearless commitment to move toward our best selves. We can overcome our own deeply ingrained behavioral patterns and choose more productive,  enlightened behaviors with freedom and purpose. Breaking unproductive habits and patterns can be quite strenuous, but we are blessed to be able to do it in freedom, and there’s no other way to reach our personal Mount Sinai. And to assist in our journey, we have the greatest of roadmaps – the one given to us at THE Mount Sinai.

Let’s break free.

Life Is Good. And Can Be Even Better

We each have blessings in our lives.
At the same time, we often lose sight of our blessings and good fortune because life’s stress consumes so much of our internal radar. That’s why it’s so important to take some time every day to refocus our attention, and recognize the blessings we have. Prayer is one such opportunity.

Imagine that you’re praying: Withdrawing from your ‘regular’ mindset and urges, you turn introspective and take an aerial view of your life. You begin to perceive and appreciate your blessings. Feel blessed and supported, you feel empowered to effectively respond to your challenges.

From that rarefied ‘prayer perch’, your world makes sense; life actually looks pretty good. You are safe. And you can actually see how you grow through your struggles.
So why does our prayer liturgy - thrice daily – also guide us to yearn for Moshiach, for an era without pain, without moral dilemmas and without tests of faith?
If life is good, and rising above our struggles - maintaining soul-consciousness even as we’re engaged in a shallow world - is actually an exercise in character development, why should we be desperate for Moshiach?

G-d is the ultimate good, and G-d is in control of the world. That being the case, we have every reason to hope for – and to anticipate – a world of total connectedness and balance, a world that is pain-free and without tragedy. Feeling Oneness with the Divine and with each other shouldn’t be a struggle; it should be a given.
So while we should be happy with life, we should never be complacent. Our world CAN be better and we need to keep an eye on a better future. As long as there is pain, disunity and lack of higher consciousness in the world, we can’t rest on our laurels.
So every day, our prayers can guide us to appreciate our life, and also guide us to recognize that our world can be so much better, and that we can – and must - actually bring it to that better place.
Starting now.

What would YOU do?

 A teenager is kidnapped by his brothers and sold into slavery in a foreign land. Against all odds, the youth fortuitously finds his way to freedom, then scales his new home’s socio-political ladder, eventually becoming the second most powerful leader in the country.
Years later, facing a regional famine, his brothers travel abroad to buy supplies from a prominent political leader, who - unbeknownst to them - is the brother they once betrayed. A perfect opportunity for revenge.

He now has total power over his former oppressors. What does he do? What would you do?
The drive for revenge seems natural. When we are wronged, we have the urge to ‘get even’. Some deem it an act of honor to ‘avenge a wrong'.
The Torah perspective is much more nuanced.
Revenge, per se, is a desire to hurt someone in retaliation for a previously inflicted harm. Revenge isn’t about undoing damage that’s been done; it's about inflicting more pain, just at a different address. It may feel good at the moment, but there’s nothing constructive about it. So, the Torah actually forbids the act of revenge (Leviticus 19:18).
Justice, on the other hand has positive aims including rehabilitation, deterrence and moral cleansing. Justice also sometimes hurts; but hurting isn’t the objective.
So let's go back to the kidnapped boy, who is our ancestor Joseph. He had a great opportunity for revenge.

Growing Slow and Steady

Inspiring thoughts have a way of finding us from time to time. Every once in a while, maybe while driving down the highway, listening to music and allowing our mind to drift, our brain will flash a motivating thought. We’ll get a mental snapshot of who we can be, empowering thoughts about upgrading our behavior, and we'll resolve – for the moment - to live a more meaningful life.

In most cases, that inspiring ‘lightning bolt’ fades and disappears from view pretty quickly.

So, should we see those moments of conscience and focus as 'flashes in the pan'? Or can they yield substantive results, helping us toward a better future?

The answer is up to us. While the inspiration is a gift, actual change takes work. So, when we’re inspired, when the flame of personal transformation illuminates our minds, we need to take advantage of it and anchor it in action. We need to ask ourselves: what can I do – NOW - as a step, albeit a tiny one, toward that image in my mind?

The steps can be small, as long as we keep on moving. As the story of the tortoise and the hare illustrates, incremental, consistent steps are a more secure way to reach the destination of a ‘better me’ than sporadic leaps and bounds. So when that figurative 'light bulb' goes off in your head, resolve to act in a meaningful but manageable way, so that the momentum can be maintained.

When we choose a realistic goal and take a deliberate step toward that goal, we can celebrate a personal victory and continue forward by building on that victory.
The service of the Chanukah candles, in which we begin with a single candle and add a candle from night to night, teaches us that incremental growth is healthy growth.

Chanukah is an eight-day exercise with an eye on infusing inspiration for the rest of the year.

So what do we do after day eight, when Chanukah is over? Our conceptual Chanukah lights need to keep burning, even after the Menorah is packed away.
The miracle of the oil, where the Menorah continued to illuminate beyond its natural capacity, can be our personal story.

This year, let’s make it a year of light and inspiration. Let’s take Chanukah with us.

Wrestling With Life

Life is beautiful. Life also has a way of presenting us with struggles, both from within and from without.

For example, human beings are born with a tendency toward selfishness, and we need a lot of effort to rise above it. When a strong appetite or impulse grabs hold of one’s psyche, it’s difficult to control, even when our mind, and our heart, knows that it’s wrong.  Or maybe we’re facing an existential funk that threatens to paralyze our day, or a more destructive drive that can bring negative consequences in its wake.

Think for a moment and you can fill in the blanks for your own life: each person has their own unique set of appetites and opportunities. But rest assured, we all face hand-to-hand combat for self-control.

Torah wisdom teaches us that mental clarity is the key to victory. Life throws up a lot of haze in the form of unhelpful triggers and attractions, and this opens the door to the less-than-high-minded behaviors that get us into trouble.

So we really need to pierce the moral fog, and carefully examine our decisions in a thoughtful light.

This week’s Torah portion tells that our Patriarch Jacob was once accosted by an angel, a threatening spiritual energy, with whom he wrestled all night.  At daybreak, when the angel recognized that Jacob was tenaciously persevering, the angel gave Jacob a second name: Israel. Israel is a contraction of words that means “you have wrestled with the Divine (angel), and with humanity, and have overcome.”

Israel means wrestling with life’s challenges. Our very name reflects the attempt to conquer life’s shallowness, the hedonistic veneer with which G-d papered this beautiful world.

While describing this epic scuffle, the Scripture throws in a seemingly trivial detail, saying that they “kicked up dust.” The Talmud focuses in on that phrase and adds that the wrestling pair kicked up dust that rose so high it “reached the [anthropomorphic] Heavenly Throne.”

Why this focus on dust?

Because that’s a central part of the lesson. Dust in the air obscures vision; it distorts perception. That’s what Jacob’s struggle was about: cutting through life’s haze to find clarity and healthy direction. We become ‘Israel’, rising to the meaning of our collective name, when we recognize – and actualize - the Divine beauty that lies within and behind the confusing smog.

The dust isn’t a detail of the story, it’s the challenge. How effective we are at seeing through the dust speaks directly to our connection with the Heavenly Throne. Finding clarity in a confusing world is what life’s all about.

Resistance!

 Resistance. It is the act of repudiating the status quo.

The term conjures up great struggles against oppressive power.  The American Revolution, the underground resistance movements during World War II.  That is external resistance.

I want to discuss a different kind of resistance – internal resistance. Resistance in the inner recesses of our hearts and minds. 

Do we have the courage to resist ourselves? Do we have the fortitude to forcefully confront our own habits and norms?

An internal revolution is vital for human growth, but it takes courage and strength.

We raise our children to respect rules of decency, protocol and religious observance – and healthy habits and traditions can make for a good status quo. But simply following the beaten path isn’t good enough; we need to disrupt ourselves. Rebellion WITHIN the discipline is vital.

When we’re in a proper functional rhythm, our souls can still be asleep. One can go through the motions of being a loyal spouse or parent, while one’s brain is at the office, the gym or the mall. We can perform good deeds without any fire in the belly or pro-active consciousness.

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’? That would call 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 also rise up.

Journey Of A Lifetime

 

Your soul was waiting, hankering, chomping at the bit.

The length of the wait was of no import -- there aren’t any calendars in “Eternity.”  It was all about the depth of the anticipation.

Finally, FINALLY, your soul got the green light for the ultimate challenge, the ‘Iron Man Competition’ of the ages.

Your soul got a body and embarked on the journey of Human Existence.

Why was your soul so excited?

Why did it long for the pain, the suffering, and the inevitable tears?

Because there’s so much to be gained.

Your soul knew you’d be afflicted with a wide assortment of struggles, internal and external. But it also knew full well that every time you rose to the occasion, every time you transcended a self-indulgent bad mood, every time you consciously guided your life in a meaningful direction, every time you crossed the boundary from self-centeredness to responsibility, every time you saw an otherwise mundane moment as a beautiful opportunity waiting to be capitalized upon – you would be creating Cosmic Harmony.

Your soul’s deepest desire was to melt into the Infinite Oneness of the Great Divine, and – FINALLY - your soul’s ticket was punched. The moment arrived.

You were born

Your soul knew that the payoff for your personal victories would be greater intimacy with G‑d and greater Oneness between G-d and the world.

That’s why it waited so longingly.

So here you are -- in the game -- in a life of blessing and bother, purity and pain, success and struggle.

All in all, a life of opportunities.

Compete like your soul is counting on it.

Life, Minute By Minute

 How effectively do we use our time?
While I can’t remember all the details of life’s journey, I can, in a general sense, remember when my time was spent wisely and when it wasn’t. So, when reflecting on our past, it is healthy to learn some lessons and pivot to the future.
The years ahead (G-d willing) are each comprised of months. The months are a string of weeks, weeks a collection of days, days an aggregate of hours, hours a succession of minutes and minutes a sequence of seconds. So, the broad structure of our lives is actually constructed through individual ‘time-bricks’, individual moments that coalesce to create a lifetime.
While it is important to consider life’s 'big picture', if we want to maximize our effectiveness, we need to tackle life in bite-sized pieces. Each second, minute and hour is an opportunity for substantive living, and they can each meaningfully contribute to a purposeful life.
A teacher of mine once told me that he'd changed his life 'in ten minutes'. When I appeared incredulous, he explained that he was always alert to productive use of time. So, when he had ten minutes with 'nothing to do', he would search for a positive way to use that slice of time. When we have relationships we'd like to strengthen, topics we'd like to research, etc., even ten minutes can be used productively.
It’s about our attitude toward time. We need a conscious, pro-active approach in order to use time purposefully and meaningfully. If I take time to call a friend, it shouldn't be a 'time-filler'; it should be a thoughtful decision to deepen a relationship. If I take time for prayer and reflection, it should be a considered decision to connect my life with something Higher.
The Rebbe once noted the curious fact that G-d created a world in which we are forced to spend time sleeping. Torah is productivity-oriented, so why the unavoidable need for ‘down time’?
The Rebbe explained that rest (or vacation) should not be viewed as an escape from productive life; it’s an opportunity to recharge one’s batteries for re-engagement. It’s all part of the creative journey.
Life is about making a difference. Your next moments are a slice of that life. Use them for your own growth and for the benefit of others.

Off The Island

 I can understand why someone would want to be a rock. Or, for that matter, an island. After all, a rock feels no pain and an island never cries. 
Maintaining thick psychological walls, hearing without listening and speaking without communicating, can seem like an effective way to cope. After all, why should you allow yourself to feel someone's pain when you’re not feeling too great yourself? Why should you share your personal struggles, fears, aspirations or ambitions, laying bare your vulnerabilities and raw nerves? It just doesn't seem safe or prudent.
At the same time, insolation from the world's heartache inevitably means self-imposed exile; it means closing the door to one of life's treasures, the beauty of human relationships. It means cheating ourselves.
In the Torah's portrait of a meaningful life, one should certainly protect one’s self and property. But that’s just the beginning. The primary richness of life is when we brighten our existence with deep and substantive connections. We create meaningful bonds, with the Divine and with each other. We forge relationships that allow us to share our lives.
It's not easy to share what's beneath the surface.
It's difficult enough to be honest with G-d. It's even more difficult to open up to other humans.
I'm never afraid that I'm boring G-d with the story of my life, never afraid that He doesn't understand, that He'll think less of me or that He'll use my revealing information against me.
But with people, it sometimes seems safer to be a rock or an island.
The Torah wants us to take the risk of sharing our lives with others. Because sharing our lives, at whatever level, enriches our lives.
If I have a friendly acquaintance, I'm not going to expose my deepest self. But I can get beyond meaningless chatter to share something of myself, and I can care enough to listen authentically.
Two people - not even the closest of friends – can each invite the other into his/her life. And they're no longer islands. We can even go one step further and invite people into our lives by inviting them into our homes. In the Covid era, this may need to be curtailed for the time being, but we need to keep the Torah value, dating back to Abraham, alive in our hearts and minds.
Having guests doesn't mean calling friends to show off your new entertainment center. It means inviting others into your life by inviting them into your home as your sanctuary.
When we open our hearts, and open our homes, we are islands no more.

Self Care

 

Does taking care of myself make me selfish? Hillel (our famous 1st century Sage) taught us the immortal lesson: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?” I need to watch out for me.

At the same time, we need to consider the rest of Hillel’s statement: “…And if I am only for myself, then what am I?”
So, taking Hillel’s entire statement into consideration, he’s telling us that we need the correct framing as to why we are taking care of ourselves. If we are tending to our own needs so that we might be properly functioning human beings – which includes fulfilling our responsibilities to the world – that’s fine. But when we’re looking out for ourselves because we feel like we’re the center of the universe, then we have a self-centeredness issue.

If everything is about me, then, in the final analysis, “what am I?”
The problem doesn’t lie in me looking after myself; it lies in the fact that I’m not targeting an objective beyond myself.
As a way of addressing this problem, the Torah calls on us to ‘circumcise the foreskin of our hearts’. This obviously doesn’t refer to a physiological cardiac layer.  Our Sages tell us that the Torah is referring to the self-indulgent ‘overlay’ that prevents us from truly connecting with others. The Torah is pointing out a psycho-spiritual ‘membrane’ of self-centeredness that turns self-reliance into self-absorption. We need to cut through this stifling approach to life in order to liberate our hearts and souls.
How?
From the outside in.
We start with our behavior. ‘Circumcising’ our conduct means cutting through our layers of self-indulgence. For example, even though we do not hurt anyone when we gorge ourselves on a scrumptious meal or engage in material excesses, we exercise our ‘self-absorption muscle’ and open the door to a chain of ‘me-centered’ conduct that then crowds out 'we-centered' behavior.
The 'circumcision' process peels away the unhealthy layers so that there’s less self-absorption in the way we act and in the way speak. We can then take the step of peeling back the overlays - the divisive blockages - from our hearts and from our minds.
The disappointments, hurts and setbacks that are a natural part of life can lead one to build up pretty strong emotional barriers that can lock them into a lonely world.
By healthily penetrating our obstructive layers, we can begin to truly take care of ourselves and find our interdependent place in a meaningful world.

It gives a whole new meaning to self-care.

Turning the Tide

 

Water.

It's simple and unpretentious. Yet, paradoxically, it is powerful – the elixir of life. Water is the base of our amniotic fluid, our pre-birth surrounding. And – as we go through life – it’s our cleansing friend.

Water creates an aura of tranquility.  The sound of rain is a favorite sleeping aid. Whether it's a rustling brook, or a majestic fountain, water creates a personal island of serenity. And, of course, water is the foundational sustenance of all life.

In Torah thought, immersion in a pool of water – known as the Mikvah – is a 'conduit' that helps guide us from one spiritual stage to the next.

Women immerse themselves as part of their journey through life's cycles. And men regularly use the Mikvah as part of a 'rebirthing' process, shedding one level of personality in the aim for a higher one.

In the Jewish conversion process, the candidate actualizes his/her journey through immersion in Mikvah-waters, which brings his/her new identity into full blossom.

So why does water also serve as a metaphor for life's difficulties?

Why do we speak – even Scripturally – of the 'rushing waters' that threaten to extinguish one’s flickering flame of hope, or the ferocious tide that threatens to knock you off balance?

How do I reconcile the Mikvah’s serenity with the raging waters of Noah's flood?

Then again, maybe that's the point.

The babbling brook’s tranquility is calming, relaxing, stress reducing.

So much of life is actually about facing the raging tide, because that’s the way to access our inner potential.

I shouldn’t be afraid of the rushing water, I just need to be prepared.

I need my ark. When I’m emotionally and spiritually cocooned, when I've found internal fortitude and focus, when I'm anchored to firm principles and vision….I can face the rushing waters, and have them lift me higher.

Contemplative prayer and study is our protective boat, our personal Ark, protecting us from life’s deluge. And helping us use the challenges, life’s waves, to rise higher and higher.

Welcome aboard.

Just In Time

We’re living in turbulent times. Global uncertainty. Covid….and its mutations. The political polarization that divides us in the name of high-minded ideals.

All in all, the world has had another difficult, tiring year.

We need to open a fresh new page, which is why Rosh Hashana is coming not a second too soon.

Rosh Hashana isn’t just about turning a page on the calendar and looking ahead to the coming year or donning our finest and attending services. All of that is window dressing for Rosh Hashanah’s soul, it's primary theme: G-d’s Infusion of new Divine Energy into a tired world.

Just as a sleepy person gets rejuvenated by a jolt of caffeine (or some good sleep!), an exhausted world receives a Divine ‘shot-in-the-arm’ every Rosh Hashana.

Kabbalistically speaking, the world is totally dependent on Divine energy, which G-d grants in energy-increments. Every Rosh Hashana, G‑d breathes new life into the world, which keeps us fueled until the following Rosh Hashana.

But Rosh Hashana isn’t a spectator event. The calendar turns a new page without us doing anything, but drawing Rosh Hashana energy into our lives isn’t an automatic process. The Rosh Hashana drama is actually very interactive, and very much user-generated. In this drama, we all have a leading role.

Rosh Hashana is up to us.

Every year, as the High Holidays set in, it’s our individual job to take a moment – a genuine moment - to reconnect with ourselves, our purpose in life, and our Creator.

When we renew our commitment to meaningful living, re-affirming our relationship with the Divine, G-d is overjoyed to reciprocate and grant us life – vigorous, sparkling, energized life – for a New Year.

The world re-energized. Our lives infused with new hope and vigor.

G-d knows we can use it.

The Search

The great Rabbi's meditation was interrupted by his grandson's mournful cry.
"What happened?' he asked the child.
"My friends and I started to play hide and seek, and I hid myself very well and waited for them to begin the search. But they just decided to play something else, and I sat there neglected because no one even tried to find me!"
As the Rabbi calmed his humiliated grandson, he murmured "Now we know how G-d feels".
G-d deliberately hides the Divine presence in our world, and we are born to search for it.
G-d is camouflaged in a world that conceals meaning and shouts shallowness. When we wake up in the morning, our knee-jerk instinct isn't "Wow! G-d constantly gives me life and has given me another day. I matter. I have a purpose in this world, and I need to use the gift of another day to live my destiny!"
That’s why Jewish practice, for thousands of years, has been to start our day by proactively guiding our minds to see the world for its purpose and higher beauty; to see the light in our surroundings. To seek and find G-d's presence in the world.
From the minute we wake up, we begin a psycho-spiritual workout, by thanking G-d for restoring our consciousness and gifting us with another day.

Once we’ve gotten ourselves spiritually warmed-up, we take some time for prayer, which is a process of rediscovering our relationship with G-d, and G-d’s presence in our daily lives. The liturgy guides us – through 'prayer therapy' - to feel an appreciation, a deep need, for Oneness (symmetry, purpose, wholeness) in our lives. As we reach the zenith of our search, we call out 'Shema Yisrael…' (Judaism's ancient proclamation of G-d as the Oneness of life). We’ve found G-d, and ourselves.
Chabad Chassidic thought calls the Shema a daily call of the Shofar, because, like the piercing blasts of the Shofar, the Shema evokes our deep-seated need for meaning.
As we approach Rosh Hashana, let’s try to say the Shema (and even hear the actual Shofar, if you can) every day.
Our search for the Divine will elevate our lives and lessen G-d’s tears.

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