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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Separate But Not Apart

All for one and one for all.

What a beautiful idea.

Can we hope for anything loftier than connectedness, community and brotherhood?

On the other hand, I appreciate my privacy and solitude too.

I occasionally need some ‘sacred space’ to get to know myself; I need to retreat from the crowd and find peace of mind for some serious introspection.

We all need opportunities to sharpen our internal bearings and calibrate our consciences. For that, we need [relative] silence and solitude.

A time for solitude. A time for fellowship.

Both are necessary.

And in a Torah trajectory, solitude usually comes first.

If my goal is maintain an atmosphere of friendship and goodwill throughout the day, then my primary focus won't be on the ‘easy’ relationships; after all, they’re not the real hurdle.

If we want to maintain a feeling of connectedness – and that means rising above resentments, grudges and even the 'friendly' veneer - we need to focus on the people who try our patience.

If we can find fellowship with them, then we've scaled our personal mountain of disconnect and conquered a piece of ourselves.

But that doesn’t come easy. It takes contemplative thought.

The human default position is selfishness/ego, which is the primary disruption to true unity. So the mindset which will trigger a feeling of real connectedness is actually counter-intuitive

We need to pro-actively generate ‘unity thought patterns’, because they won’t happen by themselves.

We need to spend time in our own minds, disengaging from the counter-productive rhythms of social negativity.

We can contemplate the pragmatic value of unity (less stress).

We can take the time to realize that, spiritually, we're all one organic body; just as the same blood courses through each limb so does the same 'soul-blood' – Divine vitality – course through us all.

There’s a lot to think about. And after thinking, we’re ready to engage.

But the sequence is critical.

Solitude. Fellowship.

Engaging people without thought may lead to social disruption and involuntary disconnect.

Fellowship. Solitude. It works better when the solitude comes first.

Introspection before interaction.

Independence before interdependence.

That’s why prayer is a way to start the day.

But there I go again.



Living Life to the Fullest

Why do we do what we do?
You know what I mean.
So often, we know that we shouldn't act a certain way; and then we go do it anyway.
Maybe it's eating french fries after the doctor warned against it; maybe it's disrespecting a valued relationship.
Sometimes it's about our moral/spiritual/religious integrity; we know we shouldn't, but…….
It's not that our moral compass is askew.
Most of us have a healthy sense of right and wrong. When we sit quietly, contemplating our priorities and values, most of us are moral and upstanding.
The problem is that we're not always sitting quietly in contemplation.
The problem lies in our lack of consciousness.
When I'm fully aware – truly aware - of my gifts and values, I'm much more likely to honor them. When I'm actively conscious of my tremendous blessings, my life, family and friends, my actions will reflect that awareness.
The trick is in remaining conscious; since the human psyche naturally gravitates toward a back-of-the-mind, taking for granted, automatic-pilot operating system.
This is a reason that Judaism has so many awareness-triggers. When I walk into a room and see the mezuzah, it should raise my consciousness. The mezuzah reminds me that the room – bedroom, kitchen, den etc. – isn't simply a place to pursue a narrow, de-contextualized exercise (eating, sleeping etc.); it's a venue for pursuing my overall objective of a meaningful life (through eating, sleeping etc.).
My Tzitzit (the Biblically-required fringes that hang from the little 'Talit' I wear under my shirt) are a mnemonic, a consciousness-prod. When I see them, I need to remember I have a destiny and a reason for existence; and that my next actions should reflect that life-objective.
So it's about consciousness.
If I check my 'consciousness meter' as often as I check for my wallet or keys, my 'internal traffic-controller' will perk up. I'll be able to consciously choose, and fully invest myself in, my next moves of the day.
Internally, I become more internally 'alive'. And in this journey of life, 'alive' is the way to go.

Life is Good

Life is good.

Come to think of it, life is VERY good.

Does that mean I have no stress or pain? Of course not.

But here's my thought process:

1. I believe in G-d.

2.  I believe in a G-d who loves me very deeply, like a parent loves his/her baby. G-d loves us all that way.

3. I believe that our souls, prior to this human journey, were in a sublime state of Holiness and Tranquility.

4. G-d took us away from that sublime tranquility to send us on this painful human journey. Since no Parent would inflict meaningless pain on a child, I can only conclude that this life must be of tremendous benefit to our souls, a benefit which far outweighs the existential pain.

The Torah teaches me that life here and now, with its challenges and moral dilemmas, has incredible 'Divine voltage'. Today, right now, I can experience a powerful connection to the Divine, greater than that of a disembodied soul floating in Paradisical Spirituality.

How can I experience such an intimate connection with G-d, sitting here at my computer? How can I, a human being with weaknesses and failings, connect with the Divine at such a transcendent level? The Torah tells me that when I meaningfully navigate life's haze - when I do a Mitzvah - I encounter the Divine.

When I am conscious of G-d and of our human mission, so that I make the right choices, I am plugged into the Divine. No matter where I am, I always have the option of pro-actively guiding my life in a conscious and meaningful direction.  That's cosmic.

Bottom line: Life is certainly full of obstacles and stress, but there's pure Divinity hidden in the challenges. And every moment of life, I have the option of accessing that Beauty.

I really wish I could see and feel it, but I guess that would take away the challenge.

A Time to Lead - The Omer actualized

Do you matter?
In the scope of this massive universe, do you really matter?
A simple answer. For a profound reason.
If G-d created you, and perpetuates your existence, He obviously has a purpose for you. It’s a simple equation: If you're alive, then you certainly have something to contribute to this world.
Yes, you - as an individual – can positively influence the world.
That’s important to G-d; so you matter.
But you need to be a leader. Influencing the world means engaging the world on your terms (as you see the world through a meaningful lens - the Torah). If you get sucked into the world’s maelstrom, and embroiled in its pettiness, then the tables have been reversed; the world is controlling and influencing you.
To achieve your mission you need to stay true to your vision, staying above the fray and choosing your actions with deliberate wisdom.
You are a leader.
For the past six weeks (in the Omer exercise) we’ve spent a lot of time of grappling with our internal dynamics, growing and developing in our psychological and spiritual personas.
We’ve been concentrating on:
1. How we emotionally connect with people
2. How we manage our 'habit-traps'
3. How we maintain internal focus on 'the vision'
4. How we anchor our feelings in convictions and principles
5. Our ability for flexibility and reconciliation
6. Our internal focus
This is vitally important, but it’s not enough. Life is about influencing the ‘outside’ world and changing it for the good.
In mysticism, this is known as the art of ‘Malchut’ –Leadership and Influence.
Malchut/Leadership isn’t an internal rhythm like the other soul dimensions, it’s the delivery mechanism. Malchut/Leadership is exerting influence and making a difference in my little corner of the world.
Malchut/Leadership takes courage.
Malchut/Leadership takes consideration and selflessness, because true leadership expresses a vision, not a personality.
After six weeks, the Omer has (re)aligned our internal dynamics with our deeper Vision. Now it’s time to go out there and lead. Because that’s what leaders do.
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