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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Never Stop Dreaming

Have you ever dreamed? 
About how a loving relationship would look? How your future family would function and thrive? How your business would grow and prosper? 
Assuming that it’s been a while, and that you’ve already encountered ‘real life’, please ask yourself: 
Do you still dream? 
We need to embrace life’s [sometimes] hard and cold reality, but we can never stop dreaming. 
The Torah recognizes a world fraught with difficulties and pain. The Torah also depicts an eventual perfected existence, the world of Moshiach (the Messiah); that world of peace, harmony and goodness is our vision, our goal, our dream. 
And it hasn’t been easy to maintain this dream. 
Here’s a story that’s told: 
Poor Yankel was the village failure. He couldn’t earn a living and his family suffered. 
Finally, some friends chipped in to create a job for him: He would be paid two rubles a week to sit in a hut at the edge of town and await the Moshiach. 
Yankel knew that two rubles a week was barely minimum wage. 
"The pay is lousy," he said. 
"Yes", was the reply, "but the job security is excellent." 
The story reflects two realities in much of the Jewish world:

A. Judaism maintains a belief in the advent of Moshiach. We’ll even pay someone to do the waiting!

B. Our long and painful road has sometimes sucked that dream of its substance and vitality. We ‘know' that Yankel will keep waiting. 

I venture to say that this is a common, if unconscious, attitude. Belief in Moshiach’s coming is one of Judaism’s Thirteen Principles of Faith. Our anticipation is built into the prayers, thrice daily. 
But is the dream really alive? 
Or is it a joke? 
The Rebbe taught me that we need to keep dreaming. 
The Rebbe faced the world’s painful existence, and cried with humanity’s suffering. 
But the Rebbe so obviously believed in the dream of Moshiach. 
Moshiach, a perfected world, was more than a dream; it was a vision that animated the Rebbe’s life, guided his plans and served as his ‘North Star’. 
Because the Rebbe knew that G-d can deliver. The world can and will change. And if it takes a while, we need to keep dreaming, because the dream breathes soul into our lives, keeping it fresh, hopeful and cynicism-free. 
G-d’s reliable when it comes to our relationships, families and businesses too. 
Face and deal with the reality’s harshness. 
But never stop dreaming.

The Gift of Faith

“Rabbi, I’d love to believe in G-d; I just don’t!”

I’ve heard it again and again, and I think I understand: Faith can be elusive.

Logical equations can lead us to rational, cognitive conclusions. So if we’d like to reach a specific conclusion, we can choose to follow its intellectual trajectory.

But faith is different.

Faith is a relationship that defies ‘normal’, linear thinking. Faith is about what you feel, not [just] what you understand.

Sure, your intellect should serve as a supportive foundation to your faith, but – no matter how hard you try - you can’t reason your way across faith’s doorstep.

Intellect is simply the wrong tool.

To cross faith’s threshold, you need to surrender yourself to its sense of super-rational connection.

Which is why Passover presents exciting opportunities.

The Jews, coming out of slavery in Egypt, were a people with an unhealthy self-image and dysfunctional attachments. Their slavery had become an internal mindset.

This state of ‘captivity’ couldn’t be relieved by political freedom alone. The Jews needed something more.

So G-d gave them the mitzvah of Matza.

The gift of humility.

The gift of faith.

Matzah is dough that hasn’t risen, so it symbolizes an attitude of simplicity and humility. To a people absorbed in their own suffering, a people who have been disappointed and abused, a people who have learned – the hard way - never to trust, Matzah represents an attitude which is positively liberating.

Matzah says: “Give it up”. “You need to find a new beginning; please allow yourself to be touched by something higher”.

It’s not easy. It takes humility to creep out from under life’s burdens, humility to believe, to love, to think there’s something you still haven’t found.

But that humility can set you free.

Which brings us to the Seder.

Kabbalistic writings refer to Matzoh as a ‘food of faith’.

We see Matzah, as it is eaten to fulfill a Mitzvah on the first night of Pesach, as containing a spiritual nutrient: Faith.

So when you eat your Matzah on the first night of Passover, attune yourself to its spiritual character….and find the gift of Faith.

 

 

 

 

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