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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Move Over, Iphone and Blackberry

Yep. They've lost their master grip on the marketplace; they face a formidable challenge from the Pnimi.
The Pnimi?
Does it feel like you blinked and missed the newest tech toy?
Actually, “Pnimi” is a [Hebrew] Chassidic term, and it refers to a person who is totally invested in what he/she is doing.
A Pnimi is always  - in his entirety - where he is. Period.
It’s become harder than ever to be a Pnimi; we have so many distractions screaming for our attention i.e. cell phones ringing, texts buzzing, e-mails-at-our-fingertips.
That’s why I’ve been working on my Blackberry addiction.
In fact, I recently took a major step forward in my therapy: I’ve de-activated my little red notifier light.
[Note for non-Blackberry types: There’s a little light that flashes when you have new e-mail]
Here’s why: When I meet with someone, I’m polite enough not to respond to calls or e-mails. However, I’ll usually keep my Blackberry in front of me, just to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
So, when the little red light begins to flash, I notice. And from that moment on, the simple knowledge that I have waiting e-mail subtly gnaws at my brain. It’ll only take a tiny part of my consciousness, but that’s too much; when I’m having a conversation with someone, I need to be TOTALLY there.
I need to be a Pnimi.
So I've summoned the courage to de-activate. Now, I can actually speak with someone, and remain OBLIVIOUS as to whether e-mail awaits me. It may sound funny to you non-addicts, but let me ask you:
Do you ever surf the net while you’re having a phone conversation?
How about allowing your mind to wander afield while you’re speaking with a loved one?
Then this is for you too.
When we’re committing to a relationship  - with G-d or with each other – we need to commit wholly.
When we’re wrapped up in ourselves, we can’t fully give of ourselves to others. On the other hand, when we’re surrendered to a higher objective or ideal (like a relationship), when we’re liberated from our own self-centeredness, then we’re free to give of ourselves in a genuine sense.
So, the next time you enter into a conversation with G-d or a loved one, take a moment to shut down the distractions; because In the marketplace of meaning, the Pnimi wins every time.

Advice for Life from a Holocaust Survivor

I was driving down the highway, when I got a call from a friend: "Rabbi, my mother was just admitted to the hospital. She's not in acute medical danger, but I can tell she's angry. Can you please visit when you have a chance?"
I knew his mother, a Holocaust-survivor in her eighties, pretty well.  Her husband had recently passed away after a long bout with Parkinson's.
When I stopped in to see her, her children stepped out of the room to give us some space.
After hearing a basic medical update, I asked her:  “How are you feeling emotionally?”
"G-d should forgive me, I'm angry!"
"Okay. Angry at whom?"
"At whom??? G-d should forgive me, I'm angry at G-d!!"
"Why are you angry at G-d?" I asked.
The woman began to recount her life’s journey: The Holocaust, her difficult transit to this country, the 16-hour days helping her husband earn a modest living while raising her family, her husband's illness… and now this?
She climaxed the account of her life's pain and suffering with a somewhat triumphant "nu, vos zogst du?" That's Yiddish for: "so, what do you say [to that]!?!"
I answered: "I say you're right! I can totally see why you're angry and I have no inclination to tell you that it's unjustified!"
I was silent for a moment as she sank into puzzled satisfaction.
Then I continued: "At the same time, I - as I sit here - have a problem processing all this."
"Your kids are in the hallway. I know that they're very committed to you".
"My kids are the best!" she smiled.
I smiled too, and then I noted that she'd recently celebrated the birth of her first great-grandchild. She cooed with delight over her visit with the baby.
"So here's my quandary", I said. "You have legitimate reasons for being angry, and you also have legitimate reasons for being happy. Human nature is such that the anger usually takes up so much space that it deprives us of our legitimate, well-earned happiness.
You told me you're feeling angry. Are you feeling happy too?"
"How can I be happy when I'm so angry?"
"That's what I’m thinking too! What do YOU suggest?"
"Maybe I should stop focusing so much on the things that make me angry and give myself space to be happy..."
Words for us all to live by.
I couldn't have said them better myself.

Making Space

Can we really bring G-d into our individual lives?

The idea sounds so wonderful, but is it for real?

G-d is Infinite, un-graspable, and totally beyond our ken. So how can a small human embrace the Infinite, and how does one bring Infinite Energy into a finite life without ‘blowing the system’?

Not surprisingly, that’s an old question.

Centuries apart, Moses and Solomon were puzzled by the same thing.

When the Jews were in the desert, G-d commanded Moses to create a Tabernacle, a portable sanctuary. G-d said of this Tabernacle - which was quite finite and had very specific design and measurements - "make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell [there, among the people]".

Moshe wondered how a limited space could possibly be a ‘dwelling place’ for the Infinite.

Hundreds of years later, after the Jews had settled in Israel, G-d told King Solomon to transform this Tabernacle into the Holy Temple (the Beit Hamikdash) in Jerusalem.

Solomon asked "Would G-d truly dwell on earth? The heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain You, and surely not this Temple which I have built!"

Yet, even as the question is asked, Moses, Solomon, you and I both know that we can bring the Infinite into our lives. At this moment.

What does Infinite mean?

A theological Infinite (as distinct from a mathematical one) means a Force that is truly without limits or bounds, at any dimension or level. This itself means that the Force must be able to manifest within the Finite, or else we’ve just located its limitation (its inability to be present within the finite).

In easier language: G-d being Infinite means that G-d is present wherever G-d wants to be present. There are no limitations.

Whether it’s in:

the Tabernacle

the Holy Temple

your life

the Infinite can/will be present.

A Chassidic Master was once asked “Where can I find G-d?” He answered: “Wherever you let Him in.

When we set aside our self-serving instinctive impulses to consider what G-d wants from us at this moment, and surrender to that destiny, we become a Sanctuary for the Divine.

Do we feel the Infinite? No; that would ‘blow the system’.

At the same time, it feels right. It feels connected. Because there’s nothing more right and connected than bringing the Divine into your life.

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