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Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Lessons From Abraham.....and Bob

I recently visited my friend ‘Bob’ in the hospital.

A hard-charging guy, Bob is very engaged in the fast pace of his successful business, slugging it out with the best of them. So, I imagined that confinement to a hospital bed would make him feel constricted and constrained.

Yet, I found him very relaxed; perhaps more so than I've ever seen him. As we spoke, Bob explained that decades of experience had taught him to celebrate every day, even a day in the hospital. Despite the huge responsibilities and attendant problems, he had learned to maintain a frame of mind that insulated him against the angst.

"Just do the work; things have a way of working themselves out at the end." Anxiety was optional.

For a long while after leaving his room, I reflected on this refreshing attitude.

How can an intelligent person feel confident that things will “work themselves out at the end”? Why is that anything more than simplistic, wishful thinking? Who was watching and guiding to ensure that things worked out in the end?

That is, unless one believes in G-d, a G-d Who cares about you and me.

I can’t really say that Bob meant his comments to be a theological enucleation, but that’s what I hear.

Scripture and Talmud describe Abraham’s struggle to connect with the Divine, the Invisible Force that created the world and consistently continues to animate it. Once he recognized G-d’s existence, he never lost his faith in a loving Higher Power, despite many trials and tribulations.

At age 99, G-d tells him, “walk before me and be perfect (the conventional translation of the Hebrew word ‘Tamim’ in this context). What does perfect mean? Can G-d reasonably ask us to be ‘perfect’?

The word ‘Tamim’ means whole. It refers to seamless commitment and trust. Abraham was a man whose relationship with G-d knew no ripples, and no exceptions.

 He knew that even when his experience seemed at odds with what he hoped for from G-d, or would have expected from the Divine, he was never alone. They were 1000% connected.

From G-d’s perspective,  our deep, consistent relationship is fact. The question is: Can we accept it? Can we feel it?

When we can, there’s indeed no question as to whether things work out in the end.

Don’t sweat it.

Syncing Soul and Tongue

Saved by the……obnoxious, negative rhetoric?
According to news reports, the Postal Service was saved from insolvency this month by a huge influx of election-year mailings. Why so much snail mail in our hi-tech era?
CNN reports that “"Much of the political mail is coming from the Super PACs, because you can send nastier messages about candidates with direct mail than you can in a television ad".
Glad to hear all is well with the Republic.
Do nasty words matter? As children, many of us sang a ditty that defiantly proclaimed “words can never hurt me”. That may have helped our schoolyard bravado, but it's only true to a point.
Words, in fact, have a devastating ability to hurt people; negative talk can pollute an atmosphere more than a smoke bomb.
And it's not just about the audience. Speech can hurt the speaker too. When you speak darkly, you put yourself into a dark place. Why would you unnecessarily go there?
Words CAN hurt, just as words can heal. Words are powerful; and we need to use them very carefully.
The Rebbe retold the following incident: In Ukraine of the 1700's, two men had a quarrel, in the presence of the Holy Rabbi, Israel Baal Shem Tov. As the anger level rose, one shouted to the other that he would "tear him to pieces like a fish".
The Baal Shem Tov told his pupils to hold one another's hand, and to stand near him with their eyes closed. Then he placed his holy hands on the shoulders of the two disciples standing next to him. Suddenly the disciples began shouting in terror: They saw a vision of the fellow actually dismembering his disputant.
Nothing physical happened, but words have an impact, even if only on a spiritual plane.
Keep your speech on a respectful plane. If you have to say something that isn't pretty, try to find the most dignified way to do so.
And if you hear your internal voice saying that a nasty comment is ‘just an expression’ or ‘simply a question of phraseology’, stop yourself short. Because all the rationalizations are simply putting lipstick on a…er…an unkosher animal.

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