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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Meaningful Perspective = Happy Life

Can you imagine someone being consistently happy?
I mean someone like you. Someone who answers to a boss, deals with cranky clients, carries financial responsibilities and understands that Iran is going nuclear.
With all that stress, who has space for happiness?
Yet, Jewish wisdom thinks it’s possible; Actually, more than possible: Imperative.
Imagine someone who wakes up in the morning and says “I accept that
G-d created me for a purpose: G-d wants me to transform my life into a
vehicle for meaning. And when I rise above my day's challenges to make
moral, Higher-Code-based decisions, I exercise my soul's Divine
character; I transform my day into a spiritual gym and a framework for
goodness and holiness. If I can stay out of anxiety's clutches, and make space for my inner G-dliness to shine, I’ll have lived a meaningful day and made my Creator very happy."
With that mindset, if you can maintain it through the day, would one not feel inner contentedness, even happiness and life's opportunities?
With a meaning-based mindset, every challenge is a test of one’s moral strength, and there's a personal victory to be celebrated on the other side of each hurdle.
The day is the soul’s obstacle course, and I’m competing against myself. As long I’m staying conscious of my purpose, I’ll be able to celebrate personal growth as I go through the day.
Proverbs (15:15) tells us that: "A Good-hearted person perpetually celebrates."
The heart represents one's passion. If my passion is directed toward my own pleasure and comfort, if my drive is to have a stress-free day, then I'll often be frustrated. Unless I spend my day distracting myself, trying to ignore the real world, life will have too many curve balls it to be 'stress-free'.
But if my 'Heart', my passion, is to lead a meaningful life, that meaningful inner focus can be a thread which runs through all my days interactions.
I can be happy without 'fun' or 'pleasure', even if I’m working hard.
Because it’s about the meaning; which means it’s about my own perspective and how I see my life’s purpose.
Today is the beginning of the new Jewish month: Adar. It's a month of enhanced joy, because it's a month when we have extra focus (with the celebration of Purim) on the beauty hidden behind life's facade/mask.
Celebrate life!

A Lesson for Lisa (and me)

Years ago, I led a Judaic discussion group in someone’s home. As the
evening progressed, someone began to advocate ‘living in the moment’, appreciating the here and now.
At that point, I noticed my friend 'Lisa' (not her real name) becoming
agitated. Her anxiety seemed to keep rising; so, since our allotted
class time had pretty much elapsed, I called the group to an end.
As the group broke for refreshments I walked straight over to 'Lisa'.
“What's going on?” I asked.
“That guy made my blood boil….” she responded.
“What did he say?” I probed.
“Live in the moment, live in the moment… I felt like I was going to explode!”
“What’s wrong with ‘living in the moment?” I asked, somewhat puzzled.
With an incredulous and deeply pained look, she exclaimed “Live in the moment??? Live in the moment??? The moment sucks!! I don’t WANT to live in this moment!” I knew that 'Lisa' had many obvious blessings; I also knew
that she bore deep personal pain.
So I sat down with her and listened to her woes.
The next morning, as I prepared myself for my daily prayers, I began
to focus on the first word of our liturgy ‘Hodu” - a Hebrew word which means “offer thanks/praise”.
Suddenly I stopped short. What if 'Lisa' were standing here? What if she were praying? Would she be offended at the prayer’s assumption that she could feel thankful for something? If life was so bad, how could we assume a sense of gratitude on her part? Could it be that this liturgy wasn't suitable for someone like her?
I couldn’t go further with my prayers, because I needed to come to terms with our liturgy and its applicability to my friend.
Then it dawned on me: In their wisdom, our Rabbis structured the
liturgy so that a person needed to be in a grateful place before she
could begin her prayers.
Even if someone had many stresses (which we all do), the Rabbis were
telegraphing that EVERYONE has blessings for which to be thankful. The liturgy’s design was to tell us that unless a person recognized some blessing in his life, until she was able to muster a feeling of
gratitude to the Divine, the person couldn’t even begin the first word of
prayer.
With that inspiring eye-opener, I began my prayers, and I began to think a little differently.
Thank you Rabbis.
And thank you 'Lisa'

Of Home And Heart

“Home is where the heart is”. It’s a great quote; but what does it really mean?
Well, what is a home? Obviously, it’s not just a structure for
habitation. ‘Home’ is not just a house. Home is a special place.
Home is where I belong, without any whys or wherefores. No particular reasons, responsibilities or needs bring me there. It’s simply my place. I never feel like a guest, or like I don’t belong, because I’m at home.
At home, I am who I am, with no need to hide behind my protective psychological shields. I feel safe acknowledging and facing my flaws, because my home genuinely supports me.
At home, it’s not what I do, but who I am. I am perceived – by myself and others – in my entirety.
Home is a place of emotional and psychological security, a place where I operate with my fullest sense of being.
So when Gaius coined the idiom “Home is where the Heart is”, he meant that my home isn’t merely my physical abode. Home is wherever I’m made to feel genuinely secure. I’m at home where people truly feel that I belong; it’s where the heart is.
Following that line: When I make someone else feel entirely welcome and wholly embraced, I am creating a home for them. A home for their heart, within my own.
That’s the bottom line of creating a home.
That’s the bottom line of Torah life, too. Throughout our history,
Torah has been our treasured guide toward a purposeful life.
Just as I make total space for someone special, making them at home in my life and heart, I need to create similar space for the Torah, space for my Destiny and Purpose… for G-d.
How do I create a Home for G-d? When I do something meaningful, when I consider my destiny before acting, when I spend a few moments in prayer and contemplation, I am welcoming G-d into my life. Eventually, that mindset becomes my standard operating mode, and G-d is at home within me.

Bottom line: G-d’s home is where my heart can be.

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