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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

For Not By Matzah Alone....

Okay, so I editorialized a little. The verse actually says “it is not by BREAD alone that the human lives, but by the word of G-d…” (Deut.8:3)
But bread, matzah or potato chips, what does this verse actually mean?
Chassidic thought teaches that there is holiness embedded in all of the world’s objects. G-d created everything with a purpose, a spark of potential meaning; and a specific article’s objective is its very ‘soul’. When you purposefully engage an object or respond to a situation – whether it’s your pen, a tuna sandwich, or a heated moment - you fan that spark of meaning into a blaze.
So life is like a big treasure hunt, as we search for the nuggets of
meaning to be found in our daily lives.
In this sense, foods have their own spark of meaning; their own Divine ‘word’ i.e. holy purpose, which creates the ‘soul’ of its very
existence. As such, Kabbalistic writings teach that ingesting food in a conscious and meaningful way (e.g. to gain strength to live a life as our Creator intended), helps us access two levels of the food’s nutrition: A. The physical, which discharges material nutrients into our bloodstream B. The spiritual, because our intent unleashes the food’s Divinity to nourish our souls.
While all foods have spiritual nutrients, but there’s something
special about Matzah. The Zohar, Kabbalah’s pre-eminent textbook, calls Matzah ‘the food of Faith’. Eating the Matzah as a Mitzvah, and with spiritual consciousness, injects the nutrient of faith into oursoul’s ‘bloodstream’.
That’s the way it was 3300 years ago. When the Jews left Egypt, they were aware of G-d (after all, they’d just witnessed ten plagues), but the top-of-the-head-to-the-bottom-of-the-toes recognition, the super-rational, spiritually intimate connectedness, didn’t kick in until they ate Matzah.
And that’s the way it still is. Matzah is the gift of faith, in food
form. When we sit down to the Seder next Friday night, let’s remember that Matzah is much more than the brittle cracker you’re holding in your hand. Understand that it’s “Not by Matzah alone…”
There’s A Divine energy there. So connect with Matzah’s spiritual
gift, and nourish your soul.
I bet it’s hungry.

Touched By A Matzah

Matzah's a funny thing. A simple, non-descript staple; yet such a powerful, ageless symbol of Jewish practice and pride.

Sound paradoxical?

Perhaps we can understand it this way:

Communication is fundamental to a relationship. If you’re feeling love or gratitude, you really need to show it. Sometimes it’s not easy (especially for guys!), but the talent of expressing one’s deepest thoughts/emotions is key to maintaining a healthy relationship. After all, the other person deserves to know what you’re experiencing.

Yet, even a healthy communicator will sometimes have feelings that escape normative expression. Sometimes one’s inability to articulate doesn’t reflect poor communication skills, but rather the profound depth of an experience.

Sometimes, the most elegantly expressed words are inadequate; they can even get in the way. At those times, it can be a simple touch that best conveys the powerful sentiment you feel.

In concrete terms, this seems counter-intuitive. The power of touch is much less nuanced than the power of speech, and your ability to touch is – relative to speech - ‘psychologically detached’ from your deepest internal processes.

So, on the face of it, a simple touch seems so much less artistic, so much less appropriate a medium for heartfelt expression.

 But that’s just the point. When your essential feeling is too strong for the normative communication system, sometimes you need to bypass the system. Sometimes your very inability to express, except through [the relatively shallow medium of] touch, is the greatest illustration of how deeply you feel.

On Passover, 3324 years ago, the Jewish people were bestowed with a very deep sense of connectedness to the Divine. A relationship was forged that was so powerful, so transcendent, so super-rationally intimate, that it was physically expressed through….Matzah.

Matzah – which the Kabbalah refers to the Food of Faith - is simple, even as compared to bread. But simplicity is exactly the point. When a deep relationship is in play, sometimes less is more; let the feeling take hold and don’t let the ego, the self-image, the self-important hyper-analysis get in the way.

Passover is about letting ourselves be touched by the Divine.

And about touching G-d in return.

It’s just over two weeks to the Seder, to a re-enactment and re-experience of that magical Matzah touch.

Are you ready?

 

Make Me [Into] a Sanctuary

A Sanctuary is a place of holiness, a spiritual oasis.
Sometimes the word can refer to a Synagogue. Sometimes to the
Tabernacle which the Jews constructed in the desert.
It can also mean you.
The Torah (Exodus 25:8) records that G-d told the Jews to "make Me a
Sanctuary and I will dwell within them". The language is odd: Why
within “THEM”? Why not within “IT”? Our Sages point out that the
Divine blossoms within each and every one of us, if only we transform
ourselves into Sanctuaries.
So, how do I turn myself and my life into a Sanctuary?
Let’s first understand how to construct the Sanctuary in macro, so we
can appreciate how to create it in micro.
What does it take to build a Sanctuary?
A. One needs to identify the construction’s objective, consciously
establishing sanctity as the structure’s purpose.
B. One needs to actually build the building, its ‘nuts and bolts’.
C. One needs to behave in a way that’s compatible with the Holiness we
seek to draw into this special place.

The same applies to your personal Sanctuary:
A. When we awake in the morning, we don’t just surrender to the
prevailing winds which will buffet us hour to hour. We grab hold of
our day and designate it as a Day of Meaning, a day that will be a
Sanctuary for the Divine.
B. We consider the day‘s basic structure. Is there anything built into
my day ahead that would contradict a day of meaning [going to work to
earn money for your family and help society move forward is hardly a
meaning-free act. The question is: Is there anything I can see in my
day ahead that contradicts Divine morality?]? If so, our structure
needs some renovation.
C. Do Mitzvos. And this is in two dimensions:
A. Actively do good things. Every Mitzvah is a lightning rod for
Holiness in your life.
B. Just sit still. No matter how you spend your day, there will be
opportunities and impulses to act in an un-G-dly way, e.g. gossip,
anger, etc. By refraining from un-G-dly behaviors, by pushing our egos
to the side for the sake of something higher, we create Holy space in
our lives, which is a magnet for the most transcendent Divinity we can
experience. The Divinity of a [personal] Sanctuary.

Do You Believe In Miracles?

Have you ever experienced any? Think back on your day, to the moment when you first opened your eyes. Have you experienced since then?

Before you answer, consider this:

You opened your eyes! Is that anything less than a miracle? How about your mobility, hearing, cognition? Are these things that ‘just happen’, or are they cause for a swell of gratitude?

How about the loved ones in your life? Are they anything less than a miracle?

The real question is: How do you view your life?

Every life takes twists and turns. Today, some things will go right
and some things won’t. Which takes up more space in my eyes? The good or the not-so-good? How do I see my day/life as a whole?

When I genuinely appreciate the good, it helps me see my journey – in its totality - as a blessing.

Once I see I see my life as a gift, the aggravating bumps take on a different, more manageable, context. They become lessons, exercises in self-betterment, tests of character.

(I don’t mean to diminish the pain of our individual problems; on the contrary, I pray that G-d give us all tranquility and revealed good. But – until then – we need to find a productive way to deal with our obstacles).

This is the powerful lesson of Purim, the Holiday which we’ll
celebrate this coming Monday evening and Tuesday.

We have Holidays like Passover, which celebrates the open miracles we experienced in the course of our Exodus from Egypt.

In our lives, that corresponds to the ‘over the top’ moments of good fortune we may experience in the course of our lives. We each have our own special days, our individual ‘splitting of the sea’, and hopefully turn to G-d and thank Him for our good fortune.

That’s Passover. Purim is different.

Purim doesn’t have any blockbuster miracle to celebrate. In the Purim story, things turned out positively, and we chose – we had the consciousness and vision - to see it as a miracle.

In the scope of your life, the ‘Passover miracles’ will probably be
few and far between. Most of your life is like today, a ‘regular’ day with nothing ‘special’ to celebrate; unless you have vision and choose to appreciate and celebrate.

Then, every day’s a Holiday.

Time to celebrate!

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