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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

In Search Of....The Better Me - Part 1

The Omer period is a period for self-betterment (see Torah thought of 4/17). More specifically, it focuses on harnessing and refining our emotions.
To understand our emotions, it’s helpful to first look at our intellect.
My Intellect is obviously an important tool: it enables me to understand. But I can intellectually grasp a concept, and still remain totally untouched by it. Until a topic triggers my emotions at some level, I – in my fullest sense - am not engaged.
My exercise is theoretical and detached from my personal reality.
Until I emote.
So my emotions are where the world touches me, and where I express myself to the world. It’s my bridge and my portal; my interface with the world.
In this emotional-refinement exercise, the Omer begins by focusing on the emotional expression, the soul-energy, called ‘Chesed’ (in Hebrew).
‘Chesed’ is usually translated as kindness and/or love. But it’s actually a broader sentiment.
Chesed is that inner feeling of affinity with an ‘other’. It might be a friendly interaction at the office, a desire to help someone in need, or the flow of emotion we call love. It’s the pouring forth (in varying degrees) of positive connectivity to other.
This week is a time to observe our ‘Chesed’ flow.
I need to ask myself: When it comes to my Chesed interactions, is it about me? Or do I really care about other?
[There’s a Chassidic story about a child who watches an adult catch, skin, bone and cook a fish. Before his first bite, the adult explains “I love fish”.To which the child responds: “If you loved the fish, you would have let him stay in the water. You love yourself, and the fish is just another way of you expressing that to yourself”.]
Do I ever observe, and bask in, the beauty of my internal pull toward another?
For example: When I give my child him a loving hug, do I ever stop to recognize the ‘love’ aspect in my embrace?
When I have a Chesed feeling, am I expressing it enough? Do I express it appropriately and respectfully? Do I respect the other person’s space?
Am I committed to this relationship? Am I prepared to pursue what it takes to retain, and accentuate, the beauty of a given relationship?
Love and friendship are extremely powerful components of life. May a week of conscious observation and exercise last us a lifetime.

Have a wonderful Omer week.

Better Than New

What's the difference between 'new' and 'renew'?
Something 'new', in the strict sense of the word, has never existed;
it's appearing for the first time.
To 'renew' means to restore, refresh, revive; to make like new.
'New' has an attractive ring to it. It sounds interesting.
Most of life isn’t ‘new’. This Thursday will probably be very much
like last Thursday. And next Thursday. You may have a new
responsibility, supervisor or dining room lamp, but much stays the
same.
New has pizzazz.
At the same time, pursuing 'new' isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Actually, when it comes to the truly important things in life, we
usually strive for durability and permanence. Finding new loved ones
is great, but keeping the old ones is even better. A stream of new
relationships, jobs and homes creates a life of impermanence; most of us prefer the depth and safety of a steady anchor.
So it’s actually ‘REnew’ that is the spice of life.
This season, the Passover season, is a time to Renew. When you look at your spouse, job, home etc with renewed appreciation and excitement, when you feel so blessed by the constants of your life that you thank G-d for your good fortune, you infuse an exhilarating burst of beauty into your day.
The Hebrew word for month is ‘Chodesh’, which comes from the word for new. That’s because every month in our lunar calendar is launched by the birth of the ‘new’ moon.
But we know that the moon isn’t actually ‘new’; it’s obviously existed
for a very long time. The moon is ‘new’ in the sense that it
disappears from view every month, going off our mental radar for an
evening or two, and then returns. And every month, we celebrate our restored appreciation and consciousness. We go outside, look up at the moon and recite a blessing in which we thank G-d for this celestial boon to the universe.
This isn’t just an interesting tidbit. It’s central to Jewish
thinking; the moon’s monthly renewal is the basis of our calendar, and recognizing it is the Torah’s first Mitzvah. The lessons of renewal
are the stuff of life.
This Passover free yourself from the burden of a mundane perspective on life.
You’re living G-d’s gift.
Appreciate it.

The Believer

The believer accepts that G-d loves us like a quintessential Parent loves like a child. The believer also accepts that G-d is fully
involved in the details of our human lives.
So how does the believer respond the specter of human suffering? G-d obviously knows about it, and is - for some unfathomable reason - allowing it. Should we just resign ourselves to G-d’s judgment? Might it even be blasphemous to ask G-d to intervene and change His own judgment?
In this week’s Torah reading, we read how the Jews made a tragic
mistake after they received the Torah at Mount Sinai. As they waited
for Moses to come down the mountain, the Jews fashioned a Golden Calf and began to worship it. They effectively repudiated the entire Torah they’d just received.
In response, G-d tells Moses that He will wipe out “this stiff-necked
nation” and make Moses’ family into “a great nation” instead.
What should Moses have responded? What can one possibly respond, especially to G-d??
After all, G-d loved the Jews and had brought them out of Egypt. But
they had made a terrible mistake and this was the consequence.
So Moses was silent.
Curiously, the Scripture continues and tells us that G-d then told
Moses “Now leave Me alone…” and I will pursue the path I have chosen.
The Talmud asks an obvious question: Why was G-d waving off a protest, when none seems to have existed? Who was bothering G-d?
No one. And that was precisely the problem.
By saying “leave me alone”, G-d was giving Moses a cue: Don’t just
stand there obediently, accepting what I say. How can you abide
people’s suffering without protest? Argue with Me!
G-d was teaching Moses a lesson. When the believer sees suffering in the world, he/she may not stay silent. It’s not holy to simply shrug
and say “whatever G-d allows is for the best”.
No. We turn to G-d and say: Please G-d. I know You are loving and I
know You are able to help. I also know that You want me to feel my
fellow’s pain, and You want me to storm the heavens for relief of that pain. You want me to care.
It's not blasphemous. On the contrary; it's who G-d wants us to be.
Believers never give up trusting G-d. They also never give up fighting
for His creatures.

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