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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Where Thanks Are Due

You’re preparing for an important meeting, with a client, customer or supervisor. It’s one of those make- it or break-it encounters, and you’re really nervous. You do your best preparation, say a prayer and walk in to the meeting.

You say a prayer because you’re feeling vulnerable, which makes you recognize how much you need a Higher Power. Feeling powerless makes you emotionally available to the Divine.

The meeting goes off better than you could have ever expected. A success! Your presentation was glowingly accepted, you’re rewarded with immediate benefit and a promise of more reward in the future. You feel like a million bucks!

What do you do as you walk out? Call your spouse? Your boss? Your best friend? Go for a celebratory beer?

How about thank G-d? My guess is that it’s a less likely reflex.

We instinctively turn to G-d in times of need, not in recognition for His part in our successes.

My guess is that people usually claim the winners for themselves. It’s a natural ego response. Yet, natural as that instinct may be, the Torah wants to bring us to Higher Consciousness.

The Rabbis directed us to bless/thank G-d every time we eat a morsel of food. But that’s the Rabbinic ordinance. Biblically there’s only one blessing to be recited over food: After you’ve had a satisfying meal.

Why?

When you’re hungry, you’re more inclined to think of G-d (and others); the Torah didn’t mandate a pre-eating blessing, because it comes more naturally. You’re in a needy spot.

But when you’re satiated, sitting pretty, the Torah puts up a stop sign for your psyche: Take pause! Remember upon Whom you’re dependent! Remember that your successes definitely need your input, your wisdom, wit and charm are important, but success is ultimately dependent on a Higher Source.

As you go through your day today, I wish you many successes.

Many opportunities for genuine thanks to the One Above.

Summer of the Soul

Mendy Head Shot2.jpgAre you getting away this summer?
Taking some weekends off? Maybe a week or two abroad?
These months are commonly a time to slow things down a bit, or at least carve out more time for 'self' and family.
After all it's summer, and summer has a special rhythm.
Every season has its unique beat; so it's good to pause and identify each season's tempo, embrace its particular character and grow with it.
So, what's particularly striking about this season?
Especially this week, we can see that summer is a time of increased light and warmth. There are longer daylight hours, and higher temperatures. In other words, summer is a time when the sun is in fuller glory and effect.
That’s summer in ‘macro’; but this also applies to each of us in ‘micro’.
In a way, we each have our own internal seasons. We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.
There are times when we go through an internal winter, when our moral vision and priorities don’t express their full light into our daily lives. There are times when conscience and values are in relative hibernation, when the spirit is cold, and moral growth seems a part of the distant past.
Then there’s summer. Summer is about letting my internal sun shine. Summer is about feeling my own internal capacity for spirituality and warmth, a capacity that might recede in the face of a hectic schedule.
So if I’m able to relax a bit from the everyday stresses and ‘get away’, then I need to use that to synchronize myself with nature; I need to create my own internal summer by increasing the light and warmth in my life.
Your internal sun - your summer of eh soul - doesn't let off oppressive heat; it brings fuller brilliance into your life.
We each have valuable relationships - with loved ones, with our community and with our G-d – and relationships need nurturing. So if you’re running on fewer cylinders this summer, and have some extra space in your brain and heart, those relationships could probably use some extra warmth.
You have a sun inside of you. Let it shine.

How's Your Vision?

What does it mean to be visionary, to have a vision for your life and pursuits?

In a basic sense, this means you conceptualize goals and objectives; you consider future potential and focus on a target for growth. You recognize that “now” isn’t all there is.

“Now” – disconnected from the future and its possibilities – can be stale and aimless.

“Now” is our reality; but vision can breathe commitment, animation and hope into that reality.

Vision brings optimism and direction; it is the dream, but it should also be the pro-active inspiration driving us to bring dreams to life.

The problem is that, with the passage of time, it becomes more difficult for the realistic person to continue dreaming. Disappointments eventually take their toll on the human psyche.

Which raises the question: When does one learn to adjust one’s expectations and recognize that that dreams are……just dreams?

Never.

While we should always be acutely aware of reality, warts and all, we can never stop believing in – and working toward – a brighter future.

Consider this: Our Holy Temple, along with our entire Jewish Commonwealth, was destroyed by the Romans almost two thousand years ago.

It’s been rough ever since, and we’re fully aware of our reality. Every year, on Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av (this year corresponding to Tuesday, July 16), we mournfully remember the destruction and recognize the pain of our own times.

Yet, interestingly, the preceding Shabbat is always marked as a “Shabbat of Vision.”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, an eighteenth century legendary Chassidic master, explained that every year on the Shabbat before our collective day of mourning, G-d shows us a Vision of the Future. We are shown a vision of a rebuilt Temple, a reconstituted People and better world.

G-d equips us for the mourning by ensuring that hope – the Vision – never dies; this Shabbat exercise ensures that our sobering recognition of “now” doesn’t smother our hope for the future.

I can’t see this Divinely-granted vision with my physical eyes; but if G-d’s showing it to me, it must be resonating somewhere in my soul.

So this Shabbat, I’ll prepare to tackle reality on Tisha B’Av by first searching myself to find G-d’s vision of a beautiful future. I'll try to keep my eyes wide open.

Try it.

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