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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson


The Talmud tells us that Moses “had it all”. He had absolute spiritual connectivity, 'divine wealth', in addition to being a financially wealthy man. Moses was a man with everything. 
Yet, we are told that Moses prayed. He beseeched G-d. Why? What could Moses pray for? What did he lack?
Jewish spirituality tells us that Moses' primary function was Shepherd of his people. His ego-less essence was bound up in the lives of his people.
To illustrate this, the Midrash gives us a parable: Three people approached a king to ask for favors. Two of them asked for personal needs and the king granted them. The third said, “I don't need anything for myself but there is an area of your Kingdom in disrepair. Please rebuild it for the inhabitants' sake.” The King replied, “This selflessness is your crown of leadership.” True leadership means that you feel the needs of your flock as if it was your own.
Moses was such a leader. He straddled two worlds: He saw the world's beauty through G-d's eyes. He saw the world's pain through ours. While he personally was 'wealthy' in every dimension, his people's pain was his own. Their darkness, their struggle, became his personal odyssey.
Explaining a Scriptural nuance in this week's Torah reading, our Sages state, “Moses was the Jewish people, and the Jewish people were Moses; the leader of the generation is [totally identified] with that entire generation.”
Even as Moses represented G-d, channeling divine blessings to the world, he prayed as a mortal for the needs of his people. He felt our deficiencies with every fiber of his being. He was us.
The Zohar, Judaism's primary book of Mysticism, tells us that every generation has its Moses. We're never alone because we always have a shepherd who feels our needs and channels blessings to help us.
This coming Monday evening/Tuesday is the Rebbe's twentieth yahrtzeit (please click here for more info).

What better time to acknowledge the Moses of our generation?

Prayer Dynamics


What a gift.

We tiny human beings ask, and G-d – the Infinite – delivers.

There’s actually a more complex system to the process: When we pray, we create a ‘pool’ of spiritual blessing within the Divine. But that ‘pool’ is spiritual, and we’re looking for physical health and wellbeing. So, we need to work beyond the initial prayer. Our further conduct, and added prayers, eventually guides the spiritual blessing to concretization in material success.

Our Sages tell us that when we pray on the High Holidays, we create a reservoir of blessing. Then we have the year ahead to translate that spirituality into material success.

We can understand the process in human terms: Let’s say your child would like a bird feeder on your porch. You think it’s a good idea. Maybe not. The thought bangs around your head for a while until it settles, and you share it with your spouse. You’re both in agreement. So, one Sunday, you drive to Home Depot to purchase a bird-feeder one, and eventually set it up.

Between the original request and concretized action, there were a number of steps, and at each step there was the possibility that the idea would be derailed and never materialize.

It works that way within G-d’s spiritual system too. When G-d grants us spiritual blessing, G-d also wants us to be part of the actualization. We need to guide it through the steps. So we need to pray every day, and make our conduct a lightning rod for blessing, to actualize the goodness that’s waiting to enter our lives.

But there’s a way to expedite the process. If your child touched your heart with his/her request, if you felt a deep desire to express your love for your child, the bird-feeder could be there in no time.

Our sincere desire for connection with G-d triggers the same desire within the Divine. Drawing G-d’s deep love for us streamlines the entire process, bringing the blessing to quick actualization in our lives.

The Torah tells that Aaron the High Priest’s blessing – and the blessing of a very saintly person – is a trigger for deep Divine love, pushing G-d’s blessing through the spiritual realms so that it barrels through the process and manifests itself in our lives.

In this sense, the Rebbe was – and still is from on High – our Aaron.

Come honor him – and be honored in turn- this Monday evening.

See you there.

Saving G-d


Human beings are vulnerable. By definition, we can’t control all the variables in our lives and that’s why we all need Divine assistance.

Some people may appear totally self-reliant and invincible, but if you scratch the surface we’re all defenseless at some level. It’s humbling, but it’s the reality.

So the dynamic seems clear: We weak humans need the help of the Omnipotent Divine.

Believe it or not, it works the other way too. Yes, G-d needs our help.

The Talmud tells us that when Moses went up on Mount Sinai for his historic interface with the Divine, he found G-d preparing the Torah’s deepest secrets. G-d asked him “Why don’t you help me out with this process of bringing Divinity into the otherwise shallow human experience?” Moses answered “What can a humble human being do to help the Infinite?”

G-d replied “you can at least offer me support and assistance”, to which Moses replied “May G-d’s strength be magnified and expressed in the human world, as You have spoken”

[The Talmudic narrative is a bit more cryptic – see the blog for a more exact transcription – but this is a valid interpretation of the Talmud’s words].

So, G-d needs US - frail and vulnerable humans - to implement His plan for Divine expression in the world. This seems counter-intuitive, so here’s an analogy found in Chassidic thought:

Imagine you have a very deep idea percolating in your mind. It’s a bit elusive because it’s so subtle, but you feel that it’s a valid thought. So you speak it out – you articulate it - to someone. As you speak, you’re actually thinking it through, because vocalizing the idea helps it gel in your mind.

What has happened? The person to whom you’re speaking has learned something new, but so have you. You have unpacked your own idea by fleshing it out in speech.

If you think about your own internal dynamics, you’ll probably feel that your intellect is a much ‘loftier’ dimension that your speech; your words seem to simply be the delivery mechanism for your ideas. At the same time, your intellect NEEDS expression; not just for others’ benefit, but for itself. The intellect develops through the verbal articulation.

This helps frame our relationship with – and responsibility to – G-d. We are G-d’s ‘speech’ on earth.  We unpack the power of meaning and G-dliness in the world.

G-d needs our support. And it’s our honor to offer it.

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