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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Don't Worry. Be Happy.

 

Remember that expression?

It sounds a bit simplistic. We all have real problems and stresses, so why should we accept a blanket “don’t worry”? Why shouldn't we? Are we supposed to detach ourselves from reality, fooling ourselves into thinking real issues don’t exist?

King Solomon, in his Book of Proverbs (Mishlei 15:15), advises us that “one with a good heart is always rejoicing.” What does that mean in practical terms? The Talmud explains that when you develop a broad perspective of life you become happier, because your worries don’t own you.

What qualifies as a broad perspective?

Everyone has problems. Everyone also has blessings. If you’re reading this, you’re obviously alive and have some level of eyesight and cognition. And I’ll guess that your blessings don’t stop there. At the same time, human nature is such that regular blessings often become part of life’s woodwork. They’re barely noticed and thus remain un-celebrated.

A broad perspective of life is one that consciously takes in your TRUE reality, including your everyday blessings. It’s a genuine snapshot of your life because it includes all the variables, not just the problems.

And that breadth of vision makes a huge difference. When you're faced with a problem, it can take up your entire visual field. It feels like your challenge is the only thing in your life, because it psychologically eclipses everything else. If a problem is an elephant taking up all the room in your life, how can you not worry?

But what if you see your life as a mosaic of blessings and stresses? What if you feel the gratitude and joy of your blessings and see your stresses in their accurate context? The problems are less likely to own you, because you recognize that they’re just a [small] piece of your life; they don’t deserve your entire attention.

The recognition of our blessing gives us more emotional bandwidth, enabling us to better absorb – and address – our problems. And it makes for happier people. People who happen to have problems.

A Jewish leap year (like the present year), has an extra month. There are two months of Adar, and we're presently in Adar 1. Jewish tradition teaches that Adar is the happiest month(s) of the year, a time when we're best positioned for a happy attitude. But it takes internal re-positioning.

Think broadly. Be Happy.

Build It...

Why are we here?

For millennia, people have asked the question: Why would G-d create this world? What's the purpose of it all?

We can deal with that 'macro' question by applying it to a more 'micro' scenario.

Why did G-d take the Jews out of Egypt? We all know that the Jews suffered horribly as slaves in Egypt, and we're so grateful that G-d took them out of that excruciating hellhole. But took them where? For what? Was it only about alleviating pain or was there an end goal that G-d had in mind?

That question was answered at Mount Sinai, when G-d gave us the Torah. As we stood at the mountain, G-d described how we could use our human liberty to lead meaningful human lives. Our purpose in freedom, and in life itself, was to imbue our humanity with the holiness of Torah living.

After the Sinai experience, G-d brought the answer even closer to home.

Which brings us to this weeks' Torah reading. 

G-d told the Jews to build a Tabernacle (Mishkan in Hebrew), a structure in which they could commune with the Divine. In the Scripture’s language “And they shall make me a Sanctuary, and I will dwell within them”.

We believe that G-d is Omnipresent. G-d is the stuff of existence and pervades every iota of reality. G-d fills the heaves and the earth. So what’s the point of creating a ‘place for G-d to dwell’?

G-d’s primary objective in creation was to create a venue in which instinctively self-centered human beings could choose to reach beyond themselves to pursue purpose-driven lives; to touch the Divine. We have the golden opportunity to make space in ourselves for Higher living, for G-d.

G-d gave the Jews the opportunity to build a 'home' for Him, as a model for what we need to do in our everyday lives.

Take a moment. Think about what G-d needs from you to today. And welcome Him home.

 

The Great Race

Election season always fascinates me. 

Right now, I see candidates in New Hampshire who are living, breathing, eating and sleeping the election. These people want to win the prize of high office, and there’s probably nothing else on their minds. It’s all about the race.

Putting aside – for now - their motives for seeking high office, I find the singular focus fascinating. Imagine a deep-seated goal commanding the driver’s seat of your day’s words and actions, from the moment you wake up until night time, when you settle into an objective-laced dream state. 

Is your day driven by a singular vision? Do we measure our words, our behaviors, our choice of foods etc, by how they affect the day's all-encompassing objective? Or do we flit from task to task, pursuing some halfheartedly and some enthusiastically, but without an over-arching drive to our lives. 

Jewish spirituality teaches us about soul dynamics. It delves into the psycho-spiritual layers of the human personality to explore the deeper layers of what makes us tick, to understand our perceptions, feelings and responses. 

At your soul's core is your elemental G-dly identity, an intrinsic oneness with your Creator. Oneness is your soul bedrock. And oneness isn’t just describing unity between two parties, it’s describing a state of consciousness. It’s depicting a sublime level of soul awareness, where one experiences a singular commitment to life. At one’s most primal, sub-conscious level, one is consumed with the drive for a meaningful life, which in turn generates oneness with G-d and oneness with self.

So look at the model of candidates excitedly using their days – beginning to end - to further their respective goals. 

And then imagine how our lives might change if we found that kind of commitment to making today matter, beginning to end. 

We’re racing against ourselves. And each day, each hour, we can win our own ‘meaningful life primary’, by quieting life distractions and finding our best selves.

And the only voter you need to convince is you.

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