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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Open Your Eyes

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

 

In a basic sense, this means that 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” - looking ahead with vision - has commitment, enthusiasm and hope for the future.

Vision brings optimism and direction. A dream doesn't need to remain an abstract ray of sunshine; it can be pro-active inspiration driving us to actualize our goals.

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 Shabbos, with the fasting postponed to Sunday), we mournfully remember the destruction and recognize the pain of our own times.

Yet, interestingly, the Shabbos before 9 Av, as in this Shabbos, is marked as the “Shabbos of Vision.”

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, an eighteenth century legendary Chassidic master, as we prepare to mourn for the destruction in our world, G-d shows us a Vision of the Future. We are shown a vision of a rebuilt Temple, a reconstituted humanity, a healed world.

G-d equips us for the mourning by ensuring that hope – the Vision – never dies; this Shabbos 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 tomorrow - Shabbos - I’ll prepare to tackle reality by first searching myself to find G-d’s vision of a beautiful future. I'll need to keep my eyes wide open.

Try it yourself.

 

 

The Journey

They say life is a journey.

That feels like a true statement, but it leaves me with a bunch of questions: A journey to which destination? What if I don't end up anywhere worthwhile? What if I mess up and take a wrong turn?  

And how do we know life is actually a deliberate journey? It sometimes feels like a runaway train.

The Torah is our model for life, so let's look there for direction. When the Jews left Egypt, they headed toward the Promised Land. Leaving slavery behind, they embarked on a forty-year journey to their homeland, encamping at forty-two stops along the way. Our Sages tell us that this famous episode is more than historical; it's actually a template for each of our lives through history. In other words, we’re each headed through our own personal desert to our own Promised Land, with our individual stops and stumbles along the way.

You and I don't live in the desert, but there's importance relevance to the imagery. The desert isn’t a pleasant place; it's not somewhere you can expect to find the comforts of civilization. The desert traveler needs to focus on survival, to pay sharp attention to each step. In that sense, even the city can be a desert.

At the same time, one can conceivably make even a desert journey into a positive experience. What if we build solid relationships with our co-travelers? What if our desert experience actually becomes a stepping-stone for character growth and development? When all is said and done, even a desert trip – challenges and all - can be a gift. It can be the route to our personal Promised Land.

The Jews made some missteps over the forty years in the desert. Some of them were serious mistakes. But they learned and grew from those mistakes. So even if they ‘took a step backward’ in a specific incident, their ultimate growth took them ‘two steps forward.’ They learned from those negative experiences, becoming healthier and stronger human beings for the experience.

When the Jews finally approached their destination, they were grateful. Not just for the destination, but for the journey that brought them there.  

Today will almost certainly have challenges. They may cause you to wonder about the whole journey.

Don't sweat it. Put one foot in front of the other and take a step forward. You'll be happy you did.

 

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