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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Can You Feel It?

This week, we celebrated fifty years since the IDF liberated our historic Western Wall in 1967’s Six-Day War.

After 2000 years of restricted – or no - access, the Jews had finally regained this hugely-significant site. It was a historic moment, and many of the soldiers were overwhelmed by emotion. Some began to cry.

I once heard that a vehemently atheistic soldier also broke into tears. His comrades asked: "This is a HOLY – religious - site; what makes YOU cry?"

The soldier responded: "I am crying because I’m so disconnected from my history and people that I feel no need to cry."

Very profound.

Depending on our particular skill-set, we can sometimes appreciate a brilliant scientist’s intellect, an ingenious artist’s expression, etc. We can grasp, acknowledge and even be appropriately humbled, because we recognize the treasure that’s before us.

But sometimes we don’t ‘get it.’ Sometimes we can’t really comprehend the profundity of what’s going on before our eyes. We know it’s there, because others see it; we’re just not equipped to ‘get it.’

We want to appreciate the beauty, but ‘wanting’ is as far as we can go right now.

The faith corollary is: “I don’t believe, but I’d love to.”

This is actually a very profound spiritual place. When I pro-actively use my personal skills to grasp something, my grasp is limited to my tools’ capacity. By contrast, when I acknowledge/appreciate based on my LACK of a skill-set, my appreciation comes from my heart, and is limited only by capacity of my heart and soul.

The religious soldier appreciated the Wall using specific tools – knowledge, training etc – and his inspiration was commensurate to those tools. The non-religious soldier used no tools. He just felt. He didn’t really know what he felt, but he could appreciate that something special was going on. So he cried.

Both soldiers felt humbled. But, on the humility spectrum, the non-religious soldier’s seems deeper and more profound. More essential.

When it comes to our relationship with G-d, this humble place – “I want to want” - has distinct beauty; because it’s ultimately only through humility that we embrace G-d’s deeper existence.

As we celebrate a unified Jerusalem, and as we approach the Holiday of Shavuot, let’s explore, analyze and feel.

But then let’s just feel humbled by G-d’s embrace, whether we fully ‘get it’ or not.

You can ‘get’ a lot out of that.

Taking the Next Step

I assume it’s a pretty common scenario.

Somebody's walking life’s path, oblivious to his own benign neglect, when suddenly...boom! He hits his 'brick wall'.

Maybe it’s a family member or an accountant, perhaps a client or an employer; somebody perceives the truth and yells “Stop! This can't continue; something needs to change.”

It feels like an unpleasant, jarring disruption to life's rhythm.

It’s also an important wake-up call. And even though it’s painful, the stress can serve as productive energy, propelling us out of our rhythm’s gravitational pull.

In a way, it’s our personal Passover story.

We each have our own ‘Egypt’ - our own counter-productive habits which stifle our growth.

When we’re fortunate, our ‘Moses’ – our conscience, spouse or friend – helps us recognize our pattern, catalyzing us to urgently ‘leave [our] Egypt in haste.”

In this sense, the word ‘Pass-Over’ also refers to the liberating leap from a spiritually constricted life to a visionary, conscious one.

But what about the times when I’m not escaping an Egypt? When things seem just fine? When I feel no friction and face no brick walls?

Then, I face a different danger: Complacency. When I feel that I’m on a good path, I’m more likely to put my life on auto-pilot. I can relax; if I’m not being chased, why run?

Because when I’m on ‘auto-pilot’, I float along with life’s current, without the initiative to go quicker and further. Because when I’m on ‘auto-pilot’, I’m without the healthy anxiety, the butterflies in my stomach, that accompany a quantum leap forward.

My life deserves more.

We shouldn’t only grow to escape the pain, we should grow because we have great potential and a beautiful destiny.

So the Torah gives me an exercise called ‘The Second Passover’ (‘Pesach Sheini’ in Hebrew) and it’s about finding the strength to ‘Pass-Over’, to leap forward in my life even when I’m comfortable where I am. The day is about me taking the opportunity to consider where my life is going RIGHT, and finding the strength, vision and humility to make go even MORE RIGHT.

This coming Wednesday, May 10 (Iyar 14), is the Second Passover. Mark it on your calendar so you can have a piece of Matzah and think about your life’s potential.

Choose a growth-objective.

Pass-Over your own complacency.

Because finding Freedom isn’t only about leaving captivity; it’s about taking a leap forward.

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