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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Relationship Ingredients

Love: You know it when you feel it. Your heart feels like it’s surging, pumping on all cylinders, ALIVE. 
Awe: You know it when you feel it. It’s what happens when you’re in the presence of a larger-than-life personality, someone so awe-inspiring that you’re totally overwhelmed, dumbstruck.  
Awe is thrilling, but not in the same way as love. With awe, you're heart isn't on fire, feeling like it is about to jump out of your chest. To the contrary, awe makes you emotionally stand back - shrinking - to make way for the awesome experience. 
Think about how you felt when you saw your baby for the first time: Did you automatically reach out in love? Or did the sight make you pause in wonder, taking your breath away? That’s awe. 
Awe is an emotional force that blows away your normal ego posture, that "I'm the center of the universe" attitude, and it creates a wide psychological berth for the object of your wonder. 
So Awe and Love are two very different emotions, one expanding the sense of self and the other abating it. But they work best in tandem. 
Imagine if you took the opportunity to feel the wonder, the marvel of a loved one, before allowing the love to flow? When you relax your ego, your love can be so much more powerful. So awe – deep respect – is actually a love multiplier. If you're looking for deep connectedness, this combination gets you there.  
Our model for a healthy relationship is our personal relationship with G-d, and Judaism has a two-pronged approach to forging healthy connectedness with G-d. We begin our morning prayers every day by contemplating the miracle of the human body, nature’s mind-boggling complexity and the universe’s majesty. We put life on pause, standing back in wonder at G-d’s creation. Then, once we've felt touched by Creation’s majesty, we can begin to generate closeness with, and love toward, our Creator.

Our relationships, beginning with our relationship with G-d, are the stuff of life. They deserve work and mental exercise to make them the best they can be.

Think about the quality of your Awe and Love. They are the wings that can make you soar. 


What Does G-d Do All Day?

The Talmud asks a seemingly unanswerable question:

What does G-d do all day?

Generally speaking, Jewish tradition tells that G-d is consistently – longingly - waiting for our attention. Yes, G-d is hoping for us to see beyond the haze of stress and the gleam of desire, to recognize that we’re created to live a life of meaning. A life connected to G-dliness and Holiness. And when we do, G-d is thrilled.

Like when we start the day with prayer, with introspective thoughts of how we need to align our day with a meaning-centered life. Or at night, when we revisit the day’s choices and how/whether they reflect a purpose-driven life.

But morning, before the day begins and nighttime, as the day winds down, are relatively easier times to focus on life’s purpose.

How about in middle of the day? Can you imagine making time for quiet reflection between meetings, as your mind is racing to “keep all the balls in the air”? Is that even realistic?

Jewish tradition says it is. And the effect is cosmic.

It’s what gives G-d His greatest “thrill”.

That’s why, although we pray three times a day - morning, afternoon and evening - the Talmud finds special value in the afternoon service. It takes more proactive effort to focus on G-d in middle of a busy day. And that makes it all the more beautiful.

So what does G-d do all day?

Let’s focus on one part of the Talmud’s answer: “in the last three hours of the afternoon, G-d frolics with the Leviathan”.


Chassidic thought points out that the Hebrew word for Leviathan means ‘connectedness;’ “Leviathan” thus represents the awesome beauty that human beings create when they rise above their egos to find connectedness with something Higher, the Divine. 

So every afternoon, as millions of people choose to put their respective days on pause, to contemplate their priorities and behaviors and connect with the Divine, G-d “frolics”.

Think about the metaphoric word that the Talmud chooses.

Not just a smile.

Not just happy.


Joyful exuberance.

And it’s up to us.

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