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Rabbi Mendy Herson's Blog

Thoughts from, and conversations with, Rabbi Herson

Summer of the Soul

Are you getting away this summer?
Taking some weekends off? Maybe a week or two abroad?
These months are commonly a time to slow things down a bit, or at least carve out more time for 'self' and family.
After all it's summer, and summer has a special rhythm.
Every season has its unique beat; so it's good to pause and identify each season's tempo, embrace its particular character and grow with it.
So, what's particularly striking about this season?
Especially this week, we can see that summer is a time of increased light and warmth. We have longer daylight hours, and higher temperatures. In other words, summer is a time when the sun is in fuller glory and effect.
That’s summer in ‘macro’; but this also applies to each of us in ‘micro.’
In a way, we each have our own internal seasons. We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.
There are times when we go through an internal winter, when our moral vision and priorities don’t express their full light into our daily lives. There are times when conscience and values are in relative hibernation, when the spirit is cold, and moral growth seems a part of the distant past.
Then there’s summer. Summer is about letting my internal sun shine. Summer is about feeling my own internal capacity for spirituality and warmth, a capacity that might recede in the face of a hectic schedule. 
So if I’m able to relax a bit from the everyday stresses and ‘get away,’ then I need to use that to synchronize myself with nature; I need to create my own internal summer by increasing the light and warmth in my life.
Your internal sun - your summer of the soul - doesn't let off oppressive heat; it brings fuller brilliance into your life. 
We each have valuable relationships - with loved ones, with our community and with our G-d – and relationships need nurturing. So if you’re running on fewer cylinders this summer, and have some extra space in your brain and heart, those relationships could probably use some extra warmth.

You have a sun inside of you. Let it shine.

Self Image

How do others perceive you? How much do you care?
Do you spend as much time thinking about ‘how you are’ [as a person], as you do about how you seem [to others]?
Sure, we should be sensitive to public perceptions; others' feedback can be helpful (even when it’s a bit painful).
But others’ impressions shouldn’t be a prime mover of our life-decisions.
The Talmud teaches us that “one who pursues honor will have honor flee from him.” This can be understood very simply: Let’s say you and I are friends, and I act in a specific way because I want you to perceive me in a certain light i.e. I ‘pursue honor’ in your eyes. It's very likely that you'll sense how much I care about your opinion of me, and recognize that I have put you on a pedestal as the judge of my worth. 
Is it any wonder, then, that ‘honor flees’ from a person in such a case? Once one knows that another is vying for his approval, is there any chance for real respect?
Another point:
We find in this week’s Torah portion that, as the Jews travelled in the desert, they sent spies to reconnoiter the Land of Israel. When they came back, they told of the huge, fearsome people they had encountered there. But their language was a bit strange: "We were like [tiny] grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were like in their eyes!" (Numbers 13:33).
We can understand the spies saying that the natives were so large that they (the spies) were like grasshoppers in their (the natives) eyes.
But what about the first part of the sentence – "we were like grasshoppers in OUR eyes”? What does that mean?
The Torah is teaching a basic lesson of human interactivity. We project our own self-image. The Jews felt like grasshoppers, so others perceived them that way. Their own self-perception influenced and created others’ perception.
Notwithstanding the value of feedback, we should never give them the keys to our self-esteem.

Get comfortable with who you are. It will help others get comfortable with you too. 

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