Monday, December 11, 2017

The Great Strength and Power of the Chanukah Lights



Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (1740–1809) was asked. “Why did the sages institute the holiday of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle of the Hasmonean (Maccabees) victory over the Seleucid Army, and a Holiday of Purim to commemorate the victory of Mordechai and Esther over Haman and the Persians, while no holiday has been established to remember and celebrate the victories that happened long before these two, with the prophetess Deborah and Barak over Sisera, or the miraculous victory of Yechezkel the King over Sancheriv?

The Rabbi answered. There are miracles which blast away the rules of nature through a greater involvement of G-d in those events, but they are temporary and fleeting. Then, there are shines of G-dliness that are so powerful, they penetrate into the actual fiber and character of the day forever, and remain embedded in the day, to connect, and draw from this power every year, and such is the miracle of Chanukah and Purim.”

Just like there are foods that are worn out on us in a few hours, and then there are vaccines we introduce into our bodies that can last a lifetime. Certain influences of G-d are onetime events, and other inputs of G-dliness which are eternal.

This is the deeper meaning of the blessing we make when lighting the Chanukah Menorah every night for eight nights, “who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.” The miracle of Chanukah that happened at that time, is available and shining again at this time!!”

Some people may be walking around with “paper” in their pocket not realizing each and every paper is a hundred-dollar bill. As a result, they may misuse this paper not using the “paper bills” to its full potential. Some people may see shiny rocks and stones on the ground not realizing the value in those stones. The same is also with certain days, and time.

Like objects, certain days and certain times of the day are more inclined to certain opportunities. The seventh day of the week, Shabbat, when observed properly has the strength and qualities to literally become a retreat in time, a vacation without the bills and traveling headaches. Unlike any other day of the week, Shabbat i.e. the seventh day of the week has in its DNA the possibility to give one observing this G-dly day, a true deep soul rest, tranquility and peacefulness.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810) once said. “Through the lighting of the Chanukah lights” (at the proper times, and making the suitable blessings etc.) one draws into their life, into their soul, and into their world the infinite light of G-d. The kind of light that we pray for, “the Lord make His countenance shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”

When the lights shine, and there is less darkness, we are able to see where to go and what to avoid. We can see in clarity what is good and what is not so good. The negative forces thrive in darkness and run away from light. The holy Baal Shem Tov had a very strong affinity for light and would say. “In Hebrew the word for “secret” is the same numerical value as “light”. Whoever has “light” (as in, the candle is a Mitzvah, and Torah is light), knows the secret.” Life has less secrets, and more of the truth and reality is uncovered.

The MIRACLE of Chanukah was and is, all about the few and the holy who would not buckle in to the many, and the impure. Today, we are not remembering the ones who in weakness blended in and assimilated. The story and the holiday of Chanukah is a commemoration and tribute to those who believed and dedicated their lives for the purpose of their faith. It is in their merit; we today can still identify ourselves with our faith. It is in their merit, G-d made the miracle of Chanukah and we benefit from the infinite light of our candles.

Proper Speech.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A poor person with a mentality of gratitude is wealthier than a person with more money.






Knowledge is Power -- G-dly Knowledge is SUPER POWER.

The prophet Jeremiah admonishes, “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might and let not the rich man glory in his wealth; but let him that glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me for in these things I delight says the Lord.”

According to our sages, everything is determined up in heaven except for the choices a person makes between good and the opposite. Wisdom, might, wealth are gifts from G-d. There is no place for a person to glorify himself in those things that are granted to him, so they can support and help him accomplish in those areas where he really does have input and influence.  The only area in life a person can justifiably take personal credit and pride in, are those choices a person makes when he decides the righteous moral and good path over the alternative.

Ben Zoma declares however that certain types of wisdom, might and wealth, may properly be prized and gloated over only, once they are integrated in the concept of “understanding and knowing me”.  And he says.

“Who is wealthy, and may justly acknowledge his wealth?  He who can bring himself to mentally and emotionally be thankful to G-d, and happy with his lot.  “Happy shall you be in this world, and it shall be well with you in the world to come.”

G-d created a nature within humans that we quickly become habituated and adapted with our circumstances in life. We become comfortable with our families, our health, our environment and our condition in life. There is an old saying. If G-d showed us the whole picture of anyone else’s life, all its’ pluses and minuses, the overwhelming majority of people would choose precisely where they presently are.

This is good because by becoming accustomed to what we have, the irony is, this is what creates the desire to explore and desire more.  To experience something fresh and novel.

On the other hand, once a person starts to intensely focus on more, many times this will cause people   to lose their appreciation and gratitude for all the good and all the blessings they already have been blessed with.

Ben Zoma teaches us to live in the now. When people become seriously driven and focused on the future, many times this has a tendency to put people under tremendous stress and in a state of worry and anxiousness, and they may feel responsible for things that are not under their control. In addition, they live in the past, which many times brings feelings of guilt and personal blame.

The proper balance is when we live and are focused mostly on the now, as the Rambam teaches, “a person should view every day as if it where his last day.”  The Talmud teaches, “whoever has bread for today and is worried about tomorrow he is from the small believers.”  We are grateful and appreciate the present, while aspiring for more in the future.

In is interesting that we begin every day and our morning prayers start with an expression of thanks and gratitude, and only a few minutes later we are asking for more!  It is from this foundation of thanks, that it is healthy to ask and seek more.

A person who is constantly aspiring and dreaming for more and forgetting the present will never be satisfied. When he finally gets what he wants, he is still hoping for more, and always feels lacking. With this mentality, a rich person with $200 who seeks to double his wealth, is poorer than a poor person with less money, since the feelings of lacking in the rich person is greater. A poor person with a mentality of gratitude is wealthier than a person with more money.

Not being caught up in this cycle of always wanting more, maintains inner peace and calm, and a person at peace with himself is far more able to take advantage of opportunities, when they present themselves.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Giving it ALL you got and the positive in the struggle.





Sarah passes on and her husband Abraham is looking for a burial site to fulfill his obligation to bury his wife. Abraham didn’t even consider cremation, since that would be the greatest disrespect to her life and the greatest punishment to her soul.

Abraham decides he would like to buy land in Hebron from Efron, and Efron offers to give the land for free, as a gift. Abraham would not hear of it and insisted he wanted to pay for the land. Efron offers to sell the land for its full value, 400 silver talents and Abraham purchases the property – no haggling -- and buries his wife Sarah.

Abraham did not want that there should be in the future the slightest claim on the land from Efron or his people if he would accept the land as a gift, therefore he compensated Efron to the last penny that was requested for the land. In doing so, the land was totally acquired by Abraham for both Sarah and Abraham and all his future children.

The bible says Efron referred to Abraham as “a G-dly prince in our midst”. Abraham was a special and important person amongst the people of that time. The law is, when an important person accepts a gift from someone, the honor and pleasure received by the giver, is considered as a form of currency and exchange that the important person is giving, a sort of a barter, for the gift granted to him,

Abraham as an important person, had he accepted the land as a gift this would have been his form of payment for the land to Efron. Why did he still insist in paying the full price in cash?

Here we have a great secret and lesson in life.

It is true that had Abraham merely accepted the land from Efron this would have totally severed any claims to the land by Efron by virtue of the gift accepted by Abraham. However, Abraham would not have paid any money and this is something Abraham did not want to do.

True service to G-d and worthwhile accomplishments in life must come necessarily through hard labor. Anything that comes by itself or without sacrifice, remain external and superficial to our lives. Without working hard for something, what we acquire will not be permanent and doesn’t have any real inherent value and appreciation in our lives.

Abraham insisted to pay full price for the burial site because he understood, “a man (to be happy and fulfilled) is born to toil”, he must earn his keep.

Everything in this world has a spark of G-dliness, and therefore potential blessing waiting to be redeemed when it is used in the service of G-d. The more we utilize what G-d created specifically through sacrifice and difficulty, for the good, the more we free goodness in the world.

The way to involve our own lives and actual bodies in this process and bring the best of blessings and health in our own lives and thereby connect deeply with the act is when we toil in hard labor to bring about good. “With the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.” There is an inherent positive value -- more is absobed into and for your own life -- in working hard and plugging away to accomplish results in life.

Mysticism teaches, “Free bread is shameful bread.” The great AriZal always insisted in paying full price for his Mitzvot- (G-dly deeds) and taught,  the sweat one experiences when doing good deeds cleans the dirt of one’s soul.

Falsehood.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cremation?? Giving it ALL you got and avoiding gifts...




Sarah passes on and her husband Abraham is looking for a burial site to fulfill his obligation to bury his wife. Abraham didn’t even consider cremation, since that would be the greatest disrespect to her life and the greatest punishment to her soul. 

Abraham decides he would like to buy land in Hebron from Efron, and Efron offers to give the land for free, as a gift. Abraham would not hear of it and insisted he wanted to pay for the land. Efron offers to sell the land for its full value, 400 silver talents and Abraham purchases the property – no haggling -- and buries his wife Sarah.

Abraham did not want that there should be in the future the slightest claim on the land from Efron or his people if he would accept the land as a gift, therefore he compensated Efron to the last penny that was requested for the land. In doing so, the land was totally acquired by Abraham for both Sarah and Abraham and all his future children.

The bible says Efron referred to Abraham as “a G-dly prince in our midst”. Abraham was a special and important person amongst the people of that time. The law is, when an important person accepts a gift from someone, the honor and pleasure received by the giver, is considered as a form of currency and exchange that the important person is giving, a sort of a barter, for the gift granted to him,

Abraham as an important person, had he accepted the land as a gift this would have been his form of payment for the land to Efron. Why did he still insist in paying the full price in cash?

Here we have a great secret and lesson in life.

It is true that had Abraham merely accepted the land from Efron this would have totally severed any claims to the land by Efron by virtue of the gift accepted by Abraham. However, Abraham would not have paid any money and this is something Abraham did not want to do.

True service to G-d and worthwhile accomplishments in life must come necessarily through hard labor. Anything that comes by itself or without sacrifice, remain external and superficial to our lives. Without working hard for something, what we acquire will not be permanent and doesn’t have any real inherent value and appreciation in our lives.

Abraham insisted to pay full price for the burial site because he understood, “a man (to be happy and fulfilled) is born to toil”, he must earn his keep.

Everything in this world has a spark of G-dliness, and therefore potential blessing waiting to be redeemed when it is used in the service of G-d. The more we utilize what G-d created specifically through sacrifice and difficulty, for the good, the more we free goodness in the world.

The way to involve our own lives and actual bodies in this process and bring the best of blessings and health in our own lives and thereby connect deeply with the act is when we toil in hard labor to bring about good. “With the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.” There is an inherent positive value -- more is absobed into and for your own life -- in working hard and plugging away to accomplish results in life.

Mysticism teaches, “Free bread is shameful bread.” The great AriZal always insisted in paying full price for his Mitzvot- (G-dly deeds) and taught,  the sweat one experiences when doing good deeds cleans the dirt of one’s soul.