Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. It is no longer (and perhaps never was) a celebration affiliated with any particular religion or faith, although some in America celebrate with religious ceremonies. On a social level, it is celebrated by Americans of a broad variety of religious backgrounds.

The bible discusses one of the many sacrifices that were instructed in the Tabernacle and Temple. The thanksgiving offering, would be brought to the Temple by anyone who survived a life- threatening situation, such as a potentially hazardous journey or illness.

These days one fulfills this obligation by making a certain blessing before a quorum and publicly acknowledging G-ds kindness. The code of Jewish law recommends giving money to charity and making a special party so that others will also share in recognizing G-ds benevolence.

In the times of the Temple, the Thanksgiving offering, included flour which was used to bake 30 unleavened loaves with oil and 10 leavened loaves without oil. The sacrifice along with the 40 loaves had to be eaten in an exceptionally short amount of time- less than 24 hours.

Why does the Thanksgiving offering have to be eaten in such a short amount of time? And why does the Thanksgiving offering include 30 unleavened loaves baked with oil and 10 leavened loaves baked without oil?

The Bible wants to create a situation whereby someone saved from a life-threatening situation will not only appreciate his good fortune, but will share that appreciation with others. With so much food to eat in a short amount of time the individual bringing this sacrifice and expression of thanks will have to invite family and friends to share in his gratitude to G-d.

Another reason offered for the requirement to eat the sacrifice in one day. EVERY DAY, if we only look out for them, there are lots of reasons to offer thanks and gratitude.

As for the symbolism behind the unleavened and leavened loaves, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch elucidates. He explains how the leavened loaves (which rise and puff up) represent growth and unrestrained freedom. The unleavened loaves represent basic food, and the oil with which they are made is associated with well-being. Together the unleavened and leavened loaves show the idea behind the Thanksgiving offering.

The person has just emerged from a restricting, dangerous situation to an unrestricted life (leavened loaves) and now he must show recognition and gratitude (oil). He must realize that he owes everything - his food and well being (unleavened loaves) - to G-d. This recognition that we owe our very existence to G-d is done publicly. The books of Mysticism tell us, this act encourages G-d to continue his blessings of abundance to us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

THE, way that works.

There are many schools of thought that influence how we deal with the negative aspects and challenges in life.

Let me begin with an example. You live in a house where a loud animal, doesn’t belong to you, so killing it isn’t an option, keeps on making all this noise. You can keep on driving your self crazy with the imposition and disturbance in your life, you can try to turn your mind away from this challenge and ignore the nuisance, or you can take on the challenge and harness its energy by perhaps becoming friendly with its owner, or even friendly with the animal.

When people are faced with bad patterns and habits in life, let’s say, being easy to anger or a weakness in discipline pertaining to eating habits, there are various ways people address and take on these issues.

One way, is to endlessly recognize and concede to this weakness and bad habit, and somehow try to fight and control the constant invasion and assault on your peace and harmony. This keeps you constantly aware and entangled with the negative, and ultimately you are always attached to what you would like so much to free yourself from. In the end, you will never gain the upper hand and it leaves you drained.

A second way would be to understand, that in the process of fighting the problem head on, you are wasting time and energy on a never winning proposition. You try another method, to divert and distract your mind away from these preoccupations so you can dedicate your life to your goal more purely. Instead of dieting all the time and fighting the cravings, you focus on living a healthy lifestyle.

A third way, is to recognize, everything in life is planned and planted by a benevolent G-d. All that G-d does is for the good, and a person should always be accepting of those things that appear bad and negative, for the good.

Whether it’s not being rich enough, craving food all day, being short, or being angry, there is something there in this energy, which could be redirected for the good. So, the anger turns into an energy and force to accomplish positive things, and the cravings for food becomes an opportunity to become a food critic etc.

When a person finds a way to turn all of life encounters for the positive, and in this faith, is accepting of everything that comes their way, besides not wasting an opportunity for the good, this person is never jealous, doesn’t need to compare themselves to others, and never needs to feel “successful’. He is not lacking “success” to feel fulfilled. In this belief, every day doing ones own very best, becomes a source of great fulfillment, and satisfaction.

This third method of dealing with life is obtained through the learning of Chassidus, an offshoot of the study of Kabbalah.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to earn a Kosher living

A simple soul once traveled to Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl. Before departing he explained to the Rabbi, how he rises early to buy merchandise from the farmers and returns home to do his morning prayers. The Rabbi condemned such behavior, but the fellow excused himself saying that if he did his prayers first, he would be unable to buy the merchandise.

Rabbi Mordechai then told him the following story:

"A young man supported by his father-in-law was forced to find additional means of support when his family grew. He left home for three years and earned money as a teacher, saving every coin he received. On his way home he reached a small village and realized he did not have enough time to reach home in time for the Sabbath so he decided to stay at a motel. Having no other choice he left his bag of money with his host. Throughout the entire Sabbath, he worried about his money. Immediately after the Sabbath he requested his money back and counted all the gold coins and was happy to find nothing was missing. He then continued to shake the bag. "What are you looking for?" the owner asked, "Is something missing?" The guest told him that he wanted to make sure that this one copper coin was there as well..."

Rabbi Mordechai concluded. "Look at this man's silliness. After seeing that all his golden coins were returned to him, he still suspected his host of perhaps stealing one copper coin.

Every night, you entrust G-d with your soul. When you wake up in the morning, he returns the gold you have given him. How is it then that you still worry whether G-d can and will provide all that is necessary for the day after you have thanked him and done your prayers in the morning?"

The Bible says that a person must remember that it is G-d who brings a person any success, and one should not attribute it to his own doing.

A person who feels he must engage in ungodly doings to earn a living, or must compromise his principles, does so because he thinks that it is himself who generates the livelihood. If one truly believes that the entire universe was created and is constantly vivified by G-d, and that G-d provides everything in our lives, he would work only because G-d has commanded us to do so and therefore it is unthinkable that following the directives of G-d in other areas of life would stand in the way of G-d providing.

“One who has created the day, also created for each person his livelihood.” “One who has food for today, yet worries what he will eat tomorrow, is lacking in Faith”. Blessings and success come from above, the only thing necessary on our part is to make our effort within reason for G-d to bless our effort. One who is overly involved in his livelihood is compared to a person who sews clothing for himself that are too long, causing himself to trip and fall.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


There is only one way for a person to experience a joy that once attained is forever, and that is by being a soul person.

The kind of joy and happiness that knows no limits must be connected to the energy that has no limits and is infinite i.e. the soul, G-dliness. Living with soul, identifying with the spark of G-d within, liberates a person from the vicissitudes of an ever changing world and the limited existence of the physical.

G-dliness is spiritual, but for many people spirituality doesn't necessarily mean G-dliness.

For many people spirituality is anything they can’t see or touch with their five senses. To be sure, intellect and emotions are spiritual but many times they are not G-dly.

G-dliness, is the state of connecting with and emulating, living by the standards of the creative positive force that is the credit to this existence.

The Talmud says a story that once a fellow by the name of Nachum was traveling to Rome. On his way at an inn, the innkeeper emptied his box of diamonds and jewels he was bringing as a gift to the Caesar and exchanged them for stones and dirt so he would not immediately realize what happened. When he came to the ruler and presented the gift, the Caesar wanted to kill him for being offensive. Nachum’s reaction was not focused on the surface of what was going on, but he already trained his eyes and heart to see deeper, to the source that makes everything happen and he thought, “this too (all that happens and is orchestrated by G-d) is for the good”.

The Talmud continues, the stones and earth turned into a valuable resource for the king, miraculously.

Mysticism explains that because Nachum lived on the level of the soul, his own and that of the world, he always saw G-d in everything and was not fazed by surface appearances. He was able to connect with the spark of goodness that is in everything and through this attitude draw out the good to the surface.

A G-dly person understands that there is more to life than what meets the eye. Life is not about money and more cars and a bigger home. Yes a car can serve the purpose of G-dliness, but the pleasure of a car in itself is hollow and empty.

A G-dly person understands, life is not of the body. Living on the level of a body he would be no different than an animal.

A person who is G-dly manifests and exhibits the G-dly character traits of humility kindness, care for others, a desire to improve and make things better for others and a clear understanding of right from wrong. A person of this sort, strength and joy is his lot. There is meaning and purpose to everything, which brings self confidence. This person knows and feels, “ G-d is with me and I shall fear nothing”. This, is true Joy.