Thursday, March 24, 2011

Judge Favorably.

We are taught in so many places to always judge another person favorably. It’s like the woman who was upset at not being invited to her friend’s wedding and held a grudge for 20 years, until the invitation finally arrived in the mail accompanied by an apology from the Post Office.

Whether it’s a judge in court or just between people, it is important to consider the background and inner life of the person, to think about all the circumstances surrounding this individuals life, and to reflect on the reasons why this person was led to this action. Only then, the conclusion is truthful.

However, there is another layer to this. When you judge another person in a good light, you are really doing the same for yourself.

When we judge others, we are setting our own personal justice system. If I am constantly finding fault and criticizing others, I send a message to G-d. Shortcomings should be noticed and highlighted; there's no room for mercy and tolerance. G-d allows us to fashion the very justice system with which He views us. If we see only the bad in others, we bring upon ourselves the very judgment which we, in our minds, visit upon others daily.

Especially when times are tough, it becomes even more important to follow this tenet and be sympathetic to each other so we will judge kindly. This doesn’t mean you can’t criticize bad behavior. What this means is that you should give him the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be accusatory and sharp.

The Talmud teaches us further: "Anyone who judges others favorably will be judged favorably in Heaven". This follows the general principle that G-d rewards and punishes us "measure for measure". If we are patient and understanding with others, G-d will act in the same manner towards us. If not, G-d will get his cues, so to speak, from our own behavior. Sadly, G-d's method of judgment is only too just.

The Mishna says – G-d punishes a person knowingly and unknowingly. From time to time, G-d puts people in a situation where they pass judgment on someone else without knowing that it is really a judgment on themselves. Sometimes, it will be a positive judgment for doing good, and sometimes it’s a negative occurrence which he passes a negative verdict.

Someone who justifies a harshness and difficulty on another person, and is not pained by the hardships and doesn’t pray for them, brings accusations against himself, and Heaven starts looking into his own affairs. While someone who empathizes in another’s difficulty, will be rewarded.

There is a further point to all of this. When we put a positive spin on someone’s actions, this actually helps that individual to bring out the good and help him overcome the challenges he is facing. Accentuating the positive, however much, or little, draws more of it out, and this helps eliminate the bad and negative that is currently there.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Purim. Unconditional love.

In many books, it tells us that there is a deep connection between the Holiday of Yom Kippur – the day of Atonement and Purim – this Sunday March 20, 2011. In Hebrew, names of everything are not just a means for identifying something. Names are actually descriptions of that object. The connection between what is a most solemn day – Yom Kippur and Purim, which is celebrated in such great festivity can be seen in their names. In Hebrew, the word Kippurim means, like Purim. The holiest day of the year – the Day of Atonement is only, like Purim.

One of the obvious common denominators between the two days, is the lots that took place on both holidays. On Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, it was to choose between the two goats, and on Purim, it was the lot that the wicked Haman cast, to choose the day when he would kill all the Jews.

Sometimes, a person will prefer one choice over the other because of rational considerations. When making a raffle however, the results defy logic. On both these days, what highlights the worship of G-d is a process and a commitment to the results that are accepted as Divine Providence. Not because anyone understands, but only because that’s what G-d wants.

A person’s connection with G-d can be based on logic. He understands there must be a creator to the world and its continued existence can only be credited to Him. He therefore conscientiously decides that he will dedicate and connect himself to this source, knowing it’s for his own good. This kind of relationship is by its very nature finite and limited. It a based on a premise than can shift with the next convincing argument against the current conclusions.

Then, there is a commitment and dedication which is higher than any logical considerations. It is unconditional, depends on no rational considerations, and nothing will move the person away from this relationship because it’s not based on anything one can argue with.

On Yom Kippur, it is this deep relationship that comes into play, and therefore the worship expressed itself with lots. When a person connects with the deepest levels of a spouse, parent or friend, where the love is unconditional, how a person behaves doesn’t matter, and therefore, atonement is possible.

However, on Yom Kippur, there are physical props that bring about this deep connection. Not eating and by attending services we are like Angels, and it’s this kind of G-dly and spiritual conduct that brings out the results.

On Purim however, the concept of lots which expresses and manifests this very deep relationship we have with G-d, is revealed necessarily by drinking and eating, by being happy, and not by separating from the materialistic world. Even while connected to a physical world – and steeped into self enjoyment, we are able to connect to this unqualified and unrestricted depth of G-d.

Purim is a holiday that shows us and grants us the influence, to this the very special power in our relationship with G-d, that even while we eat and drink and it appears we are into ourselves, we can and therefore, we should be aware of, “in all your ways you should know G-d.” Purim shows us that it is possible to draw the energy of G-ds unconditional and unqualified qualities in all areas of our lives.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Weakness in Faith

Logic, reason, and rational is never absolute. Even the strongest logical argument, with all kind of rational and scientific support, allows for an opposite point of view. So, when a person is grappling with questions related to faith, and he attempts to strengthen his convictions with further arguments in logic, it may help only to point. Every logical argument always allows for some other kind of a different slant, and then the faith is once again challenged.

Weakness in one’s faith is precisely that. Weakness in the faith. Every soul, spark of G-d, has a natural built in faith and trust in G-d. When a person has a strong robust durable faith, there are no doubts. It is only when faith is stifled and not clear enough, the faith is too distant that doubts are able to grow and breed from that root.

Once, a student came to his Rabbi and lamented, that every once in awhile he feels doubts and questions, a kind of weakness regarding his faith. The Rabbi answered, “You have a soul, and a soul in its’ convergence with a persons consciousness will ask questions, so it’s all part of growth.”

Another student, once came to the same Rabbi with a similar question. The Rabbi asked the student, “Are you afraid of the Czar?” The student answered, “Yes.” The Rabbi asked, “Did you ever see the Czar? and the student answered, “No, I never saw him.” The Rabbi asked, “So, why are you afraid of him, how do you know he even exists?” The man said, “I see his officers all around, and I see his influence everywhere.” The Rabbi said, “Look around. Don't you see his officers and isn't His influence all around?”

This very negative trait, to know the truth and still rebel against it, is not a matter of not knowing enough, or being tempted. This negative vice which we call Amalek, is where a person knows the truth, and has faith in it, and still irrationally goes against it.

Amalek knows the truth all along, he knows there is a G-d who made this world, and He is all knowing and all powerful, so there is really nothing to discuss with him. The more one feeds these arguments with logic and engages this Amalek, the more he creates all kinds of fuel for argument for the determined Amalek to be arrogant and impudent in his war against all that the person truly believes in.

The only way to deal with this negative force, is to deny any validation and credence to the never ending questioning in our minds and especially our hearts. By focusing our efforts strictly on strengthening the holiness of our souls, we chase away the doubts that creep in.

In Holiness there is certainty. The Torah and its instructions, awareness in divine providence with simplicity and warm enthusiasm automatically eliminates the doubt. Doubt is a negative energy that comes to cool any warmth of the soul and all of the enthusiasm to be alive in our service of G-d and in living life.

This kind of doubt and coldness can only be dealt with by giving it no attention whatsoever. There is no time to get engaged in these kinds of discussions. Just do it, the right things. The study of Chassidus gives the strongest logical reasons for the strengthening of ones faith, but most importantly, it strengthens the holiness of ones soul which automatically strengthens a person’s trust in their own faith.

The Self Help Movement

We know that everything in the bible is precise to the letter, everything has a purpose, and nothing is superfluous.

When looking at the book of exodus, we see what seems like so much repetition regarding the building of the tabernacle, “what’s the story?”

So much time and space is spent on the tabernacle, where G-d would be served, because it represents the purpose why G-d created the world. According to the books of mysticism, the great goal in life, is to take all that we are and all that we have, and make it a dwelling place for G-d. A place where G-d would be comfortable to be there. How do we know where G-d is comfortable to dwell? Well, this is a key question with a most important answer.

This is the explanation to the long winded description regarding the building of this meeting house. The bible first tells us G-ds instructions, what is necessary for the building of this abode for him. Incidentally, once G-d did descend unto this special meeting place, everything in this compound was connected to super natural miracles. The place of the ark took up no space, the fire on the altar always went straight up to heaven, and much more. When G-d is there, everything becomes possible, and the rules of nature don’t apply anymore.

Next, after the commandments from G-d, we have the effort and action on the part of man to follow through with those instructions. Then we have the finale – “and the cloud (Divine presence) covered the meeting tent, and the honor of G-d filled the Tabernacle”.

So we have three distinct steps when connecting with G-d.

First, the command must come from G-d. As much as a person meditates, screams or does whatever, it is impossible for a mere finite human being to reach the infinite. It must be initiated by G-d, who for reasons only he knows, decided to take note of the actions of a human being. We must look out for what G-d wants us to do in order to be connected to his blessings.

Step number two is obviously following through with those requests. When G-d asks us to do something, this means he knows, we have the capability to carry out the request, and, it’s for our own good. Fulfilling G-d commandments is our only way we can be connected with the source of all life.

Step number three is not always guaranteed by our timetable. This, is when G-d reacts to our action, actually responds, and gives back in return as he has promised.

The idea that people on their own have the ability to do anything just because, is ludicrous. Human beings are limited and have very little control over their environment. Just look at what’s going on in the world today. People are fired, gas prices go up, and it’s a real problem. How about the people born with faulty genes, with crazy parents, in countries where there is no freedom, and on, and on.

When you are given lemons learn to make lemon margaritas. What happens when all you have is a lemon? The only way to happiness, blessings and truly infinite possibilities, is discovering what G-d wants from you. There, is where you find meaning, purpose, and a relationship with the infinite G-d which brings all sorts of goodness and blessings!