Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The importance of real Joy.

In the Book of Psalms, King David says, “Serve G-d in Joy, come before Him in Song.” and in our daily prayers we say regarding G-d, “He prefers melodious song...”

The great Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchok Luria once said to his student, the reason why he merited the holy prophetic spirit of G-d, was because of his great joy when performing G-d’s commandments.

Here we have a very important point to be made, which is expressed in the following law.

Maimonides writes in his Code of Jewish Law, although it’s a mitzvah- an important deed, to drink a cup of wine on the holidays, one should not over indulge in drinking and frivolity, and claim he is increasing in joy. For this is only an expression of being wild and frivolity. We are commanded to be joyous and happy, which is a great service of G-d, and this cannot be fulfilled when wild and drunk.

The Bible says in Deuteronomy – “Because you did not serve G-d in joy and with a good plentiful heart, you will serve your enemies.” Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi explains, that the true enemies of a person are the destructive thoughts and internal challenges. These enemies are eradicated, and to begin with, not given a chance to come into our minds, through the joy of serving G-d. King Solomon already counsels us, “In ALL your ways you shall know Him.”

Once, a student came to Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi and said, “He was being assaulted and overwhelmed with bad thoughts.” The Rabbi told him, “They gather in empty spaces”. Rabbi Schneerson explained, “If a person would fill his mind and heart with the joy and delight, with the richness and fullness of serving G-d, there would be no room for the emptiness and darkness to take hold.”

When a person feels an excitement in his heart that he is able to give pleasure to his Creator by serving him, this strikes a certain chord deep down inside that sparks light and vibrancy all over a person’s body and life.

There will always be those who will mock, since this is their mechanism for overcoming their own jealousy and guilt. A person should just ignore those who mock him and who only derive pleasure from physical materialistic pursuits.

There is a saying in the name of the Baal Shem Tov. “ Foolishness, sadness and a haughty feeling of self worth is considered in many ways, as like a terrible sin of the Bible ( although not actually) and, discriminating perception, joy brought about through finding the good in everything, and a calm swiftness are considered ( again, although not actually ) a Commandment of the Bible”.

Once, a great Rabbi saw someone dancing to his morning prayers. It was quite obvious this person felt and understood the true joy and meaning of what he was saying. The Rabbi commented, “Great things will come from these prayers.” Another time, this same Rabbi saw someone dancing, called him by name, and said, “What a pity to wear out a good pair of shoes.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hey YOU. What did you say?

The Talmud says, “ A covenant was made with the lips,”, and words will always have an effect. On another note, but on the same subject, our sages tell us, that dreams go according to their interpretations.

Years ago, perhaps it would sound strange to say that words generated by people are actual energies with actual strength to it. Today, more than ever and for so many reasons, we can appreciate the strength of sound and words with voice generated computer programs and sound waves that can be measured.

In the same way, G-d created the world in ten statements. A person can either create or destroy worlds with his words.

The Code of Jewish Law says, even in jest, we must be very careful and conscientious of our words. A person should not say about a living person who shows up late to a meeting, “If he where alive he would surely be here already “, as if to insinuate he must be dead. This can direct death in the direction of that person.

There was once a scholar by the name of Yehudah who would study all week long, and when he would return home for the Shabbat, a pillar of fire could be seen in front of him. One week, he was so engrossed in his studies, that he remained behind Friday night. His father in law, Rabbi Yannai, a very prominent teacher said in jest, “ Who knows if he is still alive”, and not very long afterwards, Yehuda passed away. The Talmud attributes his death to the comments that where made by his father-in-law.

When Moses sent out spies to explore and investigate the Land of Israel, ten of the twelve spies “spoke bad regarding the land”. In one of the reports they said, ”We thought of ourselves like grasshoppers in the eyes of the inhabitants.” Our sages tell us, it was the belittling statements that actually diminished their strength and greatness, and this is what caused them, to not be able to enter the Land of Israel

The other two of the twelve spies who spoke with faith, strength and optimism lived long lives and entered the land.

Although, it does make a difference who is the one who is saying the positive or negative words, a great person will have a much greater strength in their words, we should never take lightly the blessings and good wishes of even a simple person.

When King David purchased the land upon which to build the Temple, the simple local farmer blessed him that the plague that was so severe at the time should stop, and the Talmud says, “this blessing was fulfilled.”

Before Daniel the prophet was thrown into the lion’s den, King Daryavesh blessed him that the lions not harm Daniel, and, it was fulfilled.

There is an expression sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That is absolutely not true. Words have a power in them that is by far more powerful and deep reaching than what sticks and stones can bring about.

Good and positive words can and will create, while bad and negative words will destroy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Do You worship idols?

“From The beginnings of your dough you shall give to G-d. “

Literally, we are talking about the portion allocated as support for the Priests in the Temple, called Challah. In Hebrew, the word for dough can also mean beds. The Torah would be saying then, early in the morning, right when you come out of bed, one should dedicate the beginning of day to G-d in prayer and gratitude.

The Talmud says, that anyone who gives Challah - this first portion to G-d, it’s as if they negated idol worshiping, while anyone who does not give Challah, it’s as if they worshiped idols!!! Heavy words.

Idol worshipping is a cornerstone and foundation of our faith. So, how do we attach what appears to be the observance of one commandment with the foundation and main pillar of our faith???

Dough represents sustenance and life itself. To make dough one must plow the ground, place the seeds, harvest the kernels, make the flour, etc. Lots of steps are dependent on one’s action according to nature.

It would be very easy for a person who sits down to some bread after working so hard to think that what he has is a product of his own hard labor and he is self made. Even while believing that the world had to be made by an infinite intelligence and reflecting on the circumstances of life, a person comes to the conclusion that certainly G-d is behind so much of what happens, and he may still attribute the results of his own very hard labor to himself.

If and when a person thinks all that he has was earned by himself, there is no reason to give away what is mine to someone else. Even if I do give anything away, it has to be self serving. This is precisely the theme and concept of idol worshipping.

Idol worshipping is when a person attributes power and influence in his life outside of G-d. When a person thinks there is G-d and then, there is the other influences, such as my competitor, the enemy, and the employer, he denies G-d in certain areas of his life and puts his faith – worries, in “Idols”.

If and when a person believes that everything in his life has the influence of an infinite G-d, which would mean that whatever a person has the circumstances that he is in, in the end is to the credit of G-d.

If I realize that my parents brought me into the world, educated me, cloth me, gave me the money for my business, advise me etc., I don’t have a problem with giving them FIRST their due and then enjoying some for myself.

A person who worships Idols has many gods, and his world is very fragmented. There are so many influences, and he can be torn and dragged into so many directions. A person who realizes and understands that notwithstanding his own effort which is also to the credit of G-d, everything around him is always influenced by G-d has a unified and realistic life.

That is why according to the law, the portion dedicated to the Priest must come not from the flour – fragmented particles but from the kneaded dough. The unity of ones belief, leads easily to dedicating time and resources to G-d, to helping for its own sake the world around us.

Monday, June 6, 2011


June 8 and 9 2011 – Wednesday and Thursday, we celebrate the second of the three major Jewish Holidays, – Shavuot, a day when 3323 years ago in the presence of the entire nation, G-d gave us the Ten Commandments.

The Bible says, “And they camped in the desert.” In the ownerless wilderness was the 5 books of Moses given to the people of Israel. For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, "It is ours"; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, "It is ours." Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it.

The Bible further states, “And all the people saw the voices.” They saw what is ordinarily heard and they heard what is ordinarily seen. As physical beings, we "see" physical reality. On the other hand, G-dliness and spirituality is only something that is "heard"--it can be discussed, perhaps even understood to some extent, but not experienced first hand.

At the revelation at Sinai, we saw what is ordinarily heard--we experienced the divine as an immediate, tangible reality. On the other hand, what is ordinarily "seen" --the material world--was something merely "heard," to be accepted or rejected at will. The same is also today. When a person applies himself to study and absorb the Bible in its true spirit, G-dliness becomes his true reality and the physical world with all its limitations, distances itself from this person.

The Ten Commandments

1. "I am the Lord your G-d, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

2. "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, nor any manner of likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them. For I the Lord your G-d am a jealous G-d, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments.

3. "You shall not take the name of the Lord your G-d in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.

4. "Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath unto the Lord your G-d. On it you shall not do any manner of work -- you, your son, your daughter, your man-servant, your maid-servant, your cattle, and your stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day, and hallowed it.

5. "Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your G-d gives you.

6. "You shall not murder.

7. "You shall not commit adultery.

8. "You shall not steal.

9. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maid-servant, his ox, his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor's."

Warmest wishes for a happy and Joyous Shavuot.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Temporary Insanity & Commitment.

When the bible talks about a woman who is unfaithful to her husband, the bible uses an unusual word in Hebrew. Our sages interpret the word in the following way, “A person, does not sin, unless a spirit of foolishness enters them.”

Worldly foolishness means irrationality, acting out the various idiocies of the evil inclination deluding man and deflecting him from the path of truth.

There is a defense that is used occasionally in courts of, temporary insanity. The truth of the matter is that every time a person does anything that’s wrong and unhelpful to themselves and the world around them according to the bible, it’s because at that moment they are not using their mind. You could say they where insane for doing what they did. The decision that brings about the bad choice is not the result of a clear thinking logical person, rather, it is the result of the emotions overpowering sane thinking, and it’s the immediate gratification, that takes over the long term logical consequence, or benefits that would otherwise have guided the decision process.

This is the folly of evil that is inferior to reason. In opposition to this is the "Folly of Holiness", superior to reason. That is also behavior along lines other than the rational, but it transcends reason.

When the evil inclination encompasses a person, deflecting him from the path of truth on a regular basis, he may not feel it in his power to overcome this incredible test and challenge. The more he tries to fight it rationally, the more it seems he is drawn into the mud and quagmire of the irrationality of his challenge, “What’s the solution?”

He must simply overcome this folly by its opposite force in the realm of good, by conducting himself according to the "Folly of Holiness." He must arouse his latent strength, to oppose the challenge with argumentation or explanations, but with an unswerving determination and commitment. Whatever his weakness, he shall do the opposite in the realm of good, without consideration of consequences. Here is a time, when thinking rational will keep him enmeshed in the trouble, he is trying to free himself from.

He must not immerse himself in the detailed elaboration of the human quality, but he must resist temptation, challenges, and the obstacles that are thrown in his path with 'stubborn firmness. Based on the second aspect of the soul, the essence of soul, transcending reason and intellect.

Intellect and emotion are powers of the soul, but not essence of the soul, the soul proper. The essence of soul is far higher than its powers and faculties. "For they are a stiff-necked people, so forgive" (Ex. 34:9). Their stiff-neckedness is their quality, a virtue, a reason for being forgiven. It is the granite determination of the soul to "turn from evil and do good" without rationalizing, without apologetics. The obstinate is unreasonable, much more willful, than the one who conducts himself with reason. The desires of the one who lives by reason are

controlled by reason. Intellect weakens desire, imposes limitations on it. Will and desire, not directed by intellect, is boundless. The obstinate person's will is firm and strong. That is why it is written: “nothing stands in the way of a will.”

When you truly want something – but you must truly want it – nothing will stand in your way’and “In the direction that a person will to go – he will be brought there.” The guaranteed way comes by putting the mind aside and committing ones determination in that direction.