Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Internal Battle & Addictions

I’ve been reading recently, that according to a recent study, addictions are a disease. There are other influences as well that drive a person to be an addict, nevertheless in the end, the individual still has the power of control over their own choices.

In another article I read recently, the author was saying, while a person intellectually understands something is bad for them, the association of the imagery and emotions to good feelings, will many times trump what good logic dictates. Therefore to overcome this problem, a person with his mind, must change the associations of certain bad decision and good results to the bad results they truly lead to.

Both of these articles are not saying anything new. The Bible talks of two spirits that is built in, within a person. An animal soul, which in some people is stronger and more inclined to certain animalistic tendencies. And a G-dly soul which in some people is stronger in certain areas than others. The G-dly soul which is compared to light, it dwells and manifests itself through the mind, will always have the power over the darkness and animal soul. As strong as emotions are, the mind can overcome the emotions, and the animal within.

Our sages tell us, that a person who has a predisposition to bad leanings, and he actually wants to do the bad but overcomes this temptation, the depth of his goodness comes out in a way that would never be drawn out if not for the trial. When facing an internal battle, the strength is always there to overcome, and to make us stronger and wiser as a result.

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch once told his son, “the evil inclination inside each one of us, even though it’s called an animal, can at times act slyly and can clothe itself in the guise of a straightforward humble righteous person, requiring one to use much cleverness to uncover its’ tricks. The evil inclination, manifests itself in each person according to his nature. One person might feel a powerful desire to do a good deed, yet it is coming from the evil animal within, who is trying to prevent him from doing something necessary positive and good at this moment.”

“Take this as a general rule” said the Rabbi. “Anything that leads to an actual performance of good and self refinement, and is met with opposition, even the most noble, comes from the evil inclination”.

Rabbi Meir of Premishlan once related the following; “One wintry day, while I was traveling with my teacher, our horse and buggy reached an incline and it seemed to me that the carriage would topple over at any moment. I was prepared to jump out hastily, full of youthful courage, when my teacher placed his hand on mine and said “Sit down calmly, no bad will befall you.” So it was.

After some time elapsed, driving on flat snowy terrain, we hit an ice patch. The carriage turned over and we all fell on the snow. My teacher then said to me “Nu, so do you see now, when a person falls”.

This experience taught Rabbi Meir that sometimes the danger of succumbing to the evil inclination is not when the danger is apparent. If we remain cool and collected, we don't act in haste, and with focus on our goal, we will reach where we need to.

It is when we least expect it, we are overly confident, that we unexpectedly reach the ice patch and go slipping down. We must always be on the lookout for the enemy, because the enemy never forgets what they are here to carry out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Seven Mystical truths to inner happiness & Fulfillment.

#1 Foundation of all foundations.

The foundation of all foundations is that G-d is the source of all things and He impossible to be understood because He is beyond any kind of logic.

G-d is one and is everything. We must know our entire existence is G-d. Feelings of ego run contrary to this principle. Judging others is a product of the ego. Ego makes us want to be in control and ultimately causes us insecurity. We meditate on the above in our morning prayers and before we go to sleep in our night prayers. This knowledge that all is G-d, gives us our security, strength and pride.

#2, Giver and taker.

Everything in this world has the dual function of giver and taker. We receive what we put out. By attaching and elevating ourselves to a level higher than ourselves to spirituality we make ourselves part of the cycle of life to receive G-dliness. When a person gives charity whether physical or just helps another person, this is the highest form of currency “current” flowing through him. In the measure a person gives of himself he will receive through that exact circuit. “Bring another person closer to G-d and G-d will bring you closer, Love another person and G-d will love you, do a favor for another person G-d will do you a favor.”

When all this is done with Joy, all boundaries are broken in the giving and in what comes back. When you bless another person with a full heart G-d blesses you with a full heart. The way we approach G-d is the way G-d then responds to us.

#3, Reward and punishment.

For every action there is an equal and in line reaction. The principle of reward and punishment. Everything we do every act, even mere thinking creates a response and reaction. King David was amazed at how the higher spheres are affected by the small details of Mitzvot (G-ds commandments.). Our mind wields much power. We can make a sacrifice not kosher, by how we think. We control our emotions with our mind. Everything we do or don’t do is a decision with consequences. Bad past decisions can be dealt with through Teshuvah-repentance which puts a person in touch with his pure essence the spark of G-d within, and this puts him in touch with the past and the future. Lechatchilah Ariber – elevating oneself above his current challenges, is the thrust to move forward.

#4, Everything is in the hands of G-d.

Except for the study of Torah and the performance of Mitzvot (good deeds) and fear of G-d everything comes from G-d with little effort. There is a plan and purpose behind everything. Divine providence is always in charge and all comes from G-d and therefore a person is always accepting of the way things are. A person doesn’t have to work hard to have a livelihood or health etc. It’s enough he does a small effort and has trust in G-ds kindness and benevolence in providing him with what’s best for him. We don’t have to feel stress or pressure regarding any worldly needs. Although a person must always pray for his needs and wish for what is needed he is always in a great state of Joy believing and accepting G-ds timing.

A person need only to be focused on his performance of doing what’s proper in the eyes of G-d which at times come with great illusionary difficulty to assure all the others things that G-d provides almost effortlessly. G-d assures everyone that strength is provided to fulfill this task.

#5, The path YOU choose.

G-d provides His kindness in line with our desires. As we desire so will G-d help us. Nothing stands in the way of a true desire and the world was given to a person to conquer. A person was created with free choice to choose as he pleases which direction he will go in, similar to G-d who chooses his decisions without coercion. A person by strongly attaching his mind to something is able to propel himself in that direction. A person realigns and refocuses himself three times a day during his prayers and is never embarrassed of the direction he has chosen to go in.

#6, Acceptance of G-ds timing.

A person places upon G-d his worries and lets G-d sort out the solution and how they will materialize. To a person, however G-d decides to respond, is always equally acceptable to him because G-d knows best. A person opens his hands to accept G-ds good grace in whatever way G-d decides to send his graciousness. Moshiach- the ultimate good and all good things come by surprise in the blink of an eye as G-d decides how and when to send his blessings. We never expect or demand that G-d should send His blessings in any specific way we are whole hearted and sincere in our belief and acceptance of G-ds ways.

#7, Unique mission for each person.

G-d has a unique plan and mission for every individual. No one thinks or looks alike and each individual has a purpose that no one else can duplicate which the entire world and cosmos is dependant on. Wherever a person finds himself it is because he was sent to offer his unique talents to that part of the planet. Everyone has a unique mission in the army of G-d in bringing about G-ds plan in this world. In addition to the idea of each person having a unique mission, every person has a particular unique practice that is special to him and this is his special act among all the other things that he does. At every stage of a person’s life he must ask himself am I doing and fulfilling the reason I was created for.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How To Pray.

Towards the end of Moses’ life the Bible says, he prayed and pleaded with G-d to allow him to enter the Holy Land of Israel. Prayer is indeed very powerful. One of the commandments of the Bible, is that whenever a person feels something lacking in their life, they turn to G-d and pray.

The word in Hebrew that the Bible uses to describe the prayers of Moses, indicates that Moses didn’t feel he deserved to enter the land, and notwithstanding that, he was imploring and petitioning G-d to allow him to enter.

One can argue. “Why must we pray to G-d to begin with?” In truth, He owes us our needs. Since G-d made us, He has some sort of responsibility towards our needs, wellbeing, and upkeep. In particular, if we are “well behaved” doing all that He asks us to do, certainly we should expect the good to come automatically, and when its not coming, we can consequently demand what is reasonable.

As far as the commandment to pray, we can explain, we are asking and praying that what G-d is “responsible” to give us, we are praying for it to be done in a pleasant fashion, and/or we are praying for going the extra the mile, and therefore, for the extras.

Moses is teaching us something very fundamental in the way we must pray and call upon G-d.

Prayer is a hallowed time for a person to meditate and connect with the Almighty. It’s not about what I can receive for me, rather it’s all about moving towards and coming before our Creator.

The proper way therefore, is not to come with demands even when we feel we deserve it. We always go before G-d with humility, as if we where asking for a gift, and that whatever is granted is pure graciousness.

The truth of the matter is, that no mortal human being ever has the merits to justify his requests. Even someone like Moses who understood his contribution to G-ds own people, he received the Ten Commandments and surely recognized his own virtues. The Bible describes Moses as “ the most humble person of any human being on the face of this earth.” Moses sincerely believed, if any other person was given all the opportunities he was granted, they would surely have performed much better than him.

What makes the righteous people special, is that their own accomplishments are never seen in their own eyes as being a reason to gloat about. Everything they do is always seen as merely doing their duty, what they should be doing, and when they stand before G-d, it’s like a poor person asking for alms.

The Midrash says, “The world has no claim against G-d.” Anything that a mere finite mortal does, can never add to the infinity of G-d. A human being must never think that what they do adds anything at all to G-d. The proper attitude is to see whatever we are granted as pure kindness from above. In G-ds kindness, the fact that He pays any attention to our deeds, that alone is G-d’s kindness and the fact that what we do, G-d in the Bible says,”He will reward,” is pure benevolence.

Moses is teaching us the virtue of humility in prayer as the Zohar says, “He who is big is small, and he who is small is really big.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kernel of good even in the bad.

This coming week on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 we mourn the destruction of the two Holy Temples in Israel which where destroyed over 2000 years ago.

The Midrash tells a story, that when the second destruction was taking place, a local farmer who was able to recognize the language of the animals, heard about the destruction from one of his cows. As he was sharing this with one of his Jewish neighbors, the cow “spoke” again. The farmer tells his neighbor, “The cow just announced, the birth of the ultimate redeemer – Moshiach.”

The Talmud tells us that when the Romans entered the Holy of Holies, they saw the Cherubim in a hug with each other. They brought it out to the marketplace and ridiculed, “Look, what these people are occupied with!”

In the Talmud, it tells us, there was a whole host of miracles that took place in the Holy Temple on a regular basis. This was G-ds house, and the presence of G-d, brings experiences greater than the confines of nature.

In the most Holy of Places where the ark stood, although the ark itself had its own measurement, against the wall where it stood, when one measured from either side of the ark to the end of the wall, it was as if it took up no space at all.

Another miracle. On the Holidays, the curtain to the Holy of Holies would be opened, and if the Cherubim on top of the ark where facing each other, this would demonstrate, – “Look at how G-d loves you, and that you are pleasing to Him.”

However, if the Cherubim which where made from solid gold would be turned back to back, they would know, G-d is not happy with them and that they are not doing the proper things.

So the question is asked. If when the cherubim are face to face this demonstrates the love G-d has for the Jewish people, “why were they facing each other at one of the most severe and stern moments in Jewish History?” The destruction of the temple was prophesized by Jeremiah and Isaiah as a punishment for not serving G-d in the proper manner?

Here, we can understand as well the meaning to the first story.

Chassidus explains, that even when things on the surface appear bad and bitter, there is destruction taking place, and the light at the end of the tunnel has already been put in place. “G-d always precedes the cure to the malady”, and deep down in the experience and circumstances, there is always a positive reason and a positive productive purpose behind all that’s happening.

The purpose of the difficulty and hardships is to refine areas of ourselves and the world, which we would not reach if not for the hardships. Contained within the difficulties and persecutions, in the rot and destruction is where the growth and greatest produce is able to be realized.

In Mysticism, the expression is, the higher the spark the lower it falls. Looking from the other angle, which would mean, when we encounter matters that appear so low, at its lowest point, in truth it comes from a very high source, and in the hardship lies already planted the highest most powerful redeeming value. At the time that we are going through our hardships, we must realize, G-d is doing this because he loves us, and He knows the greater potential we have to draw and extract from this condition.