Thursday, October 27, 2011

Whose Eyes Are Those.

Once upon a time, there lived a girl who was born blind which caused her great anguish.

She would always inquire about an eye transplant, with the hope that maybe some-day she could be given the gift of vision. She was told that she was on a 20 year waiting list.

One day a young man met her. He appreciated her on a deeper level. He saw beyond her closed eyes, and beyond her bitterness. Deep inside of her he found a very gentle, refined and deep soul, hurting badly. He took a very deep liking to her. He finally proposed. She said yes to the proposal

You can only imagine how she appreciated what he had done for her.

One day, he comes home and informs her, she would not have to wait 20 years for an eye transplant. In a few months she would be able to get a pair of eyes. She was overjoyed beyond words.

Before she went into the surgery, he told her something:

My dear wife, I don’t want you to be shocked when you wake up, so I am telling you now. “I am a blind man, too. I can’t see…”

She began weeping. The transplant ended with success, she opened her eyes and saw the world around her.

She saw the heavens, she saw sunrise, sunset. She saw children playing; she saw rain, snow, trees, streams, rivers, gardens, and animals. Her joy knew no bounds.

In the beginning she tended to him with tireless dedication and love. After all he was the man who chose to marry her, the blind woman, and she knew how much he loved her. After all, this man allowed her, to get the transplant.

As time went on she was feeling frustrated. She could finally travel and see the world; yet her husband’s impediment, would limit her every move and her every step. It was just unfair to her, she felt. She wanted to go live it up, but her blind husband just needed too much attention.

The woman decided to end the marriage.

“My dear,” she said; “I appreciate you and I love you. I feel our marriage is not allowing me to live a good life, a free life, an exciting life. I don’t see the point in being married to you while I resent it.”

The day of the divorce, she found a letter under her pillow. This is what it said:

My dear beloved wife,

As you know, I always loved you and cherished you. After your request for a divorce, I immediately complied with your request. Love can’t be forced. I will miss you dearly, and I wish you the most beautiful, exciting and fun life you wish for yourself…

I will just ask you one favor: Those eyes of yours, please treat them well. Take good care of them. For not too long ago, those eyes were mine…I loved you too much and could not bear to see you blind; so I gave you my eyes. That is why you did not have to wait twenty years…

When I heard this story, I thought, what a powerful story.

G-d created us, He designed our body, and He gave us a soul, sharing Himself with each one of us. G-d asks us to live a life filled with justice and compassion, to be loving and kind, to be charitable and giving, and to be holy and pure. He asks us to live a life dedicated to meaning and purpose, to follow His will.

But we often say: G-d, I got no time for You. I got to see the world… I need to work to pay my bills, I need some time for recreation, for leisure, for fun; G-d, I am not the religious type. G-d, I have to see the world…

Great! But who gave you those eyes, hands, feet to be able to see the world?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Positive Negative..

A Holiday for Sins?

We have a holiday for celebrating redemption and freedom, holidays for celebrating repentance and resolution, a holiday for celebrating the gift of Torah, holidays for celebrating our salvation from oppression and death...

But, wait we have one more holiday, Sukkot. For what? For celebrating the day we return to sin…

The Midrash is bothered by why the Bible calls Sukkot "the first day," when in truth it is the fifteenth of the month. The Midrash explains, Sukkot is a “first when it comes to our new account of sin.”

After our slate was wiped clean on the Day of Atonement, the first time we begin our new list of sins in the coming year is on the Holiday of Sukkot.

This is truly a strange way to describe a Holiday, in such negative terms.

The great Chassidic master, known as the defense advocate of the Jewish people, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (Ukraine, 1740-1809) offered a marvelous explanation to explain this enigmatic Midrash.

Once Rabbi Levi of Berdichev met an infamous sinner in the street. So this sinner, trying to mock at the good innocent rabbi, says to him: So Rabbi, you have any nice and kind words to say to a sinner like me?

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak told him: "You know something? I am jealous of you! After all, the Talmud says that after you do repentance, after you return to G-d with love, your deliberate sins will become merits! Imagine how many merits you will have!"

What’s the Logic?

How can a sin, a mistake, a betrayal itself become considered a merit?

When I repent out of love, not just out of fear, then what happens is that my very negative experience becomes part of my new relationship with G-d, with truth, with my soul. The very sin I have committed now becomes part of my love; it allows me to experience a far more mature, sober, deep love and appreciation for the truth.

Take an addict who undergoes real recovery and truly surrenders to the Higher Power. What happens in the process is that the very addiction, the very negative experience, confers upon the recovering addict a depth and a sensitivity that another person who has not endured the pain of deception and the pain of denial and the pain of addiction cannot experience. The addiction, the betrayal, and the depression itself become the starting point and springboard for a whole new depth and passion in living.

Our very downfalls then become springboards which prove to be sources of elevation for us.

There's a story told about the legendary head of IBM, Thomas Watson. On one occasion a senior manager made a serious business mistake that cost the company ten million dollars. Watson summoned him to his office. "I guess you want my resignation," the manager said. "Are you crazy?" Watson replied. "We've just spend ten million dollars educating you."

This is true concerning every negative experience in life. A missed flight cannot be unmissed; a harsh word uttered to a loved one cannot be unspoken. But the MEANING of these events can be changed. We can literally travel back in time to redefine the significance of what occurred.

And this is the meaning of the above quoted Midrash. By the time the Holiday of Sukkot comes about, the love and appreciation for doing things the proper way, for the right reasons, has reached such a crescendo, that included in all this euphoria, are all the sins of the past year that contribute to this feeling and they become counted as merits.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The secret to lasting change.

Let me begin with a story.

This fellow was not very good with directions. North, South, East and West, was all one big jumble. One day, he needed to go south, and asked what train he should take. Unfortunately he went on to the North train.

About a half hour into the trip it occurs to him the scenery looks very different, so he asks someone where the train is heading. He was told he was heading north when he needed to be going south. The fellow motioned to him, instead of where the train is heading, he needs to go the other way, in the opposite direction.

The lost fellow immediately picked up his belongings and started running in the train down the corridors to the back of the train. As he zoomed by the sitting passengers, they became alarmed and thought there was some threat at the front of the train. People asked him what’s happening? He explained that he was going in the wrong direction, so now he is running in the train, in the direction he was told he should be going.

Everyone of course laughed at him. They told him, he needed to get off this train and head in the opposite direction, on a totally different train going in the correct direction.

In life, there are times when we realize, we need to change the direction we are going in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a global large-scale transformation of who we are, and what we are doing. It may be one specific area, like addressing our finances, health or our spiritual state of affairs.

Let’s say someone decides he needs more money in his house. So he tries to find a better paying job, or ways to augment his current income while at the same time he continues being a spend thrift and waste money on unimportant acquisitions.

This kind of behavior would be similar to our traveling fellow, who while making an effort to change where he is heading, he is still basically on the same path that is taking him not where he needs or wants to go.

The lose weight industry will forever be making money as long as they sell you the impossibility of eat as you please, and lose weight. If a person truly wants to loose weight, he must get off entirely the frame of mind he now has, regarding food and its’ consumption. It is not possible to eat and not be conscientious of calories, and lose weights at the same time.

If and when a person realizes the transitory nature of life, the superficiality of materialism and decides he wants to live a life that taps in to something that is timeless and reaches deeper than the culture of “skin deep”, a serious change of trains is in order.

As the saying goes, you can’t be a little pregnant. Either you are or you aren’t, and this takes a serious commitment. A person must be honest, totally honest with themselves, which to be very honest isn’t always that easy, where they find themselves at any given time that they decide it’s time for a self assessment, and where they would like to be.

If you don’t know where you’re going it’s unlikely you’ll ever get there, but that’s already another topic.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jonah and the Whale

On the holiest day of the year, at the most auspicious time of the day, in the afternoon, we read “The Story of Jonah and the Whale.” Our sages tell us that every minute and every second of the day includes and affects many days of the coming year. What could be the reason we would take up so much precious time to read this story on the day of forgiveness?

The story comprises the entire Book of Jonah, which is one of the 24 Books of the Bible. The story has a fantastic life lesson and contributes to the experience of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.

Jonah, the son of Amitai is asked to go to Ninveh and tell the people there, “If they do not repent, G-d will destroy their city.” Jonah decides to run away to Tarshish. While in the boat, people realize they are being singled out for a storm and a tempest, so they try to find out who is the reason for this storm. Jonah declares he is to blame and suggests they throw him in the water.

In the water, a big fish swallows Jonah. Jonah finally accepts his mission and is delivered to Ninveh. Ninveh takes the message seriously and the city is spared. Although, Ninveh later on returns back to its old habits, at this moment, the regret is sincere and for the time being, they are spared.

Immediately, we have one of the fantastic lessons from this story. A person should never say,” I have sinned and regretted, and sinned again, there is no more hope for me." G-d who has infinite mercy never wears out of forgiving. If at this moment, with every fiber of our being, we are on the proper path dedicated to the proper ideals, and we have put the past behind us, that’s all that matters.

The power of repentance is one of G-d's greatest gifts and kindness to the human race. In G-d's eyes, in one moment, a person is able to turn 180 degrees and face the opposite direction. As long as his only focus is on the good, at this moment, that’s all that matters.

Jonah received his power of prophecy because of the special joy he exhibited when serving G-d. Jonah in Hebrew is a dove and represents the soul, the portion of G-d within which is always happy and blissful. The boat is the body in which G-d encloths our soul to go on a mission to Ninveh. The boat in which we travel to take us on our life’s journey, many times encounters storms.

This mission is on water which hides its’ world from the naked eye. The world we live in by its very nature, conceals and hides truth. It takes great effort to discover what is real and what is fake in the glittering blinking neon lights of this materialistic world.

On this, sometimes confusing journey, the soul wrongly decides to go to Tarshish which represents the desires of the body, and when encountering a storm throws itself further into the abyss by submerging and throwing itself into the very storm waters which is the original cause of all the problems.

That is when Jonah will get an epiphany that the answer has to be someplace else, there must be more to life, and finally decides to leave the water and go to the land where you can see things clearly as opposed to the water and fulfill the reason G-d has put his soul into this world which is in Ninveh.

Ninveh in Hebrew means (beautiful). To reveal and make known to everyone around the true beauty and opportunity, this life is for everyone notwithstanding the darkness, trial and tribulations. To discover the extra light that comes only through the challenges of existence.