Thursday, March 29, 2012

Miracles & Nature.

The Czar once came to visit a group of soldiers, when suddenly one of them pointed his gun at the Czar. Instantly, a quick thinking and fast acting soldier, leaped on this criminal and saved the Czar. The Czar, thanked this fellow and said he could ask for anything in appreciation. The soldier said, “Can you please speak to my superior and ask him not to be so tough on me.” The Czar thought for a moment and responded, “Fool, you could have asked me to make you the superior, and he would have become your underling.”

We are granted auspicious times throughout the year, when G-d is listening more than other times. One such time is during this month, at the Passover table. We are told, that when we open the door for Elijah the prophet, at that time, similar to the words in the Bible, “their prayers went up to heaven”, this is an exceptional time to pray and be heard by G-d for anything we ask for. We need to be sure, we are at the Passover Seder table, and we don’t waste this opportunity on trivial matters.

The Bible identifies this month as the first of all the months of the year. In Hebrew the name of this month is Nissan – which means miracles. This is a month of miracles, and therefore, the great Exodus from Egypt and the splitting of the reed sea took place.

However, we all know that the New Year, is celebrated at Rosh Hashanah which is the seventh month of the year – Tishrei. This usually falls out some time in the autumn. How do we say that this is the first of all twelve months, as we begin the spring, while on the seventh month, we commemorate the creation of the universe, and the count of the calendar year is renewed then?

In the Ten Commandments, the first one begins with, “I am G-d who took you out of Egypt.” The question is asked. If G-d wanted to impress us, wouldn’t it have been greater to say, who created the heavens and earth?

Here we come to a seminal realization.

The bible speaks of two beginnings, two cycles. One is the creation of nature, and one is the onset of miracles. Although nature is also a miraculous event, to make a world out of pure nothingness, which is how G-d created the universe, is something pretty extraordinary and only G-d can pull off. The problem however, is that this miracle is programmed by G-d to follow a regular pattern, and the regular routine and predictability of this creation, has the unfortunate tendency to cause a person to overlook the miraculous and astonishing side of creation.

In order to make the universe that appears like it was always here, and is independent of any other causes, and is self existing, a very deep dimension of G-d, which was always, and depends on nothing for its survival must be employed. Notwithstanding this very powerful side of G-d that made the universe and nature, this leads people, to making a very grave error when looking at the world, that there is no G-d. Because it was the side of G-d that is not dependant on anything for its survival that created nature, people when looking at the world and see this trait, can forget at times that nothing can exist without Him.

Miracles are those occurrences which happen only occasionally and because they are not routine they can shake us out of our complacency, and force us to think and notice the influence of the unexpected even in our daily lives. Miracles make us realize and remind us that there is more to life than just the laws of nature.

Because miracles make the realization of G-d more genuine and authentic it was mentioned in the Ten Commandments. This month, the month of miracles, becomes realized with the holiday of Passover. Passover puts into motion a different parallel possibility and reality, that of miracles. Open awareness of outstanding occurrences in our lives. Miracles exist and they are also part of our calendar. We must merely open our eyes to see, and live, as well, this reality.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Humility, faith and arrogance.

In the Jewish tradition, every Holiday has its own theme from which we draw that specific energy in our service to G-d for the entire year. For example Purim the holiday we just experienced, grants us the spiritual energy of joy for the entire year. How do we receive this energy and blessings? By actually doing the commandments of the holiday. In regards to the holiday of Purim, the book of the holiday, the book of Esther, tells us, that by commemorating and reliving the original incident, the reason for the Holiday, we can experience again those same miracles in the present tense.

Passover is in just a few more days, April 6, 2012. “In every generation, and every day, a person must see himself going out of Egypt.” Freedom from slavery is what happened then, and freedom is the opportunity and possibility in each of our lives today, when we observe the holiday properly. We all have our own personal limitations that hold us down, and keep us from progressing forward. Passover and its observances give each single one of us the strength to realize a personal freedom like in the days of old.

Sitting at the table and going over the story, refreshes our memory, that there is a G-d and he does miracles. “Their cries went up to heaven...and G-d heard their moans.” There isn’t just the rule of nature. There is a G-d who hears us, when we turn to Him and responds to our cries.

The theme of the Holiday is captured in the main staple of the Holiday and the commandment, to fulfill on the two first nights of Passover, the eating of the matza. At least one ounce each night.

The Passover matza is called the “poor mans’ bread,” and no other ingredients are allowed to be added but the bare minimum. The Passover matzah is made with simple ingredients, flour and water. The matza needs to be flat and must not become leavened and bloated like bread. Matza is flat, simple, and unassuming Therefore the Matza is a “humble food”.

Bread on the other hand which is forbidden on Passover, has all kinds of tasty and rich ingredients. It rises and is bloated --- conceited. Bread on Passover, represents haughtiness, and ego and stands in the way of true freedom and growth.

For a person to free himself from his current situation and grow beyond his existing boundaries he must develop the trait of humility. A person who is humble understands that no one person is an island unto himself. Therefore, in the interest of connecting with others he learns that at times he must put himself aside for the sake of others. He learns to be receptive to other people and their perspective and sensitivities. As a result he will be connected with the greater whole and become a larger and stronger person.

Moses, the greatest leader was praised with the virtue of humility. “And the man Moses, was the humblest person from any other person on the face of the earth.”

An arrogant and haughty person thinks, it’s all about himself. He has difficulty seeing things from another person’s perspective. It’s all about me, and as a result this person is very limited. Even if he gives others, it’s only because that’s what serves his own selfish desires, so he actually never truly connects and unites with the other person, and as big as he is, he always remains, one person.

Humility is one of the important ingredients for faith. When someone is arrogant G-d says,” I and him can not dwell together”. His arrogance, chases G-d away. While someone who is humble, invites G-d into his life, acknowledging, that it is impossible for a human being to go through life only by the merit of his own effort.

Matza on Passover is like the caffeine of faith. When you eat Matza, on Passover, you acquire the strength for faith, and faith is THE most powerful strength to take us through life, happily and successfully.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


A man once brought his concern to Rabbi Meir of Premishlan, “someone is stealing my livelihood!”

“When a horse lowers its head to drink from the river,” Rabbi Meir told him, “he stamps his hooves down on the ground. Do you know why? Seeing another horse reflected in the water, he becomes angry and envious that someone else might be taking some of his water, so he stamps his hooves.” “You however,” continued Rabbi Meir “surely understand, that only a horse can think that way, since, there is enough water for both horses.” “Our sages have already taught us, that no one, can ever take what belongs to another, and surely no one can add more for himself than what was already pre-ordained for him to earn.”

It is true the Bible says, “G-d will bless you in all that you do,” and, “six days a week you shall work, and the seventh day you shall rest.” Undoubtedly, it is expected of us to labor in order to earn a living. However, the books tell us that since a persons income is already preordained by G-d at the beginning of the year, it is unnecessary and futile for a person to work in excess of what is essential, to earn the amount necessary to live on for the present time.

Overworking, is a person’s choice, to add stress and heartache in ones life. Deciding that you will work earlier than everyone else, and stay later than everyone else, is a persons own choice to take time away from other responsibilities he has in life, which will surely suffer as a result, while he earns no more money than is already predestined for him.

From time to time during the winter months, Rabbi Shmuel would travel out of Lubavitch for health reasons. Once, before he left the village, some of the local residents who made their money on the people who would come to visit this Rabbi, they went over to Rabbi Shmuel and said, “When the honorable Rabbi leaves, how will we, earn a living?”

Rabbi Shmuel responded with the following. “Did you ever hear of a cow worrying when the trough he eats out of breaks? It is the cows’ owner who must worry. So too with you. While I’m away you must trust that G-d will take care of your livelihood. There is no need for you to worry. You must be worthy individuals in the eyes of G-d, make your effort, and there are many ways G-d can, and will, provide.”

There are two approaches one may take to their employment. Some, identify with their work as a kind of indispensable and essential tool through which they earn their income and livelihood. Therefore they see their business/emplyment as the actual source of money albeit by the grace of G-d. These people are prone to guard and view their employment/business in a way that would detract many times from other responsibilities.

Then there are others, who see their work as merely an excuse and a means in nature for G-d to provide their money. The only reason they go to work, is because G-d commanded us to do so, not because G-d needs the job to provide us with sustenance. Work, is not the source of income. G-d is the source, and it doesn't matter to Him, what we are doing, for Him to provide.

This second approach allows a person to dedicate himself to his responsibilities in life, in a way that his health, and his family life, and his religious responsibilities, are not affected by his work. With this approach, a person understands that what counts most, is that he carry out his moral responsibilities properly, and when G-d is happy, blessings will come from heaven, in an abundant measure, in all the areas of life that matter most.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Using Lots to serve G-d.

The jolly holiday of Purim on March 8, 2012 shares something very special with the holiest day on the Jewish calendar – Yom KiPurim, to the point, that our sages tell us, that Yom KiPurim is similar to Purim. Purim being the superior Holiday.

When the Moshiach comes, speedily in our days, all holidays will pale in comparison to the happiness, bliss and G-dliness that will shine in those times, with the exception of one Holiday, Purim. Even then, the celebration and recognition of the day, will stand out in its supreme joyfulness.

Besides the fact that within the name of Yom KiPurim are the letters of the Holiday Purim, the essence and practice of both days share something in common.

On Yom Kippur there were lots thrown to determine which goat would be sacrificed and which goat would be sent away. The holiday of Purim (literally, "lots") is a reference to the lots cast to determine the date for the annihilation of every Jewish person in the Persian Empire.

Normally, when a person needs to make a decision they approach the options available by weighing the benefits versus the disadvantages for each of the selections available. When a person depends on lots however, his approach is certainly not rational. He/she is leaving it up to forces that are beyond the scope of logical thinking. Both Holidays, Yom Kipurim and Purim, have Lots, in common.

A person can have a relationship with G-d that is totally based and supported, by his intelligence and rational thinking. This kind of relationship with G-d, would always be limited to the degree a person can grasp and comprehend why it would be acceptable to him to dedicate himself to this alliance with G-d. This kind of relationship would be shaken to its core and seriously threatened the moment something takes place that could not be explained rationally.

Higher and deeper, is a relationship that surpasses the finite boundaries of human intellect. I am bound and committed, totally, with the essence of my being. Whether I can understand or make sense of it or not.

Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, because, it is precisely this aspect that is drawn out on this holy day. On Yom Kippur everyone goes to a synagogue and is praying and fasting. The essence and deep core within, the soul itself, devotes itself, and renews its bond with the Almighty G-d. As a result, G-d reacts in line, notwithstanding the deeds of the past year by forgiving the past and once again looking in favor to that individual to grant a year of health and blessings. All this, is brought about through intense prayer and fasting.

However on Purim, while the wicked Haman counted on the supra-rational forces to destroy the Jewish people, hence the casting of lots to determine which day he would exterminate the Jewish people, in an incredible unfolding of events, that surpassed anyone’s imagination, the Jewish people where miraculously saved. The relationship between G-d and His people expressed itself in the most fantastic way and is celebrated by eating and drinking.

On Purim, the bond between Holiness and people doesn’t just express itself by being spiritual, by being in a holy place and by acting angelic. On Purim, when our physical lives were saved, we eat a special meal, and trade gifts of food with each other and offer gifts to the poor, because the effects of the day permeate and are felt even in mundane and ordinary matters. Purim is a day of incredible joy and happiness.

Joy breaks all personal limitations. When a person serves out of a feeling and emotion of joy, dancing, singing, drinking, eating, he takes the essence of his core, the entire broad spectrum of his soul, and connects all of himself, with G-d. “All my bones will say, who is like you, oh G-d.” When a person is truly happy about his relationship with G-d, it knows no bounds, and brings about the greatest blessings from G-d in his life.

The books of Mysticism tells us, “when a person is happy in his relationship with G-d, G-d is (then) happy in His relationship, with this person.”