Monday, September 24, 2012

The Seven Layers of Joy.


The very serious Rosh Hashanah according to the Bible is one day and so is the Day of Atonement. While the holiday of Sukkot celebrated four days after the Day of Atonement, Oct 1, thru the 9th, is seven days. The essence of Sukkot is Joy and G-d wants us to be happy more than anything else.

Rosh Hashanah we accept the authority of G-d as our master and on the Day of Atonement we are being forgiven for our sins. When we sit and live in a Sukkah – a temporary hut built for the Holiday, we are enveloped and surrounded by a G-dly act, similar to a G-dly all-encompassing hug.

The joy of this holiday is celebrated night and day by way of seven commandments. Commandments are channels and avenues through which we connect with G-d, and joy is an underlying and permeating energy involved and enmeshed in the thrust of this connection. Hence, there are seven forms of joy one level higher than the other accessible during this Holiday. When a person is truly happy the world presents itself as an infinite opportunity of good things.

The first three levels of joy are related and inspired from the creation itself. The next four levels are motivated and sparked from the commandments.

The first level of joy is obtainable from the mere fact that G-d created and sustains us. Before creation there was nothing, everything in this universe therefore is an emanation and expression of G-dliness.  The mere fact that a person contemplates and realizes that his existence is an expression of G-dliness awakens a deep sense of joy.

Second step and/or level is the way we were created. G-d decided to create us in His image. One of those features is that the universe and each individual creation appears self-sufficient not dependent on G-d, like G-d Himself who is truly not dependent on anything or anyone.  In addition to this false sense of, I don’t need anyone, and I can take care of myself, G-d created us with self-awareness. Knowledge of this self-awareness we are endowed with, is another source of joy.

Third level. G-d created as a reality in time, special days – like the Sabbath and Holy days, to celebrate and be happy.

The fourth opportunity and reason for Joy: When a person uses his free will that G-d gave him, (another of G-dly qualities endowed to man), and makes correct decisions in life and serves his Creator in practice. This choice will always endow a person with great joy. 

The fifth level comes from the specific commandment to serve G-d in Joy. A person is joyous not only because he is able to serve G-d but even further, he is happy and joyous because being happy is a commandment in itself.

The sixth reachable level in joy is brought about when fulfilling a mitzvah-good deed whose exercise  contributes joy. An example is, when making the Kiddush on Friday night on wine, “there is no joy like that brought about through wine .”  

The seventh level, the cherry on top of all is unique to the holiday of Sukkot. This Holiday is defined as “our season of Joy.”

The practices and celebration of Sukkot brings joy for all other holidays. In the Bible joy is not mentioned regarding the holiday of freedom-Passover, and is mentioned only once in regards to the season of the giving of the Torah. Regarding this Holiday Sukkot, the Bible mentions and therefore creates the possibility for joy and to be happy, three times!

May the all merciful elevate the fallen Sukkah of David and may we all merit the greatest joy very soon the coming of our holy Moshiach.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Make it a FRESH start.

 Brand New Sip of Kosher Caffeine

On the evening of September 25, and the entire day September 26, 2012 we observe the biblical fast day of Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. We proclaim the mighty holiness of this day, for it is awe-inspiring and fearsome. The Day of Judgment is here, and all created beings pass before G-d one by one. G-d reckons and G-d allocates the fixed portion, for the needs of all creatures and inscribes the verdict of their judgment. “Who shall live who shall die…. who by earthquake and who by pestilence…..but Repentance, Prayer and Charity avert the severity of the decree.”
The great Rabbis said. If G-d granted us only one Day of Atonement in our lifetime we would be extremely lucky. How much more so, when every year, we are granted atonement and a chance to start fresh. A brand new chapter in our relationship with G-d.
Rabbi Yochonan Ben Zakai an important Jewish sage in the era of the Second Temple is widely regarded as one of the most important Jewish figures of his time. Yet, even he, being the smallest of all Hillel's students had the power to be bring the dead back to life. He was knowledgeable in every area of the Torah – Bible, numerology, the language of angels, demons, and palm trees. He knew the secrets of creation, and the secrets of G-ds heavenly Chariot.
Having fallen gravely ill, Rabbi Yochonan ben Zakai’s students came to visit him, and in seeing them he began to cry. His students asked, “Our master, the light and pillar of Israel, why are you crying?”
Rabbi Yochonan ben Zakai replied, “If I were being prepared to come before a king of flesh and blood, a king who is today in the world and tomorrow in the grave, I know that if this king were angry with me, his anger would not be forever. If he were to imprison me, the imprisonment ordered by him would not last forever. If he were to put me to death, the death ordered by him would not be eternal. I would appease him ……. Nevertheless, I would still cry. 
Now, today, I am being brought before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. He lives forever, and His anger, if He were to turn it against me, would be final. If He were to imprison me, this imprisonment would be forever. If He would put me to death, this death would be eternal. I will not be able to appease Him with words or bribe Him with money. And not only that, but there are two paths that lie before me – one for the garden of Eden and the other for hell – and I don’t know by which path they will make me go. And yet you don’t want me to cry?
His students said, “Our Master, bless us!”
Rabbi Yochonan ben Zakai replied, “May G-d grant that your fear of Heaven equal your fear of beings of flesh and blood!”
Surprised by this response, the students asked him, “That’s all? Nothing more?”
Rabbi Yochonan ben Zakai said to them, “If only, you (were to) reach that level. Know this: When a man commits a sin, he tells himself, ‘I hope no one saw me!’”
Do you remember the last time you went a bit over the speed limit and passed a police car and prayed, “G-d, please, I hope I don’t get caught, or I hope he didn’t see me?”
We all know the feeling of sitting in our car and wondering how many points and how much money will the ticket be. The prophet tells us, “I do not desire the death of the wicked, but that he turns from his (evil) ways so he can live.”
On Yom Kippur you don’t have to wonder. By asking G-d for forgiveness and sincerely putting the past behind us, all tickets are wiped out. The essence of the day – brings atonement. What a great and merciful G-d.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Restoring our relationship with G-d, for our own good.


King Solomon teaches, there is a season for everything. The season for each matter is the greatest and most opportune moment for that particular matter.

These days, when G-ds infinite mercy is more radiant than other days of the year, it is the best time to perform the Mitzvah of Teshuvah. Both words, Mitzvah and Teshuvah are inaccurately translated into English.

Generally we understand Mitzvah as a commandment, an order and burden G-d places upon us. That is really not the case. G-d is Creator and King of the Universe. He does whatever he desires, and because G-d is infinite, he has everything and needs nothing from anyone. When G-d asks us to do something for Him, it’s not for His sake, it’s purely and totally for our own benefit. We are lucky and fortunate that He has noticed us puny little things and affords us with the opportunity to be important in His eyes through this Mitzvah (commandment) and, earn a reward.

A mitzvah therefore is always for our own good, both physical and spiritual.

Teshuvah is generally understood as repentance from sin. The more accurate understanding of the word is to return and, to re-establish.

Our souls enter our bodies pure and pristine. The soul at birth is bright, full of warmth, and totally connected in faith with G-d. As we grow older and become independent in our thinking, our complete unadulterated attachment to G-d becomes compromised at least on the surface.

The Mitzvah of Teshuvah therefore is the opportunity G-d gives each single one of us to reestablish once again this very powerful and intense bond, notwithstanding any of the choices we made in the past that compromised and challenged our soul’s connection with G-d. Choices that covered over and suffocated the flame inside, choices that hurt the vessel that holds the oil, are all given a chance to be mended during this season.

My teacher and mentor, Rabbi Mendel Futerfas learned a great lesson from a spider and his web. As long as the fly doesn’t give up and keeps on flapping its wings, the spider (which in classic Judaism is compared to the evil inclination within), will not go after the fly.

The Bible tells us no one is perfect. Everyone has an area in which they can improve. The most important thing is that a person must never give up flapping his wings, to free himself of the schemes of the evil inclination. As long as a person never gives up, he is assured by G-d that he will not lose his battle with the spider and more so, in the end good will always prevail.

The essence of this act Teshuvah – that gives us the most blessings of strength and re-establishes our bond with the eternal G-d comes from the words of the prophet, “return to G-D Israel your G-D.” In Hebrew, the two times G-d’s name is mentioned refers to two separate dimensions and aspects of G-d. #1. There is G-d who created a natural world where laws of nature, probabilities and statistics rule. Predictable patterns conceal the awareness of G-d, the energy and root cause inside and behind everything.

#2. Then there is G-d in his full glory who is never limited or constricted by anything and in His full glory is in every nook and cranny of existence. He hides beneath the surface and at the same time is all pervasive, to do whatever He desires in an unnoticed fashion and sometimes, peaks out in the form of unexpected occurrences and miracles which are very much noticed.

Teshuvah, is recognizing that G-d is everywhere all the time, in the natural and in the miracle equally the same. With this acknowledgment of, “I place G-d before me all the time,” it becomes much easier to take control of our temptations. Our faith that, “G-d is with me and I shall not fear,” becomes once again as it was when we were a little child, our reality.