Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The purpose and power of Prayer

The couple came in to see the great Tzadik – holy spiritual person, to ask for a blessing to have children, and he told them, he was not able to grant them their request. They promised to donate any sum of money he would demand from them to grant this blessing. But he unwaveringly stuck by his word.

They both came out from the great Rabbis room, crying their eyeballs out and said, “We don’t need the Rabbi, we’ll go straight to G-d and pray to Him.”

When the Rabbi heard these words, he called them back in and granted their wish.

In the book of the Midrash tells us, G-d desires our prayers, as it is written, “the work of your hands I yearn for.”  G-d enjoys when it comes from deep down inside of us.

When the Israelites were about to enter the Land of Israel, Moses blessed them. “May G-d, the G-d of your forefathers multiply you a thousand fold, and bless you as he has promised.”

The Israelites approached Moses and complained, that he was placing a limit of one thousand fold to a limitless blessing G-d had already promised, “Like the stars of the heaven.”!

Moses replied. “What I grant you with my blessing is my gift.  G-d however will surely grant you in tremendous greater measure.”

Moses had a plan. By clearly offering something that appeared less than what was already promised, he wanted to arouse within the children of Israel the desire to demand and request that the greater blessing from G-d which was already promised not be eclipsed by this blessing coming from Moses.

Moses wanted the children of Israel to pray and demand what they felt they wanted and needed, directly from G-d.

This answers a very common question. If G-d knows it all, in advance to our needs, and it is something positive and good that we deserve, why must we pray for it to begin with? Why doesn’t G-d just grant it to us on His own?

G-d created this pattern specifically  in such a way that we should receive mainly, only after we have prayed and asked G-d for it, this is “His desire.” Like everything else G-d created this too is for our own good.

Before Moses was about to pass away and as the ultimate leader who cared for every sheep, his plan by blessing them with “one thousand times” was to open their minds and hearts and to whet their appetite. In doing so the Children of Israel remembered the earlier promise G-d gave their forefathers and this pushed them to pray for G-ds promise.

The Talmud derives from a verse in Psalms, “that there are things which stand “at the height of the world,” yet people belittle and demean them. One of the greatest commentators Rashi explains that this refers to prayer which “goes up above to G-d Himself.”

“And you shall serve him with all your heart.” The Talmud says, this verse refers to prayer.

Prayer is a moment in our day that we spend with G-d, creator of the universe. The words of the prayer where designed in such a way that when understood  and felt in our hearts, the person will soar up to the clouds and his bodily existence on this physical world becomes temporarily elevated.

This experience will refine and spiritually strengthen, transform and elevate the person to a higher consciousness throughout the entire day.

The purpose of prayer in not just to come before G-d and ask. The purpose of prayer is to develop our vessel to be more sensitive and receptive to G-dliness all day long. When we realize it’s all G-d, and He is the only source to everything, we have become G-d conscious and our lives take on a new and expanded dimension.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Unity principle. Less worry, more optimism.

“And you shall know today and place it in your heart that G-d is G-d in the heavens above and on the ground below, there is none other.” Deut. 4, 39.

There is none other, nothing else necessary to recognize and know this day. This awareness is the foundation and root to everything.

“Hear o Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is One.” This verse teaches the principle of faith in the oneness and unity of G-d. The simplest understanding of this verse is that there aren’t tens, hundreds, or thousands of power sources and G-ds out there. Ultimately, the buck stops at the ONE and only.

This verse, in the most sold book on the faith of the earth, the Bible, a book presented by G-d, the creator of all who knows us best, teaches that G-d doesn’t share his power with any other forces or beings. He is One and Only. He instructs us to recognize this fact like everything else in the Bible for our own good.

On a deeper level, mysticism teaches, “there is none other”, there is nothing else in the universe but the energy of G-d.

The heavens and the earth, all the masses and multitudes in the upper galaxies where all created from nothing. G-d was, G-d is and G-d will forever be. The only real existence is G-d and, it is out of G-d that the world was created. A miraculous feat only G-d can accomplish. The essence and matter of the universe is essentially G-dliness in the form of what appears as the world we see all around us.

That is why within the DNA of the universe and within each person there are so many similarities with the properties of G-dliness.

We are not bodies inhabited by souls. We are souls experiencing our lives through bodies. The substance and matter of the world is a communication and manifestation from G-d and therefore every moment of its existence it is dependent on G-ds kindness that it remain the world that it is.

This knowledge and understanding is extremely powerful in many areas of our lives and therefore the Bible instructs us to, “place it in our hearts.” Our desires, our will, and our emotions must line up with this reality. When the feelings of our heart reach this awareness, deep down inside ourselves, we are less anxious, we worry less, we are more optimistic and more confident in ourselves and in our place in this world.

The distance between knowing, and feeling, this awareness in our heart is at least as great as the distance between knowing, and not knowing, this concept. Not knowing or not being aware of this concept represents a total black hole in our minds, there is nothing there of this awareness when we don’t know. In a similar fashion,  having the awareness that the only real existence in this world is all and  only G-dliness but not working on drawing this awareness in our hearts will have absolutely no presence or influence in our character and behavior.

Were someone to think that there is anyone or anything outside of G-d that has any control or even influence over our own lives or anything for that matter, this thought would be a denial in the above principle of faith that there is only G-d and He shares his power with nothing outside Himself.

It really doesn’t take much for someone to look around and see the hand of G-d, the unexpected and out of our own control events that take place on a day to day basis to realize there is much more than anyone can take credit for. The day itself, the world itself, cries out this fact is we only train our eyes to see.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Getting out of the dark tunnel.

From the time of creation, G-d intended that we should be persecuted and sent into exile. Right from the beginning of the bible, the four major exiles are already indicated, and it is in the last book of the bible that is most connected to this period of exile and descent, towards the last portions of the bible, that the ultimate redemption for the entire universe is spoken about.

This confirms the rule that it is the lowest of situations that connect us most profoundly with the highest and deepest of intentions and ultimate goals. The higher a stone on a building, the further it falls from its base, the deeper it entrenches itself in the ground.  When we see a stone so far from its source on the ground, we know, it must have fallen from a very high source.

The further back the stone is pulled in a sling, the more power is being transferred into it.

It is clear that not being in our own land and being scattered all about is a result of not heeding the admonishment and rebuke of the prophets. However, after the fact since everything comes from an All Merciful and kind G-d, the process is not only a punishment but as well an opportunity to discover holy sparks, otherwise unnoticed diamonds, to accumulate in our repertoire, that would never have been discovered had we not been sent into exile.

In mysticism there is a principle that teaches, the physical world that appears to deny G-dliness and deceives us constantly of its source has sparks of G-dliness hidden in it from places that are much higher and more powerful than the outwardly spiritual phenomenon.  A person is able to connect with G-dliness through the opportunities in a physical world being used for spiritual purposes in ways that are higher and deeper than can be reached merely through spirituality alone.

When we use food to energize our bodies to serve G-d, we take hard earned money and give it to support a G-dly cause, a transformation of our lives and a connection with G-d is reached beyond any spirituality in itself could ever take us to.

When a person lost his way because he wasn’t careful before he set out on his trip to do due diligence, or a person made foolish choices and ends up in a dark tunnel, he should take the blame and feel guilty. However, he should not for even a moment think that this is where it ends and all is lost.

It is in the descent and in the exile, it is when a person is in a dark tunnel and has fallen down, what seems so far and distant that the deepest and greatest discoveries and opportunities can be encountered.

Great spiritualists would instruct their students to be happiest in times of difficulty because it was necessarily then, that they would be able to gather the greatest of good, by anticipating this truth in a joyous frame of mind.

Once the two Tzadikim, G-dly brothers Rabbi Zushe and Elimelech (about three hundred years ago) were thrown into prison for being Jewish. When they woke up in the morning, one of the brothers started to cry realizing where they were. The other brother said, “the same G-d we serve outside the prison, who tells us to accept everything in joy, tells us to serve Him with whatever we are able to inside the prison. Let’s dance and sing for the chance to serve G-d in a way we never did before.”

When the guards saw how happy they were and discovered the reason, he took away their “new opportunity” to serve G-d and they were free once again from their current hardship.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

YOU, have more power and influence than you can imagine.

Our sages exhort us to, “Know what is above us. An eye that sees, an ear that listens, and all your deeds are recorded.” Can you imagine if everyone always remembered this statement?  The world would be so different. These days with cameras almost everywhere it isn’t all that difficult to visualize.

Rabbi Yochonan Ben Zakai one of the great sages in Jerusalem who lived towards the end of the second Temple said, “if only we feared Heaven as we fear people of blood and flesh.” We are very embarrassed before people who may be watching our every movement. Our sages tell us when a person passes into the next world one of the greatest difficulties, is the shame of seeing our entire life played before the heavenly court.

There are people in their humility or sometimes lack of self-confidence who think, “I am so small and insignificant what difference would my thoughts, deeds or action make.”

Comes the Baal Shem Tov and explains the statement we quoted above in Hebrew in the following way. “A person should always be aware that what starts above and then flows down below to become a person’s reality, is always the result of one’s own choices.”

A great percentage of Israelites never left Egypt when everyone was miraculously freed because they didn’t believe it was possible. The same was with many of the Israelites in the wilderness who never merited entering the Land of Israel and actually stood in the way of ever getting there, because they claimed not to believe in that possibility. By their own declaration they excluded themselves from that reality when it did become an actuality for everyone else.

In the book of Psalms King David says, “G-d is your shadow, at your right side.” Just like a shadow follows your movements, the same is with G-d the source of everything. He follows our lead, our desires and our choices.

The reward for doing good for another person can be a payment or prize. Sometimes even better yet, by fulfilling the desires of someone, we get the person themselves. A relationship and bond is developed with the person who feels personally obligated and attached in return for our good deed to them.

Ultimately when we serve G-d we are told, the reward for doing G-ds will is not so much the prize for doing good, but the satisfaction having done the deed itself. The fact that we were able to serve Almighty G-d in all His glory, and that our effort and action should matter to Him, and He should take note of what we do, is itself an incredible opportunity and the greatest gift.

The deepest level of our soul energy inside us, the core essence and foundation to our soul, is that part of G-d that always remains pure and untouched by anything we can ever do. It is beyond the reach of any human being and forever remains completely connected and one with its own source in heaven, G-d.

This explains the tremendous power, gravity and significance in anything and everything we do.

Even the smallest of action, be it even just a mere thought is an expression and manifestation of our entire soul, everything that we are. There is the potential in everything that we do, because of this deep connection inside of us with G-d, to connect through our conduct, with the deepest levels of G-d himself.

Maimonides writes, that one deed of just one person can tip the scales of the entire equation to bring redemption to the world. Everyone, has this profound connection with the deepest levels of G-d Himself and is able through his/her deeds to reveal the most powerful dimensions of G-d for him/herself and for the entire universe to be impacted by his actions.