Thursday, October 31, 2013

The reason for optimism.

“The deeds of our forefathers are a signpost for the children.” The Bible isn’t just out to tell us nice stories. The stories in the Bible are there to serve as an example, as a teaching and education, a sense of direction for all future generations and under all circumstances.

There are many more people and many more events that took place in the lives of the people mentioned in the Bible. However, G-d chose to include only these stories because they are very special and outstanding in that they serve as a lesson for all people.

There were three forefathers to the Jewish People. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Isaac occupied himself primarily with digging wells. Besides the very literal undertaking of digging the ground to, “and he found there a well of living water”, there is something way more spiritual and eternal to this story.

Mysticism which addresses the soul and inner message behind the surface story explains that the job of Isaac with his very forceful energy, the energy of severity, was to eliminate all that covers over the ever quenching wells that lie deep inside the earth.

Since Isaac dedicated that much effort into this end, this characteristic to be unaccepting of how things appear and with optimism to dig for wells, is now found within the DNA of everyone’s soul. Similar to parents who bequeath much of their own characteristics to their children, the same is also regarding our forefathers and the genes we inherit as a result of their conduct.

Every soul is considered “the desirable land” of G-d, and deep down inside there are channels of living waters no matter what the surface shows. Sometimes to the eye the land appears to be covered with all kinds of stones and dry earth, an arid and unfertile land, a situation that appears without hope or any reason for optimism, for growth and/or to be useful.

Isaac as one of our forefathers, instills within us the great lesson that with enough dedication and perseverance we must and we can uncover this inside pure and refreshing well of life. Every single person has, and sometimes it may be deep down inside, but it is there, an untouched pure and uncontaminated well of water.

We must never give up on ourselves and certainly not on others.

Some of the greatest sages compared this natural and essential spark of G-d inside to a diamond covered in dirt. The value is always there; sometimes not even recognized by the owner of the diamond him/herself. Rabbi Shnuer Zalman in his seminal book the Tanya explains that every soul and spark of G-d is literally a piece of G-d within each person.

This knowledge and awareness is very powerful and self-empowering.

No matter how much dirt or impurity accumulated within a person because of bad and wrong choices over a person’s lifetime, it really is all essentially superficial. The good, the happy, the blessed,  is still always there and is never lost.

Isaac and his servants came across much difficulty and challenges to dig up those wells and they never gave up. They persevered and succeeded.   There is the eternal inner struggle between good and bad. No one has a free and easy pass to life. However, the knowledge that we always remain “connected” no matter what, reinforces our will and determination both regarding ourselves and in our efforts with others, to never give up.

The moment we reach that little spark within, all the darkness becomes eliminated. The little spark ignites the fire of enthusiasm for all that is good in our lives and in the world around us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Why did G-d put us here.

The Baal Shem Tov taught, a soul descends down to this world and lives 70 or eighty years, sometimes just to do one favor. A practical down to earth kindness and especially if the favor is spiritual.

So it’s possible, when we stop for a moment and take time away from ourselves to help another, that effort, might be the entire reason we were placed in this world!! That small physical favor  or how much more so if it is spiritual, might connect us with our entire raison d’etre – internal satisfaction like nothing else can give us. Imagine what happens if we missed the occasion??

The Bible, when it speaks of Abraham and why G-d loved him so much tell us, “For I have known (and cherished) him, because he instructs his sons and his household after him to keep the way of G-d, acting with charity and justice.” More than all the trials and tribulations that Abraham overcame and proved his loyalty to G-d, was the fact that Abraham would bring merit to others in the ways of charity and kindness.

One of the significant differences between Noah at the time of the flood and Abraham, was that Noah was not nearly as concerned with others as was Abraham and therefore was not characterized as a complete righteous person.  Whereas Noah  when he was told of the flood he faithfully got building the ark, Abraham the moment he heard G-d wanted to destroy Sodom in which his nephew Lot was residing, Abraham began to bargain with G-d and plead with G-d,  to save the entire region.

In the Talmud, Raish Lakish teaches, Abraham had a plan to spread the awareness of G-d and teach monotheism. When a traveler would finish eating and drinking and was getting ready to thank Abraham, Abraham would direct the guest to thank G-d who provided all that is good even in middle of a desert. If the person refused to acknowledge this awareness, Abraham would charge full price for being the only “7 Eleven “, the going market price for not having any competition, almost like airport prices, for a glass of water. This would change the mind of many to see the merit in Abrahams suggestion.

“Abraham worked on the men and Sarah worked on the women.”

Once a follower - Chassid came for a private audience with Rabbi Shnuer Zalman. After a discussion regarding the persons own personal advances in spirituality, the Rabbi tells his student, ‘What is all your studying of the Bible and all your personal improvement worth, if you haven’t yet brought the light into others. ” Ultimately, we are here not for ourselves. We are here, so that through our own lives there will be a greater good for mankind and the universe. The irony is, that when we give of ourselves for others we gain most from it for ourselves.

Raish Lakish whom I mentioned earlier once said. “I learned a lot from my teachers, and from my colleagues, but I learnt most from my students.”  When we give, in whatever capacity, we get more for ourselves.

When a person dedicates himself to help others, especially by bringing them an awareness for their own purpose in life and bringing them closer to understanding the great value in giving the right education for their children, this brings that person much greater success and help from above in those exact areas, that he should have more clarity in his own life, and more success with his own children.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The bus ride we call LIFE.

“And Abraham came to eulogize Sarah and to cry for her.”  In the original Hebrew, in the Torah, one of the letters in the word to cry, is written in a smaller font. Our sages tell us, because Abraham didn’t cry very much over the death of Sarah, he knew he would soon see her.

Rabbi Chaim Vital the faithful student of the great mystic Rabbi Yitzchok Luria tells us: A person is his soul, while his body is no more than a garment to the soul. When we see a person approaching us, most people give their attention, not to the watch the person is wearing or to the clothing, but to the body inside the clothing.  We consider the person driving the car, and not the car that is being driven by a person.

Taken a little further and more accurately, the same approach needs to be regarding the body of a person versus the soul energy inside. The body is merely the exterior, manipulated and controlled by the will of the soul inside.  The health and wellbeing of the soul is what matters most.

In 2009 a very dear person, loved by everyone, a teacher and father was brutally murdered in Israel, his name was Meir Chai. The name Chai, means life. Twelve years earlier Meir was involved in an accident. He was pronounced clinically dead. His soul went up to heaven and he pleaded with G-d not to take his soul back. He had a wife and children and was a teacher in a school. He was told, he had twelve more years, and he came back to life. At that time the name Chai-to life was added as a channel of extra blessings of life for himself.

Exactly twelve years to the day, his life was brutally ended. This story was told over by the family during the seven days of mourning.

Let’s say you’re taking a bus ride from Miami to Jacksonville. At Fort Lauderdale another person gets on the bus and you develop an interesting conversation with this fellow and a liking to him. Before you know it you’ve already come to Melbourne and he is about to leave. You plead with him to stay, you feel a strange deep attachment with this person. But he insists he has to get off now.

You argue with him, but you came on after me why are you leaving so soon. And he answers, I came on the bus from where I live and I am getting off to where I, need to get off.

Life is very similar.

We wonder sometimes why is it that some people seem to die young and others seem to live forever. The answer is, life as we know it in this world doesn’t start and neither does it end with this ride. We all come from somewhere, and each one of us has a unique mission and journey to take.

Off course when a loved one passes away it’s difficult to part, but it’s only temporary.  In this short ride we need to make the best of every moment so when we get to our destination we take from the bus all that is necessary, all the good deeds, for our next chapter of the soul’s life.

When I am driving in my car there is this moment, the ones that are behind me and the big traffic jam up ahead that I have no idea I am about to encounter. The one in the helicopter, a little higher up in the sky can see all that, with one glance.

While from our perspective, the past the present and the future are three different tenses. To G-d, it’s all the same. G-d who sees the whole picture will one day with the coming of the Moshiach help us understand and make sense of the many experiences that are difficult for us today.