Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reaching Rock Bottom

The Bible commands us to build in our midst, a sanctuary, “and, I will dwell amongst them.” G-d dwells not only in the solitary physical sanctuary built in His honor. The plural tense indicates, that every individual who builds a refuge for G-d, out of their own life, G-d promises to dwell in “their” midst.

The sanctuary in the wilderness and in Jerusalem was a place where sacrifices were offered to G-d, this pleased G-d and invited him into their midst. The same is with each person who dedicates and turns a portion of their lives to G-d. This overture, draws G-d towards their direction.

This is why Maimonides writes regarding the disrespect of ignoring a synagogue-place of worship, “whoever has a synagogue in his community and ignores praying in it, is called a bad neighbor.” And further. “A person should always pray in a synagogue, because “Ones prayers are heard, only in a synagogue.” By comparison with the outside, a synagogue is a place where He is invited to be, and is where G-d is more reachable and found.

When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, Rabbi Akiva and the other sages went up to Jerusalem and saw a fox running out of the Holy of Holies. The sages began to weep, and Rabbi Akiva started to laugh.

The sages had already torn their clothes in an expression of mourning and grief over the destruction of the Holy Temple. What was it in seeing the fox frolicking out of the holiest site in the world that caused them to burst in tears at that moment?

However, here lies a deep concept.

The sages always understood that everything physical has its spiritual root and counterpart. Just as there is a physical Temple for the world, every person has a spiritual corresponding Temple and central deep area inside themselves where they can connect with, and invite G-d, to be part of their lives. The sages understood that at the basic core of every soul, the integrity can never be compromised by any enemy, struggle or challenge. After all, the soul is the spark of G-d Himself.

When they saw the fox who is described as a very smart animal, as if to indicate the wisdom of the animalistic mentality, invade and penetrate the holiest site, they were shaken by the thought that perhaps it is possible that even the core of the world, and the essence of a person, can become compromised and contaminated. This caused to burst out in despairing cries.

Rabbi Akiva however, jumped for joy, because his thinking was. As long as a person doesn’t reach rock bottom in his spiritual descent (once a person is falling) many times people can deceive themselves into thinking there really is no destruction, and the connection with G-d and spirituality is still intact, even while so many things aren't  done as they are supposed to be done.

Seeing however that the “fox” was coming out of the deepest place within, Rabbi Akiva was sure at this point there is no other place to go, but back up again.

When there is no more fooling oneself over the situation, this may be the biggest blessing.

Everyone knew the prophets predicted the fall and destruction of the Temple, and afterwards there would be a rebuilding and renewal greater and bigger than before the destruction. Rabbi Akiva saw the positive side of the moment.

Rabbi Akiva’s thinking was that there is nothing to gain in crying and lamenting the present and or the past. Better to use the momentum and energy of the moment in order to bring improvement for the future.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Experience Life - Be Happy.

To truly experience life itself, one must be, happy. A feeling of gratification and satisfaction vis-à-vis one’s own life. In the Torah - Bible we see repeated numerous times the instruction to be happy. Not only in the positive, but as well in the negative, when the Bible speaks of the punishments that will be brought upon the people, it says, “Because you did not serve G-d in joy and with a full heart.”

From this we see, the source for much negativity in life is a lack of joy and happiness, and the performance of good is greatly enhanced when connected with joy.

The Talmud shares a story. Once, Reb Beroka met Elijah the Prophet in the market place and asked him, “Who over here will merit the world to come.” Elijah the prophet pointed to two simple people. Reb Beroka approached them and asked, “What do you do?” And they answered. “We make people happy. When we notice people are sad and down we lift their spirits.”

The commentary to the Talmud explains. It is written, “You are children to G-d your G-d” and “When they are in pain, He (G-d) is in pain.” These two people lightened as it were, G-ds pain, therefore they merited such a great reward.

Maimonides writes, “Joy, is a valuable and virtuous effort and worship before G-d.” Joy is not only important generally; it comes only through a conscientious focused effort. Our sages have told us in many places that happy people are healthier people. King Solomon in the book of Proverbs says, “A happy heart improves and uplifts one’s health.” In other places our sages write, “Someone who is happy will not get sick as often.”

In the book of the Holy Tanya, Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi writes. “When two people fight each other, even if one is inherently stronger, he will not prevail if he is sad. The same is regarding ones internal struggles. One must be happy, in order to overcome ones inner drives and negative emotions.”

In Hebrew the word happy – besimcha, when rearranged are the letters of, “thought”. A very important principle in mysticism is that our thoughts influence the way we feel which controls the way we act. Being rich is not a number value. Our sages tell us, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.” Attitude, is the key to being rich and feeling content. Looking at all that G-d has blessed us with, especially when compared to others who have it way worse, is one way of developing a grateful and content attitude.

Helping and giving others is another way to draw out from within a feeling of fullness concerning one’s own life. G-d says, “if you make my four happy (the Levite, convert, orphan and widow) I will make your four (your sons daughters and all that’s yours) happy. Giving and extending one’s self for others, brings the best out of a person. It makes one feel content and happy, because they truly are worthwhile and valuable to the world.

Another way to cultivate happiness is by being with others. One of the punishments in the Bible was to be sent away from everyone because, “Being alone is like being dead.” When a person is “mixed between people.” This allows the individual to be supported by others and to share his worries with friends. “A worry in the heart (is greatly helped) by sharing it with others”

Prayer, is a very powerful tool. Through prayer, a person connects with an all-powerful force and uplifts the soul to be refreshed, empowered, and see things from a better perspective. It is for good reason King David says “You, have gladdened my heart.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014


G-d created the world in such a way that universally and in every element of life there contains a giver and a recipient, “male and female he created them.” The sun and the moon on a grand scale, and the soul and the body on a more personal level. There are 23 pairs of chromosomes in cells; one member of each pair is paternal (from the father) and one maternal (from the mother).

The soul is the source of life and energy, and the body is the recipient. When the bible speaks of Sarah’s death in the “township of four” and Abraham cried over her demise, the mystics explain this to be the mourning of the soul over the body’s  death, which comprises of four basic elements. The soul feels the importance of the body for its own realization of purpose.

The ultimate objective in this connection is that the giver should successfully channel itself in its entirety through, and together with the recipient. The giver on its own, without channeling this power, is worthless in the grand scheme of the big picture.

If the soul should shine independently on its own, just for itself on a spiritual level without connecting with the body, i.e. the person feels very spiritual, but it isn’t channeled and connected with the body, practically, this arousal and uplifting feeling will not endure. It will have no effect on the person’s life, as he exists and lives in this corporeal world.

When G-d presented the Bible to the Israelites in the wilderness, He commands Moses, to first present the law to the women and then afterwards to the men. G-d didn’t want a repeat of the great calamity that took place in the Garden of Eden when the rule then, “not to eat from the forbidden fruit”, was presented to Adam alone, and this caused an eternal destruction to the world.

Adam is the power of the initiating influence, while Eve represents the strength and the force to absorb, nurture and develop this energy to its next successful and fruitful outcome. An initiating spark on its own will dissipate, if it isn’t linked and transferred to an appropriate and fitting receiver.

This time when the Ten Commandments were presented G-d said, “If I don’t call the women in, the entire Bible will be nullified.” This time, G-d to a proactive step to connect the inspiration of the soul represented in the man, with an immediate practical corresponding and matching expression in practical deed. As a matter of fact to be sure, G-d approached and prepared the women and the actual deed even before the man was inspired.

According to this explanation, the sin in the Garden of Eden metaphysically was that the inspiration of Adam remained limited to himself and the body represented by Eve was left bereft of any motivation and direction to do the right thing. The soul did not direct its purpose in this world, and the world was left in the dark.

With the giving of the Ten Commandments, by first preparing and presenting it to the women representing the recipient and the body, G-d was teaching the primary importance of deed even before necessarily waiting to be inspired.

In the future Messianic times it is written “the female will be the crown and encircle the male.”

Today it appears that the power to initiate and to conquer carries the day. The soul, the spark, and the spiritual are more valuable. However, the truth when it will be revealed will show, that it is the body and the deed, when fulfilled correctly who carry the real significance of creation.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

G-d is the one who provides, EVERY DAY.

G-d said to Moses, “Look! I am going to rain down for you from heaven. (Every day,) the people will go out and gather what is needed for that day, so I can test them whether or not they will follow my rules.”

For forty years, the Israelites were blessed with this phenomenal food that rained down from heaven, ready made to eat, and that tasted like anything they wanted it to taste like.

They just came out of Egypt and were experiencing all these tremendous outstanding miracles. This was a totally G-dly food that was not dependent on the effort and input of the human being.  It was impossible not to recognize and acknowledge all the credit to G-d.

As opposed to this heavenly angelic food, is the one a person must earn through hard labor and toil. The person must sweat and work hard to plow the land and seed it. He must trim and prune the crop and harvest it, even while he firmly believes the success of his labor includes the blessings from above. The good weather, the success in the growth, the health that didn’t fail, is after all certainly ultimately in the hands of G-d.

As far as a person’s faith in G-d is concerned, when it comes to the returns a person has worked hard to accumulate, it is very easy to take the credit and believe for the most part the results are, self-made.

In the case of the Manna from heaven, before the Israelites entered their land, G-d was building the foundation of this newly formed nation and was implanting within them the deep and powerful virtue and quality of faith and trust. G-d was strengthening their awareness of His ability not only to provide, but his actual involvement in all that they have. By commanding them not to keep the Manna food from one day to the next, they were being trained and strengthened, to look heavenward for their food and to know, G-d provides, at the best times and in the best ways.

Had the Israelites kept some of the food from one day to the next that would exhibit worry and concern, for the food and income of the next day.  A dependency in what’s in the bank rather than totally in G-d.

The Midrash explains. Whoever created the day in all its intricacies and beauty, creates and provides every day, the needs of each person. Rabbi Elozer from Modiin said,” whoever has what to eat today, and asks what will I eat tomorrow, he is from those who lack faith.”

This is one of the explanations why the Manna was presented by G-d to the Israelites in the wilderness with dew underneath it, and dew over it. Dew never stops. Our sages tell us, unlike rain, dew is not dependent on people’s merits.

It is written that the holy Baal Shem Tov could not fall asleep until every penny was spent every day. After paying his meager expenses he would distribute whatever was left to charity in absolute faith, G-d will provide the next day, whatever is needed.

There was however a small effort necessary in regards to the Manna. They had to go out to the fields to gather what was needed for that day.

Had there been no effort needed at all, some may have wrongly concluded that there are miracles and then there is when a person must put in his own effort. The two are completely separate paths.

The eternal lesson and strength from the account of the manna from heaven is that even when an effort is put in to bringing the food, one must always recognize that it is completely the good grace of G-d that a person is enjoying.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

True freedom and happiness.

I am reading this book review on a recent published book which declares the grave mistake governments make that many times result in the deaths of millions of people and the loss of an equal or even greater amount of money. The author suggests that when governments make decisions based on ideologies rather than practical realities these are the expected results.

This fellow knows. If he were the supreme advisor of these governments, this author would surely save the world.

Another article I was reading lately. This past year, investors who took more of the traditional route to investing did better than all those who approach the market with complicated approaches like hedge funds and emerging markets.

So this fellow is smarter than everyone else. He figured it out.

Another article I was reading concluded after a very long scientific study in Miami, men behave remarkably different when in front of women. According to the article, this observation seemed to affect the men more than the women when they are both together.

Thousands of years ago, the Talmud explains to us the importance of separating men from women, at events when concentration is needed, more for the sake of the men than for the women!!

Here is my point.

The Bible commands us to free ourselves every day from internal bondage. Constraints and limitations that repress the infinite potential of the G-dly spark within. The Bible uses three different ways to describe the ultimate goal of the plagues G-d administered in Egypt and when true freedom will have been reached.

“That you will know that I am G-d.” “That you will know that I am G-d in the midst of the earth.” “ That you will know that there is no one else but G-d.”

Pharaoh and the force this represents within each person proclaims “I do not know G-d that I should heed his voice.” Bondage internally is when a person doesn’t see or appreciate the interaction that exists between himself, the world, and the infinite, miraculous, merciful G-d.

This person sees everything as a result of his own effort period. Everything needs to make sense in his mind or else its irrational and nonsensical. When a strategy is being designed for war, for money, for health of for anything, the smarter the person, the better the chance to be successful.

Well if that’s the case why are more and more studies concluding that having an advanced degree is no more a guarantee for success and happiness than not having the degree.

Why is it that the smart investors and economists many times don’t get. Weren’t they as smart when they failed as when they succeeded?

Someone who cultivates his faith daily, his life is a life worthy of its’ name. He spends the days of his existence in good, all the time. When things are good they are good and when it’s not going good to his understanding it’s also good, because he has faith and trust that G-d will have pity on him, and the good will soon show. If it all comes from the wise and compassionate G-d, it must be good, now.

In a small town they all gathered to pray for rain. Only one guy brought his umbrella – faith.

When a child is thrown up in the air and he laughs and enjoys every moment because he knows someone will catch him, this is trust.

Every night before we go to sleep we put on the alarm clock even though no one guaranteed the next day, this is hope.

Knowing that there is a G-d in the midst of the earth, and there is nothing else, is the key to eternal freedom and happiness.

Fire in the hail

    The seventh plague against the Egyptians in the time of the Bible was hail. “Throughout the entire land of Egypt the hail struck all that was in the field…… and it broke all the trees of the field”  “There was hail, and fire blazing inside the hail…”. Finally Pharaoh proclaims, “I have sinned this time. G-d is the righteous One. I and my people are the wicked ones.”

    There is a rule that G-d does not bring miracles in vain. The hail was sent to break all that was in the field. So, why was it necessary to have fire blazing inside the ice? Also, how and why did Pharaoh all of a sudden recognize he was wrong, and G-d was right?

    The stories of the Torah-Bible are lessons from an eternal G-d for all people and for all places. As a matter of fact, there is a commandment in the Bible that we remember the exodus and the freedom from the confinement of Egypt every day of our lives! Egypt and its’ confinement relate to the slavery, bondage and limitations one submits to in their own lives. Every day we must liberate ourselves from the limitations of yesterday.

    In Egypt the outlook to life was that we don’t need a G-d and or Creator because we are self-made and self-dependent. We don’t look upward to G-d or to the unseen and or the unknown for blessings or help because we are self-sustained with the waters of the Nile right here in our own backyards.

    Sending a child to college, preparing our kids with tools to earn a living is all that is needed and we can, and we will, take care of ourselves.

    Our faith confidence and reliance is to the Nile that supplies us with irrigation growth and sustenance.  King Pharaoh himself proclaimed, “I don’t need anything from “above” because I have the Nile for all my needs.” The attitude was, nature, and what we see and what is here on this earth is what we depend on.

    When a person sees the world as an end in itself, a closed and sealed circle, this is all there is, this attitude will develop into a dog eat dog way of thinking.  They will eventually become insensitive to the needs of others and mainly and mostly concerned with their own advancement. After all, “if not me then who (will be) for me?” This person ultimately is left alone with himself in a very small dark world.

    The plague of hail came to demonstrate to the Egyptians, it is impossible to ignore the input and influences of heaven in our daily lives. With just one hail storm, earthquake, tsunami or heart attack, life will never again be like it was. The fire inside the hail came as a reminder, that it is the heat and excitement for oneself to the exclusion of others, the self-centeredness, that gives birth to the conduct of cold towards others. This ultimately breaks the earth and all that is good on it.

    The plague of hail in our lives, every once in a while, serves as an important reminder, in our freedom from the Egypt mentality. The Pharaoh begins to realize, not to take lightly the fact that there are outside influences, and it is up to a person by recognizing it comes from G-d,  that it will remain  merciful, soft and a generous blessing, rather than a cold crushing experience.

    The world is provided with good from a merciful G-d, and the more we are connected with G-d who commands us to be connected and concerned with others, the better it is for each one and all of us.