Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Re-connecting with the soul.

Everybody has inside themselves, a spark of warmth and life, from G-d.  A “candle of G-d, is the soul of the person.”

When G-d created the world, this Thursday September 25, 2014, exactly 5775 years ago, G-d made the human being different from any other creature.  While everything was created by the command of G-d, just like G-d and only G-d can create, in one fell swoop, the human existence was made in two stages.

First, G-d formed his body from the earth on the ground in the image of G-d, and then, G-d “blew in his nostril the soul (breath) of life”. The book of mysticism explains, “He who blows hard, blows from deep inside himself. “

Our real identity, the real “me” is this, deep piece from inside of G-d, that was inserted in our bodies to give the vessel, its’ life.
The bible helps us relate to the infinite G-d by telling us, “G-d your G-d is a consuming (intense and strong) fire.”

Fire is smothered and choked with water and dirt.

When we are born, a child radiates joy and optimism. It comes through so beautifully that everyone just wants to hug and kiss the child. Everything is pure. With time however, bad habits, bad choices, negative influences have a way of dimming and darkening the glitter and sparkle of the soul. As a person grown older many times they may feel like, or others may think about them, the soul inside has been extinguished and perhaps there is no more hope.

Our sages however tell us there is always hope. No matter how many floods and torrents of water and worry, or dirt and bad things, accumulated over the spark and light inside, like a flint immerged in water, the potential to re-ignite the flame always remains. Ultimately, no one can extinguish the mission each and every soul is uniquely mandated and commissioned to fulfill in his/her lifetime.  When the internal flame of G-d is re-ignited, clarity and confidence comes back. We know we are not alone, because we are connected to the Big flame up in heaven.

It could be felt in the air of the synagogue of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh of Rimanov, the awe and reverence for the judgment day of Rosh Hashanah. Just before the blessing over the wine, the great Rabbi said.” People think that returning back to the essential of core of purity inside oneself is a long and arduous process. That is not the case.

Teshuvah, getting back to the roots, putting the fire back on again, is the firm (that’s the key word) resolution, that a person takes upon themselves never to repeat what they have done up to this point.”

The one moment, a person makes the complete 180 degree turn away from looking in the wrong direction, not even peeking at the corner of their eye or mind at what was once their pursuit and enjoyment for the bad, and begins aspiring and looking in the right direction, they have already started the re-connection process.

During the ten days that begin with the New Year - Rosh Hashanah, and end with the day of Atonement  – Yom Kippur, Saturday October 4, 2014 the prophet says, “seek G-d when he could be found call Him when He is close.”

Prayer our sages tell us is a “ladder set firmly on the ground, with its head up in the heavens.” During these days, the prayer of each individual has the power of a quorum of people. This is the ideal time, with the power of prayer to find G-d and reach the heavens. May we all be blessed with the kindness and mercy that comes with this incredible connection.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How to -- see your internal light.

One of the greatest gifts G-d grants us in the Bible, is the possibility to do Teshuvah – loosely translated as repentance. G-d grants the opportunity, to completely influence and totally turn around, retroactively, a past undesirable deed, even as one stands in the present moment.

Everyone has inside themselves a pure pristine piece of G-dly energy, we call, the soul. This is our real “me.” This soul animates the body, and while a person is alive, he/she receives and sends out communication through the body. Nevertheless, our sense of self, transcends and surpasses the body.

Over the course of time, having made some bad choices against the will of G-d, due to ignorance or done maliciously, this spark becomes covered with dirt, and its light, warmth, G-dly sensitivity and perception is dimmed and weakened. A person, even if they were to intentionally make every effort to harm this part of G-d inside, they could never do so, because it was placed in this world by G-d for a purpose, and no one has the power to defeat G-ds intention for this piece of, Himself.

The Talmud teaches, that redemption for the entire world, and of the individual, will come about through “Teshuvah.” The more accurate translation of the word – returning back to our pristine original state of being.

Ultimately everyone will reach their intended purpose and reason for being put in this world. G-d initiated everyone’s life to fulfill a certain purpose and therefore, it will and must happen No one can permanently get in the way of this. The big unanswered question is, when and how will that come about.

When that goal is reached, we call this “redemption” or as is known in Hebrew - Moshiach. No more struggles, no more testing. No more fights in the world and no more poverty and sickness etc. After having travelled through the dark tunnel, once the destination, endpoint and purpose is reached, there is a return back to the wholesomeness and goodness of the source. Infinite goodness.

The Talmud records a discussion between two sages Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua.

Rabbi Eliezer says to reach this endpoint, the redemption for the individual and the world – Teshuvah, repentance and an active effort to return back to this pure place within ourselves is necessary. If we do not make this effort to clean up our act, and our choices have negatively blemished our souls, it is not possible to return and restore the soul to the position of eternal bliss and euphoria.

Rabbi Yehoshua agrees, that to reach this special endpoint, Teshuvah – a human effort to improve oneself is necessary. However he says if people don’t do the work on their own, G-d will be forced to bring about extreme hardships, so people will be pushed into that direction. They will realize that they are so desperate and without any other possible alternative, they will be forced to consider G-d and spiritual values.

The great codifier of Jewish Law Maimonides opines like that of Rabbi Yehoshua. Everyone, will reach the finishing line says Maimonides, the BIG question is, whether it will be to the credit of the individual who will be rewarded for his efforts, or will it be forced upon us.

Maimonides further teaches, that the effort to once again connect with the core of our own being and that of the universe which is pure goodness and G-dliness isn’t as difficult as one might guess. The moment a person sincerely, and that’s the key word, honestly and sincerely,  decides to turn his focus towards the better path, he/she is no more looking at the dark, but already focused and connected to the light.

At that point, he/she is already receiving the fullness of good and blessings that Teshuvah – brings to a reinstated soul that has returned.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

You CAN change the past.

A few months before the passing of Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter of Ger, an honorable writer came to him in Israel from the United States, to receive approbation for the new book he had just authored.

Before I continue, let me preface with something. It is well known, righteous G-dly people know they are about to pass from this world. Some know a day, three days, a month, or more, when that final day will come. This gives them a chance to prepare, both for themselves and for all those they are connected to.

Back to our story.

Rabbi Pinchas blessed him and then said, more like speaking to himself; “I too am writing a book and I hope it will be a decent respectable book. I am not sure – but I hope it will be a good book.”

The writer looked puzzled, and Rabbi Pinchas said the following. “(In “the ethics of our fathers” it encourages us to always remember) all your deeds are written in a book.” And continued, “I am hoping my book, will be a good book.”  It was not long after that episode, the Rabbi’s book was handed in to Heaven.

As we come close to the end of this year, we are wrapping up another chapter of our book. Our sages share with us the opportunity, G-d grants us in this last month of the year, before the great days of judgment and the High Holidays.

When the Israelites all lived in Israel and someone killed another unintentionally, there was a fear that the relative of the dead person might want to take revenge, so  G-d provided cities of refuge that would protect the killer as a result of his accident.

When a person transgressed intentionally on purpose, but then they sincerely, regret the deed they did wrong, so in the eyes of G-d what they did, becomes considered an unintentional accidental sin. At this point in their lives, and with the current realization that they acted very foolishly when disregarding the rules, what they did, is considered a mistake.

It should follow from the above, that if someone murdered on purpose, intentionally, and he ran to the cities of refuge and sincerely regrets and repented for his terrible deed, he should be protected from any further punishments, because at this point, we say what was done is acknowledged by the perpetrator as being wrong!

However, it is only G-d who reads hearts. A court must judge by what they see and hear. Therefore, no matter what this individual NOW feels about his horrendous act, the courts must proceed with the law and order, the punishments the Bible prescribes, for what was intentional at THAT moment.

But once again. Right now, the person is a different person than the one who murdered shamelessly and viscously. How can a just and merciful G-d allow for the ultimate punishment of death, for an individual who is considered unintentional and totally sorry to his core for what he recognizes as a terrible wrong act?

And here lies the very powerful message.

In the cities of refuge even if only temporarily, everyone was protected, intentional and unintentional murderers and killers.  It was considered awfully extreme, legally very difficult and very uncommon for a court to punish someone with death.

The power of repentance and regret is so powerful, that if the remorse was deep enough and truly sincere, G-d who is always reading our hearts and in control of every detail in the universe, would orchestrate things in such a way the person legally would never end up on death row.

This month, before the High Holidays is the month of refuge from all that was done this past year. In this month we are protected. If we only look internally, with sincere intentions, we have the power to even change the past, so our future is written up, for a sweet healthy and happy New Year.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Enemy Within.

This week’s portion of the Bible, begins with the words, “when you will go out to war…” The laws of female captives of war. Literally, talking about soldiers who set their eyes on a pretty captive and would like to take her as a wife, how the law looks at this situation.

There are four basic layers of understanding the Bible. The literal meaning, the hints, the homiletics, and the hidden secrets. The bible always means exactly what it says. However, because the bible is the wisdom of an infinite G-d, there is so much more than just the written word, all squeezed inside the written words and letters.

The mystics teach us; these verses are speaking to each individual soul. The moment a soul “goes out”, of its mother’s womb, it’s to war. The evil inclination enters a person immediately, and is already getting acquainted and knowledgeable with the territory of this physical corporeal world, to set up traps and gain intelligence how to tempt and challenge the person for his/her entire lifetime!

The biggest enemy a person has, is not outside themselves. The Bible is telling us, in a singular tense, talking to each individual, the enemy is within. However, when a person goes “out” with determination, whether it’s when they are born, and/or everyday getting out of bed, that this IS a war, they recognize the territory and are determined to deal with it head on …”G-d your G-d will deliver them into your hand, and you will seize captives.”

There is a general rule in the Bible, “when someone makes a (sincere) effort to purify (improve) themselves, he will be assisted (to succeed by G-d).”  Not only will he succeed “over his enemy” but in addition he is assured, he will take captives.

The evil inclination, also called the animal soul, has its own set of emotions, to the detriment of our pure spiritual G-dly yearnings and desires. When we persist and persevere in this war against our internal enemy who is eternally making every effort to hold us back and keep us down, the bible is assuring us we will dominate this force to make it subservient.  With this personal achievement, we will gain through this experience of victory, extra wisdom and strength by harnessing what was once evil, for our positive benefits.

The enemy has its own tactics and strategies that served it well to put up a good fight and challenge us all this time. For example, the animal evil inclination knows to entice us slowly. It doesn’t come at one time, in full force, suddenly, that we should be bad or take up counterproductive habits. It starts little by little, and not before long we can’t even remember what and how we fell from our healthy and good routines and habits.

The evil inclination to accomplish its ends, is stubborn, determined and focused. It uses energy of enthusiasm and excitement to motivate us for the bad.

Once we decide to stand up to this foe and we realize, this is what G-d intended from the moment of birth to the last breathing moment, we never give up even when we experience temporary failure. Then, with every success and victory we will have accomplished another positive imprint in this world and more so, we will have gained all the added wisdom and strength from these experiences.

Once the Rebbe Naftoli of Ropshitz was asked. “Where is this enemy, the evil inclination?” And he answered. “In any (every) place that you believe he is not.”