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Sunday, September 23, 2012
How does one do Teshuva?
Sh: Shviti – “I have set G-d before me always” Tehillim 16:8
The Rebbe Rashab of Lubavitch said that each letter is a path and a method in the avoda (labor) of Teshuva.
What did Reb Zusya mean that we should be sincere with G-d?
Before we can answer that question, we need to recall a famous story about Reb Zusya. It’s told that when Reb Zusya was an old man, his students came into his room and found him frightened and crying. He explained to them that he felt that his life was drawing to an end and his judgment was drawing closer. He said, I’m not afraid that G-d will ask me Zusya, why weren’t you Abraham or why weren’t you Moses. I’m don’t have their great potential. I never had the abilities to accomplish what they accomplished. I’m afraid that G-d will ask me, Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya? Why didn’t you live up to your own potential?
This story gives a tremendous insight into how we’re judged. According to Reb Zusya, we’re not judged according to what the Code of Jewish Law says we should do or what our Rabbi or friends say we should do, but only what we really could have done. And we’re judged in a world of ultimate truth… no excuses.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
As my usually custom, this past Saturday night, I traveled to my old shul to for a midnight fabrengin (Chassidic gathering) and to say the first selichot service. The fabrengin was typical… some food, friends and a little vodka. I was enjoying myself when my Rebbe said something that literally stopped me in my tracks...
If G-d answered your prayers… would you be happy?
Like most of us, I add personal requests into my daily prayers. I ask for health for friends and family that need it, Parnassa (the ability to earn a living), among many other desires. I never stopped to think about how I would feel if G-d gave me what I was asking for. For years I’ve experiences off and on back pain. As I was sitting there, I felt a dull pain in my right leg. I certainly want it to go away and would be happy if it wasn’t there, but the truth is that there are plenty of days that it’s not there and I don’t know if I’m any really happier on those days. The same thing can be said when things are going well at work. Would we be momentarily happy if our prayers were answered, yes. Would it be a permenant happiness with that particular area, no. Chances are the momenatry happiness would fade onto the back drop of our every day lives. If one is unemployed, he may be very happy when he gets a job, but after a while, that intitial happiness will most likely fade.
I guess that it’s human nature to take the positive things we have for granted and only really focus on the negative things. Thank G-d, I have 3 healthy, active kids under the age of 6. When I get home from work, my wife and I usually discuss how the kids were that day. If they were particularly challenging, she’ll tell me how hard it was and we’ll express our concern and frustration. If there weren’t any problems, she’ll tell me that they were OK and we’ll move on to the next topic. Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we focused on the positives instead of the negatives? If on the days where there were no major incidents, we would cry how to G-d, thanking him for making things go so well…
There’s a famous story about the Ba’al Shemtov walked into a study hall of a town that he was visiting. He noticed a Jew immersed in studying Talmud. The Ba’al Shemtov approached and asked him how he was, but the Jew waived him off. He asked him again, but again the Jews waived him off. Finally the Ba’al Shemtov got right in the Jew’s face and asked “Why are you not giving G-d his parnassa?” Typically when one Jew will ask another how he’s doing, the Jew will respond “Thank G-d” or “Baruch Hashem.” The Ba’al Shemtov taught us that this simple blessing of any Jew is G-d’s parnassa. This is how we connect to us and when we miss opportunity to say “Thank G-d” we are both denying ourselves and denying G-d this connection. Chassidus explains that G-d’s purpose of creation was to create a dwelling place in the lower worlds, but we have to do our part to make that happen.
If we don’t call out to G-d with proper kavana (intention) when things are going well, then if G-d wants our kavana, he may send us little problems so that we do call out to him and, in a sense, give him his parnassa. There’s an old saying that there are “no atheists in foxholes.” When a soldier is pinned down with his enemies shooting at him, he tends to change from atheist to believer real quick. Maybe if he would have been a believer before he got there, he could have avoided the whole experience in the first place.
If we can train ourselves, to thank G-d for all the good that he does for us with the same power that we would if we were going through troubles, then we would be allowing G-d in our lives and possibly eliminate the need for him to give us troubles in the first place. We’ll get our parnassa by giving him his parnassa. If we truly appreciate all that he does for us on a regular basis, then not only would we be happy, we would, in a sense, make G-d happy.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
The BT High – After the initial inspiration, a person going through this may tend to take on every mitzvah, custom and stringency that they can learn about. They’re waking up early to daven, their going to bed late. There’s hardly a class around that they’re not going to. While this can lead someone to unbelievable spiritual heights, it can also lead to burnout and disaster. I’ve seen several cases of someone growing a long beard and wearing a gartel within months of their initial inspiration only to see everything, and I mean everything disappeared for a year. Just like in physical health, attempting to run a marathon on the first day one starts exercising could be suicide. The same goes spiritually. A strong house can only be built on a steady foundation.