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February 13, 2016 / 4 Adar I, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘heart’

Why Me…Why Not me?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Just a few short days ago we were in summer mode, vacationing in the mountains, at the cottage, or on the road visiting family, friends or sightseeing. But with the start of September and school, we become all to aware that the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe – are upon us, that sobering period of time when a year’s worth of our actions and activities will be evaluated by our Creator. His ultimate assessment and judgement will affect the quality and quantity of the days of our lives.

For the Jewish people, it is a time to look inward and contemplate with equal parts of hope and dread what kind of year awaits us.

For some, the prayers and requests offered up last year did not have the outcome they so fervently asked for. Sadly, there are individuals, families and communities that have suffered life-shattering events. Many are still reeling from horrific news or events which occurred years before. They or those they love suffered unexpected serious injury or loss of life through accidents, violence or disease.

Others are dealing with more recent devastating news – that they or a loved one has a serious illness or affliction; lost their parnassah; some have had their hopes cruelly dashed by yet another miscarriage or mourn month after month for a pregnancy that never happens.

As is natural, their first reaction after they catch their breath from the blow they received is, “Why me? Why me?

The only way to perhaps answer this question – one that has been asked for thousands of years by slave and king alike – is to take yourself out of the situation and ask yourself, “Why not me?

Is there something that separates you from your friend, neighbor, fellow Jew or from the rest of humanity?

Do you have a greater number of good deeds than everyone else? Are you so much more special or outstanding or more needed than the rest of the klal that you should be immune from misfortune?

You know the answer. No, you are not better, nor more elevated than other human beings. You are just another noodle in the pot – indiscernible from the others.

The reality is that man is totally clueless as to why G-d allows unbearable tragedy to strike.

Some people may have be arrogant enough to assign a reason for why Hashem does not stop an unspeakable misfortune from occurring, but the truth is how could any mortal know Hashem’s will and be able to say that things happen for this or that “sin?”

Some who are more modest in their self-assessment have theorized (not insisted) that suffering may be a tikun, a rectification for actions done in a past life, however, at the end of the day, Hashem’s ways are inscrutable.

While it is very human, if you or someone you love is in pain, to try to understand why, ask yourself this question – if you were to win a multi-million dollar lottery, would you also scream out, “Why me?” Would you question why Hashem singled you out from all others? And when it is someone else’s face smiling as he holds the check with the one and the endless zeros following it, would you not sigh, “Why not me?”

Many great minds have wondered why bad things happen to good (read ordinary) people, undistinguishable both in deeds and lifestyle from millions of others. There is no answer. Only the Master of the Universe knows the “why” of what happens to His creations. After all he is the Celestial Architect and Judaism teaches that He orchestrates every detail of our existence. The only free will we have in this matter is how we react to our good and bad fortune.

Obsessing over “why me?” is futile, and takes away from your ability to handle (survive) whatever it is you are dealing with.

I have come to the conclusion that those afflicted with great misfortune have been given the rare opportunity to perform perhaps the hardest and most sacred mitzvah there is – the one found in Shema. The Shema is the ultimate affirmation of a Jew’s faith. Throughout our tragic history of persecution and brutalization, the last words gasped by our dying martyrs has been, “Hear O Israel, Hashem, our G-d, is One.” The pasuk that follows describes the hardest mitzvah to obey – “And you will love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”

‘To Be A Bee Or Not To Be, A Bee’

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

“Dip the apple in the honey
Make a bracha loud and clear
Shana Tova Umesuka[1]
Have a happy, sweet new year”

An elderly carpenter was eagerly preparing for retirement. When he informed his employer/contractor of his plans, the employer asked him if he could do him a personal favor and build one more house before he left. After so many years of working together the carpenter felt he could not refuse, and so he begrudgingly agreed. It quickly became apparent that the carpenter’s heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and he used inferior quality materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished the house he informed his employer that the job was done. The employer smiled and handed the key to the front door to the carpenter.

“This is your house,” the employer said, “It is my personal gift to you, with gratitude for your dedication and work for so many years.”

The carpenter was crestfallen! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have built it so differently. Now he would be living in a substandard home with no one to blame but himself.

We are the carpenters constructing our own lives. “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” The attitudes and choices we make throughout our lives are the nails, boards, and walls that compose the “house” we live in tomorrow. We would be wise to build carefully and adroitly!

One of the most famous aspects of Rosh Hashanah is the universally accepted custom to eat symbolic foods on the eve of the holiday, and to recite prayers which incorporate a play on words with the Hebrew name of the food, to ask G-d for various blessings during the coming year. Arguably, the most beloved is dipping challah and an apple into honey and petitioning G-d for a sweet new year. In fact, along with the shofar, honey is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah and of our deepest hopes for a happy and healthy new year.

Perhaps there is a deeper connection and meaning in the custom to “dip in honey” on Rosh Hashanah than the mere fact that honey is sweet. The very manner in which bee-honey[2] is produced serves as a powerful lesson for our main objective and focus on Rosh Hashanah.

Honeybees use nectar from flowers to make honey. Nectar is almost 80% water with some complex sugars. In North America, bees get nectar from flowers like clovers, dandelions, berry bushes, and fruit tree blossoms. (Different colors and flavors of honey are primarily based on what kind of flowers the bees use to produce their honey.)

The bees use their long, tube like tongues as straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers. Then they store it in their “honey stomachs.” (Bees actually have two stomachs, their honey stomach which they use like a nectar backpack and their regular stomach.) When the honey stomach is full it weighs almost as much as the bee does. Honeybees must visit between 100 and 1500 flowers in order to fill their honey stomachs.

The honeybees return to the hive and pass the nectar onto other worker bees. These bees suck the nectar from the honeybee’s stomach through their mouths. These “house bees” “chew” the nectar for about half an hour. During this time, enzymes are breaking the complex sugars in the nectar into simple sugars so that it is both more digestible for the bees and less likely to be attacked by bacteria while it is stored within the hive.

The bees then spread the nectar throughout the honeycombs where water evaporates from it, making it into a thicker syrup. The bees help the nectar dry faster by fanning it with their wings. Once the honey is gooey enough, the bees seal off the cell of the honeycomb with a plug of wax. The honey is stored until it is eaten. In one year, a colony of bees eats between 120 and 200 pounds of honey.

Honey is created from a transformation that occurs within the bee. The bee gathers the raw materials and then works intensely to abet the process and ensure that it is completed. The process of teshuva – repentance, which begins on Rosh Hashanah – is not simply about going through the motions. Rather, it is a deeply internal and personal process. It is primarily a transformation that occurs within a person’s heart and mind, and includes a commitment to growth and improvement.

A Mother’s Prayer

Friday, September 7th, 2012

You brightened my life when you entered my world
My child, my treasure, my glittering pearl.
I held you and rocked you, safe in my arms
Dreaming I’d keep you safe from all harm.

I watched you and tended your needs day and night
Never letting you out of my sight,
You grew and you played, alive and carefree
Embracing each miracle your eyes did see.

Laughing and loving, you crawled, stood, and walked
Stringing words into sentences, you learned how to talk,
My child forever, our bond is so close
Yet somehow that chest of memoirs has been closed.

Now autumn leaves of crimson and gold
Whisper a story as yet untold,
It is time for you to leave my cocoon
To learn to sing a different tune.

I see your eyes shining, mirroring high hopes
Your first day of school, of climbing new slopes,
Crisply dressed, you wait near the door
I feel a prayer flutter- what lies in store?
Will the teacher be gentle, nurturing and kind?
Will s\he listen when something weighs on your mind?
Will the teacher help you create and expand?
Or will s\he be harsh and insist on demands?

Will your spirit be prodded to grow and climb higher?
Will your heart swell and feel inspired?
And the children, your peers, will they be warm and inviting?
Will they use manners sadistic and biting?
Will your smile grow wide in a circle of friends?
Or will your heart shatter, its fabric rent?

A flower needs sunlight and warmth to grow
Not winter winds to cast it down low,
And you, my child, how will you act?
Will you always speak with kindness and tact?
Do you know that with each day’s gift comes a test
And Hashem wants to see that you do your best?

Will you remember the lessons I taught you at home?
The lessons I taught you as you have grown?
Will you respect a teacher if you disagree?
Obey if your heart calls out differently?
Will you lend a hand to someone in need?
No matter the person’s background or creed?
When someone insults you, makes you feel down
Will you judge them with favor and not rebound?
Will you have the strength to leave the crowd
If they want to do something that’s not allowed?
If you do poorly on one of your tests
Will you try again with courage and zest?

As you stand, my child, and wait near my door
My heart is aflutter, what lies in store?
I wish you a year filled with success
A year where your every effort is blessed
I wish you moments and days filled with light
Brimming with joy and sunshine so bright.

May your mind learn Torah and follow its ways
May your lips whisper prayers as you walk through your days
May your hands reach out to others in need
Helping them with warm words or by deed
May you know your talents so you can achieve
Spread your wings and fly – believe!

As part of my heart cries, “Please don’t go”
The other rejoices to see you grow
Remember I’m here for you as I was then
To listen, to soothe again and again
I will wait for you when you get home
I am your mother- you are never alone.

May Hashem be your guide as you journey forward
Wide-eyed with wonder, sailing new waters.
My heart throbs in prayer with words unspoken
Hoping that you’ll be molded, not broken.
My lips graze your cheek on this, your first day
I watch you leave and continue to pray.
I will wait near the door, my precious child
Feeling some tears, yet also a smile,
Hoping and dreaming as you live and learn
May Hashem bless you, for that my heart yearns.

Respect For Our Fellow Human Beings

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

How often we, even the greatest among us, tend to forget the respect and honor due every single human being. Every one who walks the face of the earth was created in the image of G-d and carries within him the Divine Spark. Therefore, when we insult any human being we are really insulting the Almighty Himself which is the worst of all sins.

Unfortunately, because we are all fallible, even great men, learned and wise may sometimes slip, so we must always be on our guard. The Talmud illustrates this for us in the following story.

The Ugly Man

Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon was a great man and scholar. He learned day and night and the fame of his Torah teachings spread throughout the land.

One day, after spending a period of time with his rebbe in the town of Migdal Eder, he took his leave and set off for home. He was in a wonderfully happy mood. His heart was singing and he was joyful as he contemplated weeks spent in Torah and study. How much knowledge he had acquired. How much Torah he had studied.

As he rode on his mule along the banks of the lazy river he was filled with pride in his achievements and he pitied the average person who could not learn the wonderful secrets of G-d’s Torah. In fact, his heart was filled with too much pride.

As he continued riding he came alongside a traveler who was walking in the same direction. As Rabi Elazar rode past wrapped in his thoughts, the stranger called out a greeting.

“Peace be unto you, Rabi.”

Insults Him

Rabi Elazar looked down from his mule and perceived that the stranger was truly the ugliest man he had ever seen. Without thinking he answered disdainfully:

“How ugly are you! Are all the people of your town as ugly as you?”

The man turned a deep red from shame, but he turned to Rabi Elazar and answered:

“I do not know about that but I suggest that you go with your complaint to the One who made me. Yes, I suggest that you go to the Almighty and say: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have made’”

Rabi Elazar Shaken

Upon hearing these words the great Rabi Elazar immediately realized that he had committed a grievous sin. He was a G-d fearing man and he knew that at all costs he must beg forgiveness, for all the prayers and repentance in the world and the day of Yom Kippur itself would not wipe away a sin done to a fellow human being until the latter forgave him.

Jumping down from his mule, Rabi Elazar prostrated himself on the ground before the man and cried:

“You have humbled me. I beg of you to forgive me for my foolish words.”

Man Is Unmoved

The traveler, however, far from an understanding person, was in no mood to be mollified. He was still too angry and insulted.

“No,” he answered. “I will not forgive you! I will not forgive you till you go back to my Maker and tell him these words: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have Made.’”

It was here that Rabi Elazar showed the greatness that lay within him. Instead of getting on the mule and riding off, he continued walking on foot after the man and humbling himself. All the way he pleaded with the man to forgive him.

The man, however, had a hard heart and refused. Down the long road, all the way to the city, passersby we astonished to see the ugly man followed by the great and famous rav pleading for forgiveness.

They Reach The City

Soon they could see the first buildings of the city ahead. The entire population had turned out eagerly to welcome with joy their famous rebbe, returning to teach and guide them.

Imagine their shocked surprise and consternation to see him walking wearily after a simple stranger!

“Welcome Rabi Mori,” they cried out.

The stranger looked at them and asked:

“Who is the one whom you call ‘rabi’?”

“Why, the man who walks behind you,” the people replied. “He is the great Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon.”

What No Parent Wants to Watch

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Twitter is an interesting concept – it is, above all else, a border-breaker. It breaks all boundaries, all separations between people – for the good and the bad. I am quite active on it – and as a result meet so many interesting people.

Only from this blog and twitter did I learn the meaning of a Gold Star mother or Gold Star father. Now when I see those words, my heart fills with pain. A Gold Star father changed his avatar, the picture associated with his twitter account.

It’s a beautiful avatar, a dedication to his son, who was just 20 when he died. All gave some – some gave all. Lt. Cpl Christopher Blake Rodgers gave all.

I clicked on the link associated with his father’s account and came to a YouTube video called “Dignified Transfer.” It is more than 14 minutes long – very long for a YouTube video. I watched every second of it. Tears began to fall just as the plane came into view the first time.

It is agony to watch – agony for anyone; especially the parent of a soldier. It is every parent’s nightmare, but especially the parent of a soldier. I watched it to the end and so many thoughts filled my mind. One of them, I’ll share – the title. It is so appropriate – this is the way civilized nations behave; this is the way we honor our dead and how we thank them. The last salute brought a crack to my heart that will take time to heal.

I have never met, nor will I ever meet this young man but from the way in which he was honored, and the love his father shares with us, I know I am lessened for never having met him. May God watch over Christopher Blake Rodgers and bless his memory. May he always be remembered for his sacrifice, his courage, and the love he clearly instilled in so many and may his family know no more sorrow.

T’Shuva and Finding Happiness

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva encompasses man’s physical being, his moral life, religious life, and his highest, most ideal intellectual endeavor. T’shuva is man’s path to wellbeing, to physical and emotional health, as well as his path to the deep self-discovery which connects him to God.

T’shuva can happen suddenly, in a burst of illumination which wondrously transforms life’s darkness to light, or it can evolve over time, gradually returning the body, psyche, and soul to the true Divine path of existence.

Rabbi Kook explains that t’shuva appears in two different penitential forms: t’shuva over a specific sin or sins; and a general, all-encompassing t’shuva which completely transforms a person’s whole being and life.

If general t’shuva can be compared to a complete car overhaul, where the entire motor is removed and replaced, then specific t’shuva is like a tune-up of engine parts, a spark plug here, a cable there, new brake fluid, oil and anti-freeze.

Specific t’shuva is commonly referred to as penitence. It is the t’shuva familiar to everyone, whereby a person sins, feels guilty, and decides to redress his wrongdoing. Rabbi Kook believes in the basic goodness of man. In his natural, moral, pristine state, man is a happy, healthy creature. When a man sins, his natural state is altered, and the difference causes him pain. Sin causes a distortion. It creates a barrier between man and his natural pure essence and source. Most essentially, sin damages man’s connection to God.

The feeling which results, whether we call it anxiety, pain, darkness, guilt, sickness, or remorse, impels the sinner to correct his wrongdoing, in order to return to the proper course of living. The sorrow which stems from transgression acts as an atonement, and the sinner is cleansed. Returned to his original state of wellbeing, the melancholy and darkness of sin is replaced by the joy and light of the renewed connection to goodness and God.

“There is a type of t’shuva which focuses on a specific sin, or many specific sins. The individual confronts his wrongdoing directly, regrets it, and feels sorry that he was ensnared in the trap of transgression. Then his soul climbs and ascends until he is freed from sinful bondage. He feels in his midst a holy freedom which brings comfort to his weary soul. His healing proceeds; the glimmers of light of a merciful sun, shining with Divine forgiveness, send him their rays, and, together with his broken heart and feelings of depression, a feeling of inner happiness graces his life…” (Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

There are times in everyone’s life when a person decides to change a particular habit, to improve a trait, or to right some outstanding wrong. He is not looking to change his whole life. Generally he is content, but he senses a need to remedy a specific failing. If a person realizes that he is stingy, he may decide that he wants to be more charitable. Or he may feel a pressing need to return a tennis racket which he stole. In the same light, a religious person may realize that his prayers lack enthusiasm and proper concentration. So he sets out to pray with more fervor. In these cases, his t’shuva deals with a specific life problem which he sets out to correct.

A person whose soul is sensitive to moral wrongdoing will feel remorse for his sins. The remorse weighs down on him, and he longs to break free from its shackles. The longing to redress his wrongdoing works like a force to shatter the darkness, opening a window of light. This light of t’shuva is a stream of Divine mercy. It is as if God reaches out and accepts the penitent’s remorse. The sin is forgiven. The path back to God has been cleared. Instead of darkness and gloom, happiness envelops the soul.

“He experiences this (happiness) at the same time that his heart remains shattered, and his spirit feels lowly and sad. In fact, this melancholy feeling suits him in his situation, adding to his inner spiritual gladness and his sense of true wholeness. He feels himself coming closer to the Source of life, to the living God, who had been so distant from him a short time before. His longing spirit jubilantly remembers its former inner pain, and, filled with emotions of gratitude, it raises its voice in song and praise: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all of His goodness; He forgives all thy iniquities, heals all thy diseases; redeems thy life from the pit; adorns thee with love and compassion; and satiates thy old age with good, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord performs righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed’” (Tehillim, 103: 2-6. Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

The person who sins and feels remorse senses its cleansing power. He recognizes his pain as an atonement, and this brings him relief. Almost miraculously, the clouds of his transgression are lifted, and the light of t’shuva fills his being with joy. He senses that it is G-d who has freed him, and his heart abounds with gratitude and song.

Captain Picard Visiting our Planet

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

British actor Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the finest captain of the Starship Enterprise ever, is seen here on a movie set on Jaffa Street in the center of Jerusalem.

According to JTA, Stewart is playing a disgraced, eccentric British lord in a heist comedy titled “Hunting Elephants,” in which three Israeli senior citizens help a 12-year-old boy hatch a plan to rob a bank in order to save his home.

Stewart is replacing John Cleese of Python fame, who reportedly withdrew from the project due to heart trouble.

Refuah shleima.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/captain-picard-visiting-our-planet/2012/08/22/

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