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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘person’

Portraits of a Heroine

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Corporal S., hero of the Caracal Unit, in her own words:

 

 

“I ran under fire until I got to Netanel. But when I saw his condition, I understood it was impossible to save him. One of the terrorists exploded near us. I understood we were facing death.

I took cover and thought about my parents.

After we shot the terrorists I returned to the second wounded person, Mati, and I told him, “Stay strong, you’re a hero.”

 

 

 

Did we mention that she also volunteers in MDA?

Photo: Rotter.net

 

 

 

Jewish Press Staff

Goodbye World, I’m Off to the Mountains!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

After analyzing the many different facets of t’shuva, Rabbi Kook explains what happens to a person who sets out on a path of return. The first thing we should know is that there are many barriers to t’shuva. To begin with, when someone is not accustomed to the sounds of holiness, his ears are blocked to t’shuva’s constant call.

Life’s inner moral demand calls out to man, “Turn back from your sins!” Sometimes this inner moral compunction begins as a soft echo barely audible in the conscience. Was it a voice? Did I hear someone calling? Little by little, it gains in volume and insistency until it thunders, SON OF MAN, RETURN FROM YOUREVIL WAYS!

Occasionally this voice calls out so loudly, it rings in a person’s ear wherever he goes. It won’t give him rest. “RETURN!” it calls out in the disco. “RETURN!” it calls out at the beach.  “Leave me alone!” the hounded soul cries out. No longer can he pretend not to listen. No longer can he remain in the chains of crass material existence with all of its vices and pulls.

At this point, Rabbi Kook says, a person must rise to a higher spiritual level in order to find inner peace. He must summon inner courage to face this spiritual crisis. Sometimes, however, the moral demands of t’shuva seem so great, a person despairs of ever being able to escape the clutches of sin. His transgressions, like thorns, pin him down on every side. Outside forces seem to control him. He sees no possible way of making amends.

Once again, Rabbi Kook offers hope by telling us that it is precisely from this point of despair that God’s mercy will shine. “A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise” (Tehillim, 51:19).

Sometimes when a person has a passionate desire to do t’shuva, he longs to perfect everything all at once. Discovering a world of greater morality, he immediately wants to actualize it in life. A sudden spiritual illumination has raised him out of his darkness, and he wants all of his actions, thoughts, and character traits to be immediately on the same holy level. With all that needs to be corrected, he does not know where to begin. It is easier to contemplate a state of absolute morality than to achieve it in everyday life. The more t’shuva he does, the more he feels the gap between where he is and where he should be. Without a firm foundation in the realm of the holy, he can easily grow discouraged and lose his resolve to become a more moral person. As a result, people who begin learning about Judaism, and about their inner spiritual world, often put on the brakes in fear of experiencing further letdown in not being able to reach their ideals.

“If a person wants all of his inner sensitivities and powers to be instantly renewed in line with the spiritual elevation which he has discovered, and expects all of his immoral ways to be immediately straightened and perfected — he will lack inner stability, and he will not be able to fortify his will to follow the path to true perfection” (Orot HaT’shuva, 13:6).

The solution, Rabbi Kook says, is to do t’shuva in stages. First of all, one should console oneself with the knowledge that the very thought of t’shuva, the very desire to perfect the wrongs of one’s life, is t’shuva itself. This very understanding brings great inner correction in its wake. With this recognition, a person can feel more relaxed, feeling certain that the t’shuva process is already underway.

Next, a person must intensify the illumination of holiness within him. This is to be found in the study of Torah. As we have learned in our previous blog, the study of Torah strengthens the will to do t’shuva and refines character traits and modes of behavior. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there’s a way.”

After the will for t’shuva has been firmly established, the person is ready for the details of t’shuva. This stage has two aspects: t’shuva over behavior in the future, and t’shuva over transgressions in the past. Once again, the Torah provides the guidance and light. The Torah translates the ideal moral standards which the person has discovered into the details of day-to-day living. Rabbi Kook writes:

Tzvi Fishman

Madonna and Kabbalah Don’t Mix

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Today, we are going to examine the relationship between Torah and T’shuva. First, we must understand that Torah is not external, factual knowledge like the knowledge of science, mathematics, or linguistics. Torah is an inwardly-directed knowledge which has the power to influence and change a person, to refine a person’s sensitivities and to connect him to the holy, spiritual foundations of life.

The study of Torah is not a quantitative amassing of information and theories like other knowledges. It is a qualitative experience demanding both moral and intellectual involvement, and a desire to make Torah ideals an essential part of one’s character. When a person learns Torah and discovers the exalted harmony and goodness of Creation, his will is affected, stimulating a yearning for God. Because his will for goodness is enhanced, his desire for t’shuva is strengthened as well.

The Talmud teaches that God created the evil inclination and the Torah as its cure (Kiddushin 30B). Rabbi Kook explains this as meaning that a person’s will cannot be perfected except through the purifying influence of the Torah. The Torah strengthens the will and directs it towards holiness and goodness.

The more an individual learns Torah, especially the deeper wisdom of Torah, the more knowledgeable he becomes about his true spiritual nature and about the nature of his will. He comes to recognize that the entire world is Divinely inspired to attain a purer connection to God. This higher contemplation brings him to a higher level of t’shuva. Rabbi Kook writes:

“True, complete t’shuva demands lofty horizons of perception, in order to be raised to the resplendent world which abounds in holiness and truth. This can only be done by being immersed in the secrets of life found in Divine wisdom and the depths of the Torah. This necessitates physical cleansing and the purification of one’s traits as aids, so that the clouds of lust will not darken the intellect’s clarity. But the study of Torah must precede everything else, especially the study of the higher, supernal Torah, for it alone can shatter all of the iron barriers which separate the individual and the Nation from God” (Orot HaT’shuva, 10:1).

T’shuva and Torah go hand-in-hand. Like bees and honey, you can’t have one without the other. The more a person studies Torah, the more inspired he is to do t’shuva. Similarly, to the extent that a person purifies himself through t’shuva, his study of Torah is blessed and made more clear.

A person who is satisfied with a routine performance of the Torah’s commandments can get by with a minimum of t’shuva, but to enter into the deep, secret wellsprings of Torah, a person must be pure of all unholy influences. To reach this state of cleanliness, a great deal of t’shuva is required. The depth of a person’s t’shuva enables him to understand greater degrees of Torah, for the ability to understand Torah does not solely depend on one’s intellectual skills in clinically analyzing a passage of Talmud — the essence of Torah is when the person has internalized its profound moral concepts into his being, so much so that he yearns for them with all of his might. Only when a person has reached this level, when his will is so refined that it longs only for goodness, can he properly understand the deep secrets of Torah.

For this reason, people who profess to learn Kabbalah without doing t’shuva are not really learning at all. They study the formulas of mysticism, but the import of the teachings does not enter their hearts, for God only unravels the secrets of Torah to one who has prepared his soul to receive them. Rabbi Kook writes:

“It is obvious that it is impossible to learn the secrets of Torah without t’shuva. For in these great matters, the will and the intellect are united. When one understands these subjects with a mighty will for the good, one yearns for them and devises many general and specific strategies to obtain them. However, when sins form a barrier, the will is damaged, and since one cannot rise to the highest, innermost level of the will…wisdom cannot grow in him, and the channels of understanding the secrets of Torah are blocked” (Ibid, 10:8).

Simply put, if you want to understand the inner workings of existence, you have to clean up your act. Just like you cannot purify yourself in a ritual bath while holding a dead mouse in your hand, you cannot learn the secrets of Torah while you are living in sin.

Tzvi Fishman

Judgment And Reckoning

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Question: A basic Jewish belief is that everyone ultimately will be judged. This final judgment is called din v’cheshbon, judgment and reckoning – see Avot 3:1. What is the difference between these two terms? What is din and what is cheshbon?

Answer: The Gaon of Vilna is reputed to have defined din and cheshbon as follows: Din is the judgment for the sin committed. Cheshbon is the reckoning for the time lost while the sin was being committed – time that could have been used to perform mitzvot. Thus, cheshbon deals with loss of potential. The person who complains about the lack of sufficient time for performing mitzvot is reminded about the time he wasted while sinning.

Rav Shlomo Kluger (Magen Avot) maintains that din refers to judgment regarding mitzvot and aveirot while cheshbon is the reckoning for excess in matters that are permitted in principle, such as food and drink. The Torah does not provide maximum limits for permitted items. Yet, a person may be judged to be gross or crude for indulging too much.

Some note that the sequence in Avot 3:1 seems backwards. Presumably, a cheshbon, a reckoning of the merits and sins of a person, comes before a din, a judgment based on that assessment. Why, then, does the tanna in Avot place din before cheshbon?

The Baal Shem Tov is said to have contended that reckoning actually takes place second. It takes place in Heaven after a person is shown someone who committed a sin similar to his own and passes judgment on that person.

How so? The most notable example is that of King David and the prophet Nathan. After David sinned by taking Batsheba as a wife, Nathan told him the following story: There were two neighbors. One was very wealthy and owned thousands of sheep. The other was quite poor; his sole joy was a pet calf. He played with it, slept near it, and shared his meals with it. One day, a guest came to the wealthy neighbor. Instead of slaughtering one of his numerous sheep, the wealthy man stealthily entered the poor man’s home, took the pet calf, and slaughtered it.

When David heard this story, he became enraged at the immoral behavior of the wealthy man and declared that he deserved a very harsh punishment. Nathan then asked the king how his behavior differed from the wealthy sheep owner’s. David had, after all, taken Batsheba away from her husband Uriah even though he had thousands of women available to him.

The Baal Shem Tov said that all men, like David, are shown people who performed their own sin in different form. They are then asked to pass judgment on them. Whatever judgment they pronounce on their fellow man another is assigned to them.

And this is why din precedes cheshbon. First a man passes judgment on another person in this world. Later, in the world of true judgment, there is a cheshbon, a reckoning based on the very judgment that he issued. (See Iyyunim BePirkei Avot by Rabbi Heshel Ryzman.)

Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

Rocket Ship of T’shuva

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

We have learned that t’shuva is the force which makes the world go round. Just as gravity keeps us here on earth, t’shuva keeps us longing for the heavens. For the individual, the source of this force lies in his or her willpower. The will is the battery of t’shuva. For a person to be healthy, happy, and in harmony with the universe, his will must be freed from the bondage of sin and directed toward goodness and God.

We are not accustomed to thinking in terms of the will. In school we learn about many different subjects, we learn about different professions, we learn how to get along in the world. But we don’t learn very much about being good. Rabbi Kook, however, teaches that education should focus not on professional training alone, but on finding ways to direct all of man’s endeavors, both material and spiritual, toward the world’s general aspiration for goodness. He writes:

Pure honesty demands that all of the labor of science should be directed toward the fundamental ideal of enhancing man’s will with the ultimate goodness fitting to it, to refine the will, to strengthen it, to sanctify it, to purify it, to habituate it through educational channels to always strive for what is lofty and noble (Orot HaT’shuva, 15:2).

When, however, mankind strays from the proper course, and instead of striving to elevate the will, leaves it wallowing in its baseness, wanting only to satisfy the will’s lower passions, then humanity plunges into darkness, degeneracy, and idolatry.

Out of its depths, (mankind) will cry out to the God of truth and return to the holy goal of making the foundation of every activity the uplifting of the will…. This is the entire basis of t’shuva, the elevation of the will, transforming it to good, to rise up from darkness to light, from a valley of tribulation to a gateway of hope (Ibid).

Previously, we saw that t’shuva can come about gradually, or in a sudden powerful flash. Gradual t’shuva resembles any developmental, step-by-step process whereby one thing leads to another in a natural fashion like the growth of a tree, which progresses from the seed to the fruit in a slow, predictable process.

Sudden t’shuva is different. It seems to come about all at once with superhuman energy and willpower. Where does this great thrust of life energy come from? If we had spiritual glasses to analyze the process, what catalysts and forces would we see?

The longing for goodness that makes up a person’s willpower has a resiliency like that of a spring. Sin causes the will for goodness to be contracted, like a spring which is being stepped on. The further a person is caught up in sin, the tighter the spring is compressed. When a person frees himself from the shackles of sin, he is freeing his willpower to return to cleaving to God. Since his willpower was in such a constricted state, when it is released, it explodes with a super momentum and force, far greater than the force of gradual t’shuva. The sudden baal t’shuva has a magnificent outburst of will which propels him into a frenzy of spiritual endeavor. From the depth of his darkness, he discovers an incredible light, an incredible good_ ness. All at once, BOOM, he is turned on by God. His prayer, his Torah study, his good deeds are all filled with a fiery intensity and fervor for universal good.

It is this revitalized energy which makes the newly religious seem “born again.” This occurs because his willpower has been rescued and recharged. This accounts for the teaching that a tzaddik cannot reach the level of a baal t’shuva (Berachot 34B), for a tzaddik is motivated by the normal, step-by-step will to do good, and not by the explosive, shot-out-of-a-cannon passion of the baal t’shuva.

Because of its great power, Rabbi Kook warns that t’shuva, if misused, can become a lethal weapon. Like a surgical knife, t’shuva can be the key to new healthy life, or to self-destruction.

blockquote>When one contracts the will, when one represses the life-force through an inner course of abstaining from life’s pleasures out of the desire to avoid all transgression, a contraction of the will for goodness also occurs. The power of the moral side of life is also lessened. A man engaged in purifying his life suffers a weakness like that of a sick person who was cured by electric shock therapy, which wiped out the disease, but also weakened his healthy life-force (Orot HaT’shuva, 9:10).

Tzvi Fishman

The Key to Success

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

As we continue on the t’shuva train toward Yom Kippur, I would like to take this opportunity to bless the readers of the Jewish Press, and my friends the world over, with a year of health, happiness, and success.

While the greatest success a Jew can achieve is to live a Torah life in the Land of Israel, success comes in many shapes and sizes. To make sure that your new year will be blessed with success, here’s a wonderful teaching of Rabbi Kook, condensed from our commentary, “The Art of T’shuva,” which has the power to make everyone a winner.

It is no secret that western society is success oriented. Everyone wants to be a success, whether it be a successful basketball player, a successful lawyer, a successful doctor, a successful housewife… the list goes on and on. Success is championed as one of life’s greatest values. Everyone loves success stories. Everyone envies successful people. From the earliest ages, children are taught to admire success. Parents push their kids to be successful. The drive to succeed is reinforced in schools. The competition is fierce to get into top colleges, because they are seen as the doors to success. Working your way up the ladder of success is the mainstay of capitalism. Accordingly, bookstores are filled with dozens of guides on how to succeed.

Accordingly, the poor soul who does not succeed is a loser. In western society, if you are not a success, you are probably very unhappy. Your self-image is bound to be low. The successful people are the winners, and you are nothing more than a bum.

Rabbi Kook has good news. If you are a loser, all is not lost. You too can be a winner. You too can succeed. How? Through t’shuva.

That’s right. The key to success is t’shuva. For when life is looked at through spiritual glasses, for what it really is, the most important thing is neither money, nor honor, nor power, nor fame. The most important thing is pursuing a life of goodness. True success lies in simply striving to be good. For real achievement is measured by what is important to God, not by what society flaunts. In God’s eyes, a woman can be successful without looking like Barbie. A man can be a success without having five or six credit cards and a six-figure salary. The real man, the real success, is the baal t’shuva, the man of Torah.

Rabbi Kook discusses this startling idea in his writings on ratzon, רצון. The Hebrew word ratzon is usually translated as will, or willpower, but the word has a deep connotation which requires some further explanation. He writes:

The will which is forged by t’shuva is the will which is imbedded in the depths of existence, and not the lesser will that concerns itself with the superficial and external facets of life. This (deeper) will is the most fundamental force in the foundation of life, and this is the genuine character of the soul (Orot HaT’shuva, 9:1. See the “Art of T’shuva,” Ch.12).

This fundamental force is the desire to get closer to God. This is the deepest expression of the will. For instance, the desire to eat ice cream is a relatively superficial desire, an offshoot of the desire to eat. On a deeper level, the desire to eat is an expression of the will to survive. While not every man has a desire to eat ice cream, every man does have a will to survive. This will, the will to live, is a deeper phase of ratzon, and something less dependent upon a man’s free choice. This can be seen in an old, dying person. Though racked with sufferings, he still clutches onto life with his last ounce of strength. Even if he lapses into a coma, the will to live in his soul continues to function.

On an even deeper level, buried in the will to live is man’s deepest, most basic will — the will to get close to God. The will to be connected to God finds expression in the will to do good and in the longing for goodness. Just as G-d is good, we should be good. Just as God is giving, we should be giving. Man is the only creature who possesses a free will. Our task is to align our will with the will of our Creator. For the Jewish people, living a life of goodness means living a life filled with Torah, which is God’s will for the Jews. This is our true happiness, as it says, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Tehillim, 19:9).

Tzvi Fishman

Choosing an Accessible Vehicle

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Having mobility issues can be challenging in many ways, from obtaining a proper wheelchair to navigating your environment. One of the biggest challenges is getting from origin to destination. Whether you have your own vehicle or need to rely on public transportation, you need to do research on what is the most appropriate accommodation.

Many major cities now have public transportation that is handicapped accessible, from city buses to taxis. However, most people find it very difficult to get around relying on this. The only practical alternative is to purchase a specially accommodated vehicle.

When shopping for mobility options, don’t be overwhelmed! There is a wide variety of options available.

The requirements these vehicles must meet will vary depending on an individual’s needs. Someone who can drive themselves, or who has the ability to transfer out of their wheelchair into a regular car seat will need a very different vehicle than someone who will always be a passenger and must remain in their wheelchair at all times.

It’s important that you consider your needs, or the needs of the person you’re caring for, not only today, but for the service life of the new vehicle, five or even seven years down the road. Can the person transfer from a wheelchair to a vehicle seat now, but might not be able to in the future? Can you afford to buy one vehicle that’s appropriate now and another one in a few years when that person’s needs have changed?

There’s no such thing as, “one size fits all”. Usually, when people shop for a new car, 99% of the population will comfortably fit into just about every vehicle offered. But the needs of wheelchair and scooter users are much more specific and extremely diverse. Because of the complexity of the choices available and the relatively high cost of these vehicles, families should do their homework carefully to find the right balance between features and price.

A good mobility dealer will serve as your personal mobility expert. It’s their role and responsibility to find the best mobility option to fit your needs, your lifestyle, and your budget. In order to do this, you’ll need to meet with your local mobility dealer in person to find the best available option to fit your family and the wheelchair user. You can either stop by the local dealership or they can schedule a time to visit you at your home.

If you do a search online, you will find a multitude of dealers who can be contacted online and in person. If you visit a local dealer, you can see, touch, and try out the vehicles. And they provide full support after the sale, which is an important service that the online dealers do not offer.

There are many considerations to take into account when deciding which type of vehicle to buy:

Size of wheelchair and wheelchair user – if the wheelchair itself is very large this determines the minimum size of vehicle needed.

Parking availability – Is there a driveway available or only on-street parking? Do you go to school/doctor appointments where parking is limited?

Size of family – Do you have a lot of other family members that also need to fit in the vehicle?

Seating – If an adult is the wheelchair user, would they be driving or be able to sit up front in the regular car seat next to the driver? If it is a child, you will need to put them in the back of the vehicle. There are a variety of vehicles available. Some are adapted with a special lift or ramp for bringing the person into the vehicle in their wheelchair. Others have regular car seats that swing out, enabling someone to transfer or be transferred from their wheelchair to a regular seat.

Minivans-

According to Dan Bussani of Bussani Mobility Team, there are a few different brands of minivans that are available already converted for handicapped access. The main difference between them is the size of the vehicle.

Conversion companies take the basic minivan from the manufacturer and adapt them for wheelchair or scooter accessibility to meet an individual’s daily transportation needs. Approximately 12-15,000 units are done a year.

Elisheva Stein

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/health/choosing-an-accessible-vehicle/2012/09/14/

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