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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Friedman’

Why Aren’t Americans Happy?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

The real question is “What is happiness?” We seem to be a very unhappy generation. Even when we say “This makes me happy”, “I am happy”, “I would be happy if you would do this”, “I will be happy to do that”, do we really mean happiness? Do we even know what happiness feels like?

Happiness comes from gratitude – something in life that demands gratitude would usually make us happy – which in essence makes the question “Where has the gratitude gone?” True gratitude can only come from being unburdened. The weight of being burdened doesn’t allow us to feel gratitude. So what is it that’s burdening us? We are carrying the weight of ourselves, of taking ourselves too seriously. Once we let go, it becomes possible to get in touch with those feelings of gratitude and happiness.

Now, why do we take ourselves so seriously?

Do I deserve?

By the way, the need to speak about happiness means that we’re not happy. If we were really happy we wouldn’t be talking about it. We would just be happy.

One of the reasons we take ourselves so seriously is deservedness. We are told, taught and constantly reminded that we deserve, that we are deserving. Where does this come from? Now, it is a virtue to think of others as deserving. When you see someone suffering you think “No! They deserve better than that”. But I’m not even sure what that means. You wish better for them but deservedness is really an unnatural and unhealthy concept.

In truth it’s not really a natural fact of life. In actuality we are given a hundred years of life for free. We are certainly not born deserving, yet God gives us life. Consequently we are indebted just by being born. However, we are also given a mission and a purpose. Acknowledging that fact gives us the right to ask God to provide us with the proper conditions to fulfill our job. But deservedness has got to go.

God is Good.

So the first thing that drains our happiness is this feeling of I deserve. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t expect God to give us good things, great success and His great blessings. We certainly do expect it because God is generous and good and He has given us everything until now for free, so He will certainly continue to do so.

The problem starts when we have that feeling of entitlement, a feeling that we deserve. Because this feeling is too self-aware and too judgmental. Once we start trying to figure out “Am I getting as much as I deserve”, “Am I getting less than I deserve”, it becomes burdensome; and if “I’m getting more than I deserve”, that can be worrisome too. So the whole subject is really not worth getting into.

We don’t deserve, but we get because God is good.

Don’t Be Too Attached to the Physical.

One of the first tests that God put the Jews through when they left Egypt was asking them to follow Him in to a desert without giving them a chance to prepare food. The virtue that was tested was the ability to do without, to take our physical existence a little less serious. If we have physical comforts, great, if we don’t have – that’s fine too. He was looking for a sense of indifference, the ability to rise above and transcend the petty needs of the physical.

Unfortunately we are so attached to our physical needs that we have no time to be happy. Things have to be just perfect: the food has to be just so, the temperature has to be just right, we must have enough sleep, a second cup of coffee etc. We can’t function without them. We need to transcend some of that in order to be happy. So, to paraphrase, we need to focus on what we’re here for, and not what were here after.

Our Purpose.

Another thing destroying our happiness is doubt. When we’re not sure, when we are not certain, we can’t proceed with confidence and that takes away our joy.

We’re uncertain about so many things, and the list keeps growing. We’re not even sure if we belong on this planet or not. Are human beings welcome as part of nature? Or are we polluters just messing up the beauty of nature with our very presence?

So why are we here? We must have a particular purpose, a particular function that justifies our presence on this earth.

Not being certain as to what our identity is and what our purpose is, again, drains us of all enthusiasm and joy.

So we need to know clearly what we are here for.

Shame, Regret, Guilt.

The final culprit draining the happiness out of our lives is guilt. We don’t know what to do with it; we don’t know how to handle it.

The Hineni Tour (Part One)

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I have just returned from Eretz Yisrael. Hineni tours are life-transforming experiences – those who are secular become Torah committed, and those who are already observant reach a new plateau in their emunah and love of Hashem. The change commences from the moment we set foot in the Holy Land.

Israel’s Ben Gurion is a modern, state-of-the-art airport; it’s probably more high-tech than most. But we were determined never to lose sight of where we were, so before boarding our bus, we found a moment to kiss the earth and thank Hashem for having granted us the privilege of beholding Eretz Yisrael.

In the 21st Century, it is easy to forget where you are or where you are going, so as we approached the Holy City of Yerushalayim, we got off our bus, recited Psalms and focused on the awesomeness, the miracle of entering the City of David, the City of Hashem. As if by magic, we were linked to our brethren, who throughout the millennia, yearned and wept for Jerusalem.

And now, we were actually in the Holy City. After such a long trip, it would have been normal to go to our hotel, freshen up, grab a bite, and rest, but we were in Yerushalayim. In this holy place, we first had to go to the Kotel, cut Kriah as a sign of mourning for our Beit HaMikdash, and pray that we may soon see our Holy Temple rebuilt. It was with this sense of awe that we commenced our journey, and this awe never left us. From the very first moment, every day was punctuated by amazing events that revealed to us the constant, guiding hand of Hashem.

That very first day, after davening at the Kotel, we visited with Pamela and Aba Claman, whose beautiful home faces the sacred Wall. From their rooftop garden, we had a breathtaking view of the Kotel, Har HaBayit, and Yerushalayim. Over 80 young members of the IDF joined us. Pamela offered them dinner, while the members of our Hineni group felt honored to help serve them and present each and every soldier with a copy of my book, Life Is A Test, and I was honored to address them

Since we were in the land of our fathers, the following morning, we made our way to Beis Lechem and Chevron to render homage to our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. In Chevron, our guides were David Wilder and Noam Arnon, leaders of that amazing courageous community that lives in a sea of hostile Arabs.

From Chevron we made our way to Beis Lechem and poured out our hearts at the gravesite of our Mama Rochel.

By the time we returned to Yerushalayim, it was close to 7:00 p.m. Nevertheless, Rabbi Friedman, of the magnificent Belzer synagogue, waited for us and welcomed us. The beauty of the Belzer shul is beyond words, but even more significant is that every part of the shul, down to the smallest detail, was constructed under the supervision of the Belzer Rebbe.

What I found most inspiring was the beautiful story that Rabbi Friedman related about the old Belzer Rebbe. When the Rebbe built his original shul in Europe, the women’s section was not yet completed, although the men’s section was ready. The men were anxious to begin davening there, but the Rebbe would not grant them permission. He explained that the tears of the women were needed to ensure that the prayers of the men would reach the Heavenly Throne.

It occurred to me how critical this teaching of the Rebbe is for us. While we sleep Ahmenidjidad plots to annihilate our people; the pressure on Israel to give away Yehudah, Shomron and parts of Yerushalayim, keeps mounting. So, more than ever, we need the prayers and tears of our women, for it is only with Hashem’s help that our salvation will come.

Next we visited Tiveriah and Tsfat. Praying at the burial places of our Torah giants infused us with strength and renewed commitment. We met a resident of Tsfat who told us that they had just completed building a “state-of-the-art” mikveh for women not far from the mikveh of the Ari HaKadosh. She begged us to come and visit, so while the men immersed themselves in the mikveh of the holy Ari, we took her up on her invitation.

In these two cities, Tiveriah and Tsfat, there were so many tzaddikim at whose gravesites we wanted to daven, that by the time we arrived in Amukah, we found ourselves in total darkness. There were no lights or candles to illuminate our path. Nevertheless, our group was determined… so we slowly made our way to the graveside of Rabbi Yonasan Ben Uziel. Since it was pitch black and we couldn’t see anything, there was no point in opening our siddurim or Tehillim, so we decided to offer prayers from our hearts.

Then, as if from nowhere, chassidim appeared, carrying breathtaking lights. We felt as if they were malachim from Hashem sent to give us illumination. But when they came close, they told us that we were standing in the men’s section, and we women would have to relinquish the place.

For a split second we were disappointed, but then I decided to speak to them and related the story of the old Belzer Rebbe, who taught that the prayers and tears of women were needed to open the Heavenly Gates. Without a moment’s hesitation, they agreed to let us daven first, while they remained outside to daven Maariv.

On the bus back to Yerushalayim, I told our Hineni group that we should engrave this moment on our hearts and remember that no matter how dense the darkness, no matter how hopeless our situation, we must forge ahead and daven. And if we do so, Hashem will send us light. As it is written: “G-d is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”

(To Be Continued)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/the-hineni-tour-part-one/2009/07/22/

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