web analytics
October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘spirituality’

Soul Talk – How to Love and Enjoy a Day of Judgement [audio]

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

The High Holidays are fast approaching. To what extent do we really understand what these important holiday’s are all about. What does it mean that G-d is judging us? Why are we declaring G-d as our King? How can we best prepare ourselves to make the most of the Holiday?

Join Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel on Soul Talk to get a better understanding of what these holiday’s are really about.

We welcome your thoughts and questions: soultalk@israelnewstalkradio.com

Soul Talk 25Sep2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

The Spirituality Of Listening

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

It is one of the most important words in Judaism, and also one of the least understood. Its two most famous occurrences are in last week’s parsha and this week’s: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” and “It shall come to pass if you surely listen to My commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul” – the openings of the first and second paragraphs of the Shema. It also appears in the first line of the parsha: “It shall come to pass, if you listen to these laws.”

The word, of course, is shema. I have argued elsewhere that it is fundamentally untranslatable into English since it means so many things: to hear, to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to internalize, to respond, to obey. It is one of the motif-words of the book of Devarim, where it appears no less than 92 times – more than in any other book of the Torah. Time and again in the last month of his life Moses told the people, Shema: listen, heed, pay attention. Hear what I am saying. Hear what God is saying. Listen to what he wants from us. If you would only listen … Judaism is a religion of listening. This is one of its most original contributions to civilization.

The twin foundations on which Western culture was built were ancient Greece and ancient Israel. They could not have been more different. Greece was a profoundly visual culture. Its greatest achievements had to do with the eye, with seeing. It produced some of the greatest art, sculpture and architecture the world has ever seen. Its most characteristic group events – theatrical performances and the Olympic games – were spectacles: performances that were watched. Plato thought of knowledge as a kind of depth vision, seeing beneath the surface to the true form of things.

This idea – that knowing is seeing – remains the dominant metaphor in the West even today. We speak of insight, foresight and hindsight. We offer an observation. We adopt a perspective. We illustrate. We illuminate. We shed light on an issue. When we understand something, we say, “I see.”

Judaism offered a radical alternative. It is faith in a God we cannot see, a God who cannot be represented visually. The very act of making a graven image – a visual symbol – is a form of idolatry. As Moses reminded the people in last week’s parsha, when the Israelites had a direct encounter with God at Mount Sinai, “You heard the sound of words, but saw no image; there was only a voice” (Deut. 4:12). God communicates in sounds, not sights. He speaks. He commands. He calls. That is why the supreme religious act is Shema. When God speaks, we listen. When He commands, we try to obey.

Rabbi David Cohen (1887–1972), known as the Nazirite, a disciple of Rav Kook and the father of R. Shear-Yashuv Cohen, chief rabbi of Haifa, pointed out that in the Babylonian Talmud all the metaphors of understanding are based not on seeing but on hearing. Ta shema, “come and hear.” Ka mashma lan, “It teaches us this.” Shema mina, “Infer from this.” Lo shemiyah lei, “He did not agree.” A traditional teaching is called shamaytta, “that which was heard.” And so on. All of these are variations on the word shema.

This may seem like a small difference, but it is in fact a huge one. For the Greeks, the ideal form of knowledge involved detachment. There is the one who sees, the subject, and there is that which is seen, the object, and they belong to two different realms. A person who looks at a painting or a sculpture or a play in a theatre or the Olympic games is not himself part of the art or the drama or the athletic competition. He or she is a spectator, not a participant.

Speaking and listening are not forms of detachment. They are forms of engagement. They create a relationship. The Hebrew word for knowledge, da’at, implies involvement, closeness, intimacy. “And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and gave birth” (Gen. 4:1). That is knowing in the Hebrew sense, not the Greek. We can enter into a relationship with God, even though He is infinite and we are finite, because we are linked by words. In revelation, God speaks to us. In prayer, we speak to God. If you want to understand any relationship, between husband and wife, or parent and child, or employer and employee, pay close attention to how they speak and listen to one another. Ignore everything else.

The Greeks taught us the forms of knowledge that come from observing and inferring, namely science and philosophy. The first scientists and the first philosophers came from Greece from the sixth to the fourth centuries BCE.

But not everything can be understood by seeing and appearances alone. There is a powerful story about this told in the first book of Samuel. Saul, Israel’s first king, looked the part. He was tall. “From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people,” (1 Sam. 9:2, 10:23). He was the image of a king. But morally, temperamentally, he was not a leader at all; he was a follower.

God then told Samuel to anoint another king in his place, and told him it would be one of the children of Yishai. Samuel went to Yishai and was struck by the appearance of one of his sons, Eliav. He thought he must be the one God meant. But God said to him, “Do not be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not see as people do. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Jews and Judaism taught that we cannot see God, but we can hear Him and He hears us. It is through the word – speaking and listening – that we can have an intimate relationship with God as our parent, our partner, our sovereign, the One who loves us and whom we love. We cannot demonstrate God scientifically. We cannot prove God logically. These are Greek, not Jewish, modes of thought. I believe that from a Jewish perspective, trying to prove the existence of God logically or scientifically is a mistaken enterprise. (To be sure, many of the great medieval Jewish philosophers did just that. They did so under the influence of neo-Platonic and neo-Aristotelian thought, itself mediated by the great philosophers of Islam. The exception was Judah Halevi in The Kuzari.)

God is not an object but a subject. The Jewish mode is to relate to God in intimacy and love, as well as awe and reverence.

One fascinating modern example came from a Jew who, for much of his life, was estranged from Judaism, namely Sigmund Freud. He called psychoanalysis the “speaking cure”, but it is better described as the “listening cure.” It is based on the fact that active listening is in itself therapeutic. It was only after the spread of psychoanalysis, especially in America, that the phrase “I hear you” came into the English language as a way of communicating empathy.

There is something profoundly spiritual about listening. It is the most effective form of conflict resolution I know. Many things can create conflict, but what sustains it is the feeling on the part of at least one of the parties that they have not been heard. They have not been listened to. We have not “heard their pain”. There has been a failure of empathy. That is why the use of force – or for that matter, boycotts – to resolve conflict is so profoundly self-defeating. It may suppress it for a while, but it will return, often more intense than before. Job, who has suffered unjustly, is unmoved by the arguments of his comforters. It is not that he insists on being right: what he wants is to be heard. Not by accident does justice presuppose the rule of audi alteram partem, “Hear the other side.”

Listening lies at the very heart of relationship. It means that we are open to the other, that we respect him or her, that their perceptions and feelings matter to us. We give them permission to be honest, even if this means making ourselves vulnerable in so doing. A good parent listens to their child. A good employer listens to his or her workers. A good company listens to its customers or clients. A good leader listens to those he or she leads. Listening does not mean agreeing but it does mean caring. Listening is the climate in which love and respect grow.

In Judaism we believe that our relationship with God is an ongoing tutorial in our relationships with other people. How can we expect God to listen to us if we fail to listen to our spouse, our children, or those affected by our work? And how can we expect to encounter God if we have not learned to listen. On Mount Horeb, God taught Elijah that He was not in the whirlwind, the earthquake or the fire but in the kol demamah dakah, the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19). that I define as a voice you can only hear if you are listening.

Crowds are moved by great speakers, but lives are changed by great listeners. Whether between us and God or us and other people, listening is the prelude to love.

Adapted from “Covenant & Conversation,” a collection of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s parshiyot hashavua essays, published by Maggid Books, an imprint of Koren Publishers Jerusalem, in conjunction with the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Soul Talk With Rabbi David Aaron – What Is Holiness? [audio]

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

What does it mean to be a holy person? How do holiness and spirituality differ? Important terms are often used without a clear concept of what they actually mean. Understanding what it means to be holy will enable us to live a life of holiness. Find out Rabbi David Aaron’s take on Soul Talk!

Soul Talk 15May2016 – PODCAST

Israel News Talk Radio

Soul Talk – Understanding G-d’s Messages, with Rabbi David Aaron [audio]

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Do you ever sense that G-d is sending you a message, but you’re not sure what to make of it?

You may be wanting to know what G-d is trying to tell you through world, communal and personal events, but aren’t certain what the message is.

In this week’s ‘Soul Talk’,  Rabbi David Aaron will explain how each individual can most effectively hear the messages that G-d sends to him… and know what to do about it.

Rabbi David Aaron and Leora Mandel

For more great programming click here.

First aired: Feb. 14th, 2016


Israel News Talk Radio

US Entrepreneur Turns Kosher Vodka into Spiritual Experience [video]

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

Marc Grossfield is a typical entrepreneur who managed a number of successful businesses and eventually sold his marketing promotions company to a public company.

Through family connections, he hooked up with Eddie Philips of Millennium Imports and soon he was learning about such upscale brands as Chopin and Belvedere. Eddie seized the opportunity about 35 years ago when Poland was undergoing its transition from Communism and managed to become the sole importer of the upscale Belvedere Vodka.

It was a time when Absolut virtually controlled the luxury market with an average bottle selling for $15. Eddie took the luxury Belvedere brand with its beautiful bottle to the next level, commanding double what Absolut was charging and he was an instant hit.

According to Marc, Eddie did not keep the success to himself, donating as much as $25 million to Jewish causes. He eventually sold Belvedere to Louis Vuitton LVMH “for hundreds of millions of dollars” and then sold Chopin.

Meanwhile Marc was not only transitioning to Vodka thanks to his mentor Eddie Phillips but also becoming increasingly spiritual. The Gold family in Israel turned out to be a perfect fit.

The family, originally expelled from Russia in 1824, moved to Safed (Tzfat) along with the entire community where they continued to make vodka in the finest Russian tradition. This art was passed on from father to son, today run by Yossi and his dad Joseph Gold.

Yossi’s journey took him to the Israeli Air Force, then to medical school, to Brazil where he became a plastic surgeon and then to Germany to perfect the art of making vodka.

Marc’s mission was to have the Gold’s produce vodka out of the seven species of the land of Israel (i.e. figs, dates, pomegranate, wheat, barley, olives, grapes) so that Jews who wish to make a blessing over the original seven species could do so, and even a non-practicing Jew or non-Jew could feel some spirituality in making a toast.

He even imported sand from Israel to put a handful into every fancy bottle of Aviv. The water is from the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee.

Vodka is made from 40% alcohol and 60% water. There is even symbolism in the triangular shape of the bottle, representing body, mind and spirit. “The bottom is bigger,” says Marc, “representing kindness. Aviv was launched on Thanksgiving 2013 and in its first year stacked up well against such brands as Grey Goose, Ciroc and Belvedere. It is selling well in such wine and spirit chains as Lund’s and Byerly in Marc’s hometown in Minneapolis.

It is also distributed by Royal Wine in many areas and is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU).

This article was written by Menachem Lubinsky for Kosher Today.

Kosher Today

What Is the Biggest Problem Facing Judaism?

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This week Mishpacha Magazine had an article that asked what may be the most important question one could ask about Judaism. What is the biggest existential issue plaguing the Jewish world in our day?

They asked a number of prominent respondents from a wide spectrum of Hashkafos. From Rabbi David Neiderman, a prominent leader of Satmar that heads many of their organizations on one end – to Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the OU and Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried, Associate Professor of Psychology at YU’s Stern College for Women.

Mishpacha received a wide variety of answers. Interestingly none of them said it was the move to the right.

More importantly, no one said that sex abuse is that issue. I tend to agree. Of course to the increasing numbers of victims and their families – that is the biggest issue plaguing Judaism today – a Holocaust in fact. While I agree that this is a major problem and the one in most need of immediate action, I do not see this by itself to be the biggest issue. Although I do believe it is a major contributor to it.

The respondents each stated what they thought. I will briefly list what each one of them said.

Jonathan Rosenblum thought it was the idea that too many of us do not think about honoring God. In a nutshell he says that this leads to not thinking about which of our actions constitute a Kiddush HaShem or Chilul HaShem. In many cases we tend to think only about ourselves and our own limited communities and never give a thought to how those outside of our word see our actions and how our behavior impacts on their perceptions of Judaism as a whole. I think he’s right.

Rabbi Niederman (without saying so directly) spoke about the dire poverty he must constantly encounter in his Kehilla in Williamsburg. His point being that without a means of sustenance, spirituality doesn’t even begin. Ein Kemach Ein Torah. To him, poverty is the primary existential threat to Judaism.

Rabbi Weil spoke of the spiritual holocaust of assimilation. A holocaust that he says causes more Jews to be lost from Judaism than the actual Holocaust. 56 percent of all Jews are intermarrying. The great boon to Jews in America is its biggest bane. Because of our broad acceptance – it is easier than ever to become completely assimilated. The largest bloc of Jews under 40 are choosing not to live as Jews. The American ideal of freedom and our widespread acceptance is in fact the double edged sword that is both helping us and skewering us. On the one hand observant Jews have been so accepted that we are invited to serve at the highest echelons of government. But at the same time the freedom this country offers allows us to shed any semblance of our Judaism.

Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, a published ArtScroll author and head of a Jerusalem based women’s seminary, says that our educational system is failing us in the self esteem department. Our students are being brought up to believe that if one does not attain the ideal state of a Jew as defined by the particular Hashkafa of their schools, they are not worthy of God’s love. The push to perfection has created an entire population of young people who feel themselves unworthy, no matter how accomplished they are, they feel they fall short of the ideal expected of them. Thus feeling worthless!

And finally there is Rabbi Dr. Aharon Hersh Fried. He takes a typically academic approach rejecting all anecdotal information that often inspires various media to become experts about what is or isn’t important. He says we ought not try and isolate issues. Instead he says that all issues need to be studied by professionals which include the entire spectrum of the Frum world – rabbis and lay leaders. Such studies ought to include an interdisciplinary team of professionals – along with ‘a social scientist or two’. After clearly studying and defining those issues – we can develop solutions to them.

Of all the approaches mentioned, it’s hard to argue with Dr. Fried. What better method can there be for determining that than a scientifically designed study that will be objectively conducted and analyzed by the widest variety of people and professionals available to us.

Harry Maryles

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/what-is-the-biggest-problem-facing-judaism/2012/12/17/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: