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Posts Tagged ‘Visit Chana’

Spiritual Security Blankets

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

This past week my youngest child turned four.

 

Though every age of a child’s development is special, to me, the age of four represents a unique transitional phase. At this stage, children leave behind their babyhood to become much more independent in actions and expressions, while still retaining their special childhood innocence.

 

Ever since she was a baby, my daughter has cherished various childhood comforts − like her plush, favorite blanket or her special pacifier.

 

But waking up on the morning of her fourth birthday, she proudly announced, “Today, I am four! I am really H-U-G-E now!” She proceeded to inform me that now she would no longer need any of her childhood securities.

 

Parents of young children know how emotionally attached they can become to these soft toys or blankets. According to studies, almost 60 percent of children have some security object and most psychologists consider them to be beneficial in children’s development. These comfort objects dispel a sense of anxiety and comfort them when they feel alone or scared. They are often used as “transitional objects” helping to provide a healthy relaxation of the bond between parent and child, encouraging the child to become more independent, adventurous and self-confident.

 

Some older children, though, have a hard time letting go of their childhood securities and treasure them well into adulthood. They don’t see these objects as transitional, but actually begin attributing essential powers to the comfort article itself. Rather than reminding them of the warmth of their home or the love of their parents, these objects become something that they rely on as a support. To them, these comfort objects are no longer a representation of security, but a crutch, making them more needy − something that they can’t fall asleep without hugging, or overcome a tense situation without tenderly embracing.

 

My daughter’s words on the morning of her fourth birthday, made me think about whether as adults perhaps we also hold on to some “spiritual security blankets.” These spiritual security blankets can sometimes be positive or empowering, but sometimes serve only as a crutch, where we neglect to see our deeds within their greater context and attribute unnecessary importance to the deed itself.

 

Take the daily ritual of prayer, for example. Prayer is meant to reinforce within us our bond to our Creator. It is meant to achieve a sense of comfort that whenever we are in need, whenever we are in pain or trouble, we can call out to our Parent, who always hears us and watches over us, with infinite love and goodness.

 

Yet, how often does prayer become a security blanket in a negative sense, where we no longer work on cultivating our connection to our Creator, but attribute significance to even words recited by rote, in a hurry, without any meaning or feeling?

 

While I’m not suggesting that the action of prayer itself has no merit, or that we should stop praying or doing any positive acts that lack the emotion. Each and every mitzvah performed, even without the proper intentions, is undoubtedly still positive and worthwhile.


But what I am suggesting is that when these rituals are done without thought or meaning, we’re losing out − we’ve got the body of the mitzvah, but without its soul and essence. Is it any surprise then that rather than finishing off our prayers with a renewed faith and assurance that G-d is watching us and doing what’s best for us, that the empty words leave us likewise feeling empty? Almost like eating a high caloric meal with little nutritious value, do the words give us a false sense of “fullness” while being spiritually non-nutritious? Have we just engaged in a holy, spiritual act, or an empty one that assuages our guilt and promotes a misplaced sense of spiritual connection?

 

Or take another very common example of our daily interactions with our loved ones, our spouses or our children. How often do we greet our children with mechanical endearing words but without really giving thought to the bonds of our relationship? We nod encouragingly to them as we automatically ask them about their day, or we give them a peck on their cheek as they run out the door in the morning, while our minds are busy with other “important” things. We might feel a comforting sense of connectedness, but do our words or actions give us a wrong sense of security − that we have fulfilled our obligations towards them, while really missing out on the deeper, essential connection?

 

Security blankets are great for children. They comfort them and make for wonderful transitional objects along a child’s path towards maturity and independence.

 

But perhaps as adults it is time to re-examine our daily actions, rituals and relationships and rediscover their intended meaning – rather than merely retaining them as a comforting security blanket.


 


Do you have a spiritual security blanket? Does it fill you with empty spiritual calories or does it empower you to reach a greater spiritual awareness?


 


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Souland Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman.She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. Visit Chana’s blog “Let’s Go For Coffee” at www.chabad.org/618216. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com. 

The Essence Of Evil

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

If you were to stare evil in the eye, what would you see? What would be its character traits? What would form its origins?

 

Of the many malevolent characters recorded in the Bible, Amalek, the grandson of Esau, stands out as the greatest villain. He is the archetypal enemy of our people. He is the father of the nation that first waged war against the Jewish people upon their miraculous emergence from their Egyptian bondage.

 

Throughout our long history, Amalek’s murderous intentions have had many anti-Semitic heirs. One of these was Haman, from the Purim miracle, who sought to annihilate every Jew from the face of civilized society.

 

Traditionally, any mortal threat to the Jewish people is referred to as an Amalekite design.


What are the origins of such a character who has proven to be the nemesis of the Jewish people and their G-dly quest throughout all time?

 

In Genesis 36:12, we are introduced to Amalek’s parents. “Timna was a concubine of Elifaz, son of Esau, and she bore Amalek to Elifaz.”

 

Some verses later, we are told more about Timna’s background. “And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam, and Lotan’s sister was Timna” (Genesis 36:22).

 

We are also given information about the status of Lotan, Timna’s brother. “These are the chiefs who came of the Horites; the chief Lotan, the chief Shobal, the child Ziboen, etc.” (Genesis 36:29).

 

Elifaz’s concubine, Timna, was no common woman. She was the product of a royal family, her brother claiming the position of one of the Canaanite chiefs.

 

The Midrash (Genesis Rabba 82:14) fills in some missing details by explaining that Timna sought to convert to Judaism. She came to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for acceptance, but they refused. She became a concubine to Elifaz instead, insisting, “It is better to be a maidservant to this nation than to be a princess in any other nation.”

 

Being from the seed of Abraham and Sara was so prestigious that such an action was not extreme.

 

Timna perceived the great respect and honor given to this clan, and she was willing to sacrifice her personal dignity in order to be attached to such a prominent and prestigious people – even if her connection would be a servile one.

 

I’ve always been puzzled by this story.

 

Timna’s actions seem so righteous, altruistic and pure. Why then would they result in a child who represents the antithesis of goodness, and who is the very paradigm of evil?


But perhaps events in modern society can shed greater light on the inner anatomy of evil.


The greatest evil in our time is undoubtedly manifested by suicide bombers (practically all of whom are part of the Islamic faith). According to data reported recently by Robin Wright in the Washington Post, these bombings are on the rise.

 

“Suicide bombers conducted 658 attacks around the world last year more than double the number in any of the past 25 years The bombings have spread to dozens of countries in five continents, killed more than 21,350 people and injured about 50,000 since 1983 The highest annual numbers have occurred in the past four years.”

 

According to William Saletan of slate.com, the logic of these bombings is that “The more people you kill, the more you demoralize the infidel because the infidel is too weak to tolerate the shedding of blood.

 

“But not you. You’re strong. You’re willing to guarantee, not just risk, the deaths of your followers to deliver the bombs. And they’re willing to die. You don’t have to tether your mechanism to a dog or mongoose and hope the dumb beast does its job. You’ve got much smarter animals at your disposal: human beings.”

 

On the surface level, the psyche of a suicide bomber seems to be a spiritual one − to get closer to the G-d that they’ve constructed. But on closer analysis, it becomes obvious that theirs is the lowest form of greed, selfishness and evil. They willingly shatter innocent lives and bring immeasurable pain and suffering, in order to reach the pinnacle of their personal, gross physical pleasures.

 

The motive behind these men and women “of faith” is their realization that our world is a temporal place where it is impossible to have ongoing infinite pleasures. These ongoing physical delights can only be attained in their world to come.

 

The manifestation of Amalek in our generation can be said to be in these suicide bombers. And the seed of their motivation is mirrored in the actions of their ancestor, Timna.


Our patriarchs and matriarchs selflessly gave of themselves to reach out to humanity and teach the beauty of monotheism and G-d’s path of truth. They eagerly taught and accepted converts into their midst. If they rejected Timna, it was out of their perception that her motives were insincere.

 

Timna was not searching for G-d, but rather for her personal aggrandization. Her motives were not selfless, but rather all about herself.

 

Had Timna truly wanted to join a nation serving G-d and following His ways, she would not have “settled” for joining the family of Esau, whose path was the antithesis of the Abrahamitic teachings. Timna desired, rather, to be part of a powerful but not necessarily G-dly or spiritual people.

 

She was willing to temporarily sacrifice her personal status, but only for what she perceived as a greater, more fulfilling eminence. Her actions were not about G-d, but entirely about herself. Our perceptive Patriarchs realized this and therefore rejected her from joining the nation of G-d.

 

In the era of Redemption, evil will be eradicated and all mankind will be rectified. Only one nation − that of Amalek − will not be a part of this vision.

 

“Their hand is on G-d’s throne, [this denotes a Divine oath], G-d shall be at war with Amalek for all generations” (Exodus 17:16).

 

Amalek is beyond repair. The evil of Amalekites punctuates their entire selves because they represent the opposite of G-dliness. Their devotion is entirely egocentric, even while dressed up as an act of devotion to G-d – and as such represents the greatest evil fathomable.

 

The greatest distortion of goodness is an act of selfish malevolence adorned in the religious garb of purity, an act of evil acted out in the noble name of G-d.

 

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers − Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics, and an editor at chabad.org. Visit Chana’s blog, Let’s Go for Coffee, at www.chabad.org/618216. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/the-essence-of-evil/2008/06/25/

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