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Monday, March 27, 2006

"It is in the hands of every individual, if he desires, to direct himself to the good path and be righteous; it is in his hands. This is what is written in the Torah, 'And he shall be as one of us, knowing good and evil.'... That is to say that the human species is unique in the world; there is no other species like him in this matter - that he himself in his knowledge and thought knows good and evil and does all that he desires; and no one can force him to do good or evil. " - Rambam.

Monday, March 06, 2006

An old Thought

I had at one time had a disccusion with my rabbi on Soloveitchik’s views on ratzon elyon (higherwill). We discussed that our real identity, the center of thespiritual personality, is expressed when we make certain decisions without consulting the intellect. When we “lead with our gut.” This is when we are truly our”selves.” Anyway, I cam across this quote from Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s book Jewish Wisdom and I think it dovetails nicely with the above:

The Hasidic rebbe Zusha (d.1800) used to say: “When I die and come before the heavenly court, if they ask me,’Zusha, why were you not as great as Abraham?’ I will not be afraid. I will say that I was not born with Abraham’s intellectual capabilities. And if they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Moses?’ I will say that I did not have Moses’ leadership abilities. But when they ask me, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that I will have no answer.”

Did ya hear the one about...

He stormed into the kitchen and walked directly up to his wife. Pointing a finger in her face, he said, "From now on, I want you to know that I am the man of this house, and my word is law! I want you to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I'm finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you are going to drawme my bath so I can relax. And when I'm finished with my bath, guess who's going to dress me and comb my hair?"

His wife replied, "The Chevra Kadisha would be my guess?!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mossaic's of Infinity

There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be,not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord. - A.J. Heschel

Not to have, but to be.

Shabbat is the process of creating a clearing that allows us to just be. In that clearing, we have the opportunity to experience moments of complete harmony -- of an almost physical connection to others and with something greater than ourselves. Within Shabbat, we have the opportunity to experience what can only be described as "extraordinary time."

We tend to think of reality as a set of tangible things, contained in a definite space. Moments of "being," however, exist outside of the normal definition of reality. At times we may question the validity of such moments. Of holy time. Are they just mental gymnastics? Do they really mean anything? If they were so great, why do we find ourselves reverting back to the mundane? Why did I find myself yelling at my kids for no good reason two hours later?

But if experienced, such moments must be "real". And the fact that moments of being cannot be measured or ojbectively observed does not make them less real. To be present to just being, can change one's whole way of looking at life, and such an expereince is as real as the lamp on my desk.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lonliness and God

The experience of loneliness processes everything in me to the service of God." - Soloveitchik
Perhaps being in a state of loneliness strips away enough of our conceptions, pre-conceptions and presuppositions about our lives and our world, that we are able to hear the still, small voice and sense God's yearning for our recognition. There are moments borne out of lonliness where one becomes acutely aware of an almost palpable urge on God's part -- where one can sense His urgency to such a degree that there are no other aspects of reality competing for one's attention. At such times, there is a communication to and from the ineffable. We bare ourselves to God and we sense an immediate urgency on God's part for me to take action. To act through teshuva, chairty, obedience, to bring myself back to Him (but at the same time not believing that I have turned away). To walk in His ways.

It does not surprise me that I have experienced such moments. Over the past few years I have had many extraordinary moments filled with an acute awareness of something divine that infuses either this world or infuses my time spent in this world. And it is not difficult for me to acknowledge that I have moments where I am present to God's "urgent request."

What I can't understand is how I can choose to ignore such a "divine request" and just walk away. To, in effect, choose to not be responsible.

Broken vessels

Recalling the midrash (Kabbalah?) where God withdrew his glory from the world into vessels, to make room for humans. And the vessels break scattering sparks of His holiness throughout the universe. Our job being to gather all the sparks by doing the mitzvahs.

My question is, what happens when we successfully gather all the sparks? Wouldn't we have the same problem that originally resulted in their being scattered? What vessels will we have that can hold all the sparks?

It is like when we stand at Sinai in the presence of God. We are not meant to stay there. We can't stay there. Maybe we can't stay in paradise either.