GOOD MORNING! What is true spirituality? My beloved friend, Rabbi Avraham Goldhar, who has a revolutionary approach to helping kids get better grades with less study time in both secular and Jewish studies (Goldhar.com), came up with the following paradigm of attributes to clarify the definition of spirituality. Put a check mark by one attribute from each pair that you think is more spiritual:
Now, if you want to try something interesting, put an "x" mark by each attribute that you associate with the Jewish people.
What is fascinating is that most people associate spirituality with emotion, kindness, solitude, nature and serenity ... and the Jewish people with intellect, justice, community, God and challenge. The reason is that we have an Eastern notion of spirituality -- an all encompassing emotional bliss connecting with the universe. The Jewish approach to spirituality is based on fulfilling a purpose, to fix the world (tikun olom)-- which requires intellect, justice, community, God and challenge.
For the Jew, intellect is to be channeled into emotion -- emotions can't rule you; you must do the right thing. Justice provides for a world of kindness. A society has to be willing to identify rights and wrongs and stand up to evil. If not, one can attempt to do kindness, but end up enabling evil. Community provides you with an understanding of who you are - a member of a people - even when you are alone, you are still part of something more. Realizing that there is a Creator and having a relationship with the Creator makes the natural much more profound. This world is a veiled reality with the Creator behind it. People can only receive serenity when they live up to their challenges; otherwise, they are tormented in their pursuit of serenity by not living up to their potential.
There was once a Jewish girl who stopped in Israel on her way to India to seek spirituality. Friends suggested that she go to Neve Yerushalayim to take a class and give Judaism one last shot before seeking other pathways to spirituality. The one class happened to be studying the laws regarding returning a lost item -- when is an item considered lost, what if the person gave up hope of its return, what constitutes a legitimate identifying mark to claim the item, to what extent and cost of time and money are you obligated for returning the item... The girl was furious! This is NOT spirituality. She left in a huff and headed off to India.
Six months later she and her guru were discussing a philosophical matter while walking through the village. They came upon a wallet filled with rupees. The guru picked it up, put it in his pocket and continued on with his point. The girl interrupted him and asked, "Aren't you going to see if there is identification in the wallet to return it?" The guru replied, "No. It was his karma that he lost it; it's my karma that I found it. It's mine." The girl implored, "But, he might have a large family and that might be his monthly earnings ... they could starve if you don't return it!" The guru responded, "That is their karma."
The young lady then remembered the class she took in Jerusalem -- and realized that spirituality without justice, kindness and concern for others is just a false spiritual high, corrupt emotion. She returned to Jerusalem and ultimately returned to her Torah heritage.
The Torah gives us great insight on spirituality. The Almighty appears to Avraham on the third day following his Bris Mila (circumcision of the covenant). In the middle of their conversation, Avraham saw three men approaching and wishes to offer hospitality. He says to the Almighty, "My Lord, if I have found favor in Your eyes, do not go away from Your servant" (Genesis 18:3). Avraham is asking the Almighty to "wait on hold" while he goes to take care of three mortals? How can this be? What can be greater spirituality than talking with God?
The answer is given in the Talmud (Shevuos 35b, Shabbos 127a), "Hospitality to travelers is greater than receiving the Divine Presence" -- better to be like God than to talk with God! Better to take responsibility for the world and its inhabitants, than to commune with God. That is true spirituality ... to be God-like -- and that is why one needs intellect, justice, community, God and challenge if one truly wants genuine spirituality!
Torah Portion of the Week
Vayetze, Genesis 28:10 - 32:3
This week we have the trials and tribulations of Jacob (Ya'akov) living with and working for his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob agreed to work as a shepherd 7 years for Rachel only to have Laban switch daughters on him at the marriage ceremony. This is why we have the badekin ('covering' ceremony) where the groom sees the face of his bride to ensure he is marrying the right woman before he covers her with the veil.
As Jacob tries to build his equity, Laban changes their agreement time after time. After 20 years, the Almighty tells Jacob the time has come to return to the land of Canaan. Jacob and his household secretly leave only to be pursued by Laban who has claims to put forth. The story ends with peace and blessings between Jacob and Laban.
* * *
based on Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely, God is present in this place and I did not know!" (Gen. 28:16).
What was the source of Jacob's surprise? Jacob realized that he can relate to God even during sleep.
The Talmud (Berachos 63a) says that there is a brief passage upon which the entire body of Torah is dependent: "In all your ways know God" (Proverbs 3:6). Rambam and countless other commentaries refer to this statement, saying that one should serve God not only with the actual performance of mitzvos, but with all of one's daily activities.
A person should eat and sleep with the intent that food and rest are essential to have a healthy body, which enables one to do the mitzvos properly. Someone who is weak and exhausted cannot concentrate on Torah study or do mitzvos properly.
One engages in work and business to provide the needs for one's family, and to acquire the means to do the mitzvos. Money is necessary to give tzedakah, to purchase tefillin and tzitzis, to build a succah, to pay for an esrog and for matzoh, to pay tuition and fulfill all of the mitzvos. If one partakes of world goods for the purpose of being able to serve God properly, then all of one's actions become part and parcel of Torah and mitzvos.
CANDLE LIGHTING - November 8
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning,
but anyone can start today and make a new ending
-- Maria Robinson
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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