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GOOD MORNING! This week I wanted to write something about Spirituality. Spirituality is about connecting on an emotional basis. Our heritage teaches us that we have to lead with our head, not with our heart. Sometimes a person thinks he has a "burning heart" when in truth he really has heartburn! It is important to connect with the Almighty on an emotional basis, but one must be able to focus that connection in a positive direction. That is why the study of Torah and particularly the study of the mitzvot, the commandments, is so important.
Any time there is a mitzvah, commandment, to be performed, it is actually an opportunity to connect with the Almighty. Unfortunately, oftentimes people do mitzvot out of habit. One needs to understand the mitzvah, and then to concentrate on doing the mitzvah, to reap maximum benefits!
For example, putting up a Mezuzah. (The Shema written by a scribe on parchment which is rolled up and affixed usually in a Mezuzah case on the right hand doorpost as one enters the room. For details, see To Be a Jew by Rabbi Haim Donin available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.) One can put it up knowing nothing about the Mezuzah and perhaps the only benefit is knowing that s/he did a mitzvah. (I remember helping a visitor to Jerusalem who wanted to buy Mezuzah cases for his doors. I asked if he needed to also buy the scrolls to put inside. He replied, "Oh, No! We're not that religious!" The case is there just to protect the scroll. There is no mitzvah to put up just a case!) The more you know about anything, the more meaningful it will be!
People often make the mistake of saying "I am not religious" when they mean to say "I am not fully observant." Then again, even the most Torah committed Jew is not fully observant - we aspire to be fully observant of the Torah, but we don't always succeed.
One of my favorite books is My Father, My King: Connecting with the Creator by my good friend, prolific author (I think 19 books to date), energetic speaker, personal counselor, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). From time to time, nearly everyone talks to God, but what would be God's answer if it were in words, rather than just in actions? Reb Zelig beautifully writes awe-inspiring responses based on Torah sources. Reading this book enhances spirituality!
Based on his book, Reb Zelig has developed the following focal points to review daily to increase spirituality and enjoyment in life:
20 IDEAS TO CONNECT WITH THE ALMIGHTY
- Have a constant awareness of our Father, our King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe. As soon you think of the Creator, you immediately connect with Him. Think of Him often.
- Feel a sense of awe for the Creator by frequently contemplating the size and complexity of the universe.
- Realize that you are created in the image of the Creator and you are His child. When looking in a mirror, say to yourself, "You are a child of the Creator."
- Everything you have in life, you have because it is a gift from the Creator. Be constantly grateful. This gratitude creates love.
- The Almighty loves us more than we love ourselves. Frequently say to yourself, "The Almighty loves me even more than I love myself."
- Realize that everything that the Almighty causes to happen in your life, He causes to happen for a positive purpose. Some you will recognize, some you won't. Frequently repeat, "This, too, is for the good."
- Respect each human being because each human being is created in the Almighty's image.
- When you do an act of kindness, you are emulating the Almighty. Do so frequently.
- Every prayer you say, whether formal or in your own words, is an expression of connecting with the Creator.
- Make a blessing to thank the Creator before and after eating. This adds a spiritual dimension to the food you eat.
- Thank your Father, your King, for each and every breath. Since you are constantly breathing you are always connecting with the Creator.
- Let your trust in the Almighty's love for you give you an inner sense of serene Trust.
- Developing your character traits is considered, "Walking in the ways of the Almighty." Each positive step takes you far.
- Every life situation has been sent to you as a test and challenge from the Creator to help you grow and develop your character.
- Don't speak against or harm the Almighty's children. Thinking of this and acting accordingly connects you with the Creator.
- You are always in the present moment. Right now, connect with the Creator even if you've gotten off-track a moment ago.
- Sincere repentance out of love for the Almighty elevates you to such a degree that you can retroactively elevate the negative of the past with an absolute resolution not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
- Feel joy for the joy of the Almighty's children and have compassion for their distress.
- Realize that you are never alone. Wherever you are, the Almighty is always with you. Speak to Him in your own way and ask Him for your wants and needs.
- At all times, hear Your Father, your King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe saying to you, "I love you."
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real - check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at http://www.aish.com/seminars/whythejews/index.htm. It's spectacular!)
Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh, who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Almighty tells Moshe at the incident of the Burning Bush:
"The place upon which you are standing is holy ground."
What deeper meaning and lesson can we derive from these words?
When a person finds himself in a situation with many distractions and difficulties, he is likely to say, "When the Almighty improves my situation, then I will be able to study Torah and fulfill more mitzvot, but not right now. Now I can only think of my problems."
The Chofetz Chaim, the greatest rabbi of the last generation applies this verse to those situations. "The place upon which you are standing" -that is, the exact situation in which you find yourself - that is sacred. If your life situation is difficult, it is exactly in that difficult situation that the Almighty wants you to serve Him. The Almighty only gives people tests which they can pass and the tests are for their own personal growth and spiritual elevation. The Sages teach us "According to the difficulty is the reward," We must strive to make the most of our every situation to serve the Almighty to the best of our ability.
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 31:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:25 Hong Kong 5:32 Honolulu 5:41
J'Burg 6:45 London 3:43 Los Angeles 4:35
Melbourne 7:23 Mexico City 5:54 Miami 5:23
Moscow 3:51 New York 4:21 Singapore 6:52
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
There are no short cuts
to any place worth going.
In Loving Memory of