GOOD MORNING! I once asked Reb Noah (Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder of Aish HaTorah) for his favorite joke. He gave a little laugh and then proceeded to tell me, "There was once a man who worked the late shift. When his shift was over, he would take a shortcut home through a graveyard. One dark, moonless night he was following the path when he fell into an open grave. Unbeknownst to him, someone had dug it during the day. For an hour he tried to find a foothold or handhold to get out of the grave. Finally, he gave up, sat in the corner and decided to wait until someone came in the morning.
"A short while later another man - taking the same shortcut - plops into the grave. From his seat in the corner, the first man watches as the second man searches for a foothold or handhold to get out. Figuring he'll save the guy some time - and maybe they can get out if they work together - he gets up, walks up behind the second man. He then taps him on the shoulder from behind. Zip! Zap! The second man jumps straight out of the grave!"
After sitting there for a few moments pondering probably one of the unfunniest jokes I have ever heard, I asked Reb Noah, "Rebbie, what's so funny about that joke?"
Reb Noah smiled his warm smile, his eyes twinkled, and he replied, "Kalman, don't you understand? We are using so little of our potential. Imagine what we could accomplish if we actually used our potential! Isn't that funny? The Almighty gives us virtually unlimited potential and we don't use it."
Reb Noah was the ever-loving father always trying to find a way to help his students break through the self-imposed barriers that stop us from being all that we can be and accomplishing all that we can accomplish.
"Do you think the Almighty wants you to know all of the Torah? Do you think the Almighty wants you to reach out to every Jew?" he'd ask. Of course, the answer is "Yes!" "Then," he'd ask the zinger, "Do you think if the Almighty would help you, that you could do it?"
There are only three replies. The first is "Yes" – and in truth, it is the correct answer and we all know it. The second possibility is, "But I don't feel like it." Reb Noah would then gently remind you, "Doesn't the Almighty tell us in the Torah, 'Don't follow after the desires of your heart and your eyes?' " And if one would reply, "I can't do it," Reb Noah would ask, "Do you think that if you tried, the Almighty would help you?" And if that wasn't sufficient, he'd remind, "You know, the definition of idol worship is believing that anything other than the Almighty has the power. If you really think you can't, you're saying that the Almighty doesn't have the power to help you."
Reb Noah shared with his students the secret to greatness. Cheshbon HaNefesh – do a daily spiritual accounting. Each night before you go to bed take 5 minutes and ask yourself four questions: (1) What am I living for? (2) What did I do today towards my goal? (3) What more could I do tomorrow? (4) What is more meaningful to live for? "Even if your goal is to get a fancy car or to be rich, eventually you will come to the conclusion that your greatest pleasure is perfecting yourself and coming close to the Almighty."
In addition to the secret to greatness, Reb Noah taught the practical tools to achieve whatever you wanted to accomplish in life. Based on the 6th teaching in the 6th chapter of Pirke Avos, Ethics of our Fathers, Reb Noah created his flagship course "The 48 Ways to Wisdom." (available on aish.com and aishaudio.com) Reb Noah taught, "In order to attain pleasure, to accomplish your purpose, you have to use the tools the Almighty gave you to maximize your life. If you want to be happy with your wife, use the 48 Ways; if you want to be successful in business, use the 48 Ways; if you want to be a good student, use the 48 Ways.
"For whatever you want out of life, if you're smart you'll focus your goal and know what you're after. Keep your eye on the ball, and make sure it is the ultimate in living. The 48 Ways will get you wherever you want to go."
If one didn't know what the ultimate in living was, Reb Noah was ready to share with him "The 5 Levels of Pleasure" – a foundation class (available on aish.com, aishaudio.com; or the books: Five Levels of Pleasure: Enlightened Decision-Making for Success in Life or What the Angel Taught You via judaicaenterprises.com). Rabbi Weinberg taught that the Almighty created us for pleasure, but that there are distinct levels of pleasure.
Each pleasure has its own "currency" with which it is acquired, and its own counterfeit pleasure. Reb Noah taught "why settle for plain vanilla when you can have a banana split!" Pleasure energizes us to accomplish – from the lowest level of physical pleasure, to the pleasure of love, doing the right thing, power and creativity to the sublime transcendental pleasure of oneness with the Almighty.
In my final meeting with Reb Noah, he gave me a bracha (blessing) with the ultimate key to success, "Feel how much the Almighty loves you …and you will be filled with all the power to accomplish anything in this world!" No joke.
For more on "Pleasure" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to bring an offering of the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.
The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was a large area approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Regarding the construction of the Ark - which would eventually hold the Torah, the Tablet containing the Ten Commandments, the broken tablet of the Ten Commandments (which Moshe broke when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf), a jar of Manna - the Torah states:
"And you shall make two cherubs of gold..." (Exodus 25:18)
These went on the cover of the Ark. Why were we commanded to place upon the Ark two cherubs (small winged angels, portrayed as children with a chubby, rosy faces)?
The ark symbolized Torah study. The cherubs remind us to consider ourselves as young children when it comes to studying Torah - to study with amazement, freshness, openness, appreciation. No matter how much you know, compared to what there is still to learn, you have just begun. For this reason a Torah scholar is always called a Talmid Chochom - a student of a wise man. The greater wisdom one has, the more one realizes that he is lacking wisdom.
CANDLE LIGHTING - Febrary 27
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:52 - Hong Kong 6:08 - Honolulu 6:17
J'Burg 6:22 - London 5:18 - Los Angeles 5:29
Melbourne 7:46 - Mexico City 6:23 - Miami 6:03
New York 5:26 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:45
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Keep away from people who try
to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great
make you feel that you, too,
can become great.
-- Mark Twain
With Deep Appreciation and
Blessings for Good Health to
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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