GOOD MORNING!  Did you ever wonder what really distinguishes a human being from an animal? Every human has four deep seated needs - meaning, pleasure, understanding and self-actualization. Cows don't have these needs. Dogs and cats don't have these needs.

The renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a 'secondary rationalization' of instinctual drives... A public-opinion poll was conducted a few years ago in France. The results showed that 89 percent of the people polled admitted that man needs 'something' to live for."

According to Western ideology, there is no absolute purpose to life. God and evil, meaning and meaninglessness, are matters of personal taste. Yet with all the "freedoms" this philosophy embraces, it disposes of the one and only ingredient that gives life profound and lasting satisfaction: a transcendent purpose -- the recognition of a Creator who cares about man's actions. A Creator Who invests him with the ability to make choices that either further God's purpose or undermine it.

As vitally as he needs to breathe, eat and sleep, every human being needs to know that his existence matters. The philosophies of relativism and purposelessness, however, inevitably engender in man gnawing questions about the meaning and purpose of his life. "If nothing really matters, why am I making such an effort to be a good person? Is life just about killing time until death?"

Understandably, this creates a subconscious anxiety which many people dread uncovering. Better to convince oneself that life has no purpose at all, than to confront the tormenting realization that I have lived life in ignorance of that purpose.

Those who do confront the question often embark on a painful, protracted search for meaning. Frequently, they drift through the array of alternatives to Western values, such as Zen, Buddhism and Transcendental Meditation. The greater majority, however, accepts society's insistence that there are no answers, and tries to deaden their pain through various mediums of distraction.

Some lose themselves in the world of entertainment and illusion -- television, movies and video games. Others dedicate mind and soul to "making it" in their careers. Many, in an attempt to relieve their anxiety, adopt the belief that there is no Creator, no responsibility, no accountability and no goals. Without a viable alternative to meaninglessness, these people have no choice but to avoid contemplating life too seriously.

However, despite the best efforts of distraction and rationalization, our souls long for meaning. And until the soul receives the nourishment (read: meaning and purpose) it so vitally needs, man will never find lasting tranquility. On some level (most often subconscious), he will continue to be plagued by disharmony between what he deeply craves and what Western ideology claims life to offer.

As Torah Jews, our inner longing to lead meaningful, productive lives is nurtured and guided. The goal is our relationship with God. Our tools are the mitzvot, the commandments. The framework for success and meaning is neatly laid out for us in the intricate structure of Torah life. Best of all, we need not struggle to find the goal. We are free from the start to focus our energies and resources on achieving it.

Through Torah, the most mundane and routine activities of life are elevated to a Higher purpose. While we may never accomplish all that we should, a Torah lifestyle removes the specter of meaninglessness that haunts so many lives. The Torah provides an internal stability, gained from the knowledge that life is purposeful and valuable. We are given ongoing opportunities to accomplish things that are meaningful -- and the realization that our choices truly matter. This is tremendously empowering and reassuring.

(from the teachings of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, adapted from The Eye of the Needle by Rabbi Eric Coopersmith)

To delve more into making life meaningful, read Twerski on Spirituality, by Rabbi Abraham Twerski.

 

Torah Portion of the Week

Pinchas, Numbers 25:10 - 30:1

In last week's Torah portion, Pinchas acted to stop a public display of immorality. He thus stemmed the plague of retribution which was killing the multitudes. He is rewarded by being made a Cohen -- by Divine decree.

The Almighty commands Moshe to attack the Midianites in retribution for the licentious plot the Midianites perpetrated upon the Israelites. A new census is taken of the Jewish people revealing that there are 601,730 men available for army duty. God directs the division of the Land of Israel amongst the tribes. The Levites are tallied. The daughters of Tzelafchad come forward to petition Moshe regarding their right of inheritance. Moshe inquires of the Almighty Who answers in their favor.

Moshe asks the Almighty to appoint a successor and the Almighty directs Moshe to designate Yehoshua (Joshua). The Torah portion concludes with the various offerings -- daily, Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh and holidays.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And the Lord spoke to Moshe saying, 'Pinchas the son of Eliezer, the son of Aharon the priest, has turned away my anger from the Children of Israel in that he was jealous for my sake amongst them, so that I did not consume the Children of Israel in my jealousy.' " (Numbers 25:10-11)

Why does the Torah trace Pinchas' heritage to Aharon, his grandfather?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, the former Rosh HaYeshiva (head of the yeshiva) Mir, answers that only someone who is a true lover of the Jewish people, such as Aharon who loved peace and pursued it, can react with such zealousness. Zimri brazenly committed an immoral act with a Midianite in public. In response, Pinchas killed them both. Pinchas' reaction might appear cruel and could have conceivably have been motivated by a tendency towards violence or by a personal hatred. If one is a true Ohaiv Yisroel, a lover of Jews (as was Pinchas), however, we can be sure that he is motivated solely by his great love for the Almighty and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Chaim of Brisk once said about zealousness: "Both the owner of a house and a cat want to destroy mice. The sole difference lies in their attitudes. The owner really wants to be rid of them. The cat, however, wants to have mice to attack. The same applies to protests against misdeeds. One must sincerely not want the misdeeds. One should not just use the misdeed as an opportunity to engage in protesting.

 

Candle Lighting Times

July 26
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)

Jerusalem 7:05
Guatemala 6:15 - Hong Kong 6:49 - Honolulu 6:55
J'Burg 5:21 - London 8:40 - Los Angeles 7:41
Melbourne 5:10 - Mexico City 7:57 - Miami 7:52
New York 8:00 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:29


Quote of the Week

The meaning of life ...
is to live a meaningful life

 

 

In Loving Memory of My Brother

Robert Shadowitz
Chaim Leib ben Nissen


Mitchell Shadowitz
 
In Loving Memory of

Phillip T. Warren

Laura Weissman Tauber

 

 

With Deep Appreciation to

Brian Sherr
 
With Special Thanks to

Rabbi & Mrs. Moshe Pamensky

 

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Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Copyright © 2019 Rabbi Kalman Packouz