Seeing the Glass Full in Life – a Torah Concept

Everything is in the Torah

In Pirkei Avot (5:22) – one of the Tractates of the Talmud – it says:

Ben Bag Bag says: Delve in it [the Torah] & delve in it & learn it for everything is in it…

When G-d gave us the Torah – he gave two Torahs – the Written Law – the Five Books of Moses & the Oral Law – Now known as the Talmud – that explains the written Torah.

I was discussing last week’s parasha – Noach – on 7 couples of clean animals & 2 unclean animals that were to enter Noah’s ark. What are clean animals? What is an unclean animal?

Later in the Torah – the Torah says – the clean animals are the Kosher animals – those that chew their cud & have split hooves – like the cow, sheep, and goat. The unclean animals are the ones that are non-Kosher. The From here we learn that Noah knew the Torah before it was given – for he knew how to distinguish between Kosher and non-Kosher animals. The Talmud further explains – what is Kosher.

In the Talmud – Ben Zoma says (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

…Who is the rich person? The one who is content with his lot as it says: “When you eat the effort of handiwork – happy are you & it is good for you” (Tehillim / Psalms 128:2) “happy” — in this world; that “and it will be good for you” – in the next world…

It is not what you have. It is how you see what you have. One can have all the luxuries & want more & be dissatisfied. One can have happy with the little he or she has.

When we internalize that all is a gift from Hash-m / G-d, we live a life of appreciation. We turn our dissatisfaction to satisfaction.

It depends only upon how we look at things. Choose Happiness!

Getting a Sunny Personality – Accepting Insult with Grace

People insult.

The Giving End of Insults

We are sometimes on the giving end. I try not to insult people. I think – what do you gain? You make another person feel badly and you didn’t gain anything. Now that they are more angry at you because you insulted them – they are going to do what you want?

The concept of “Sticks and Stones may break my bones – but names will never harm me.” is not a true concept according to Torah. Words can hurt. Onaat Devarim / Pain With Words are a set of halachot / Jewish laws that Jews learn to not hurt others with words.

The Receiving End of Insults

We sometimes are on the receiving end of insults. I try not to get insulted by insults. I figure the other person had a bad day or something. Because the other person called me a donkey – did that make me into a donkey? No. It says in Torah – if someone calls you a donkey – prepare a saddle for your back. (Baba Kama 92b) Meaning – Don’t answer their insult – and acquiesce – rather than respond angrily – to their words.

The Healthy Sun

A French expression says “Sickness does not enter where the sun is.” So it is good to live in a place that has sunlight. Also – when a person has a sunny personality – he or she is less likely to become ill. People who let insults slide – do not hold grudges and feel anger or hatred. They avoid negative emotions & stress to have a negative physical effect on their bodies.

The Reward for Not Responding to Insults

The Torah says “Someone who is insulted but does not insult, One Who hears their degradation and answers not is like the Sun in it’s zenith” (Talmud: Tractate Shabbat 88b)

The atonement that does for all of his sins is greater than any other reparation he can make.

When One is Like the Sun

I was speaking with my friend Yossi. He explained to me why that kind of person is compared to the Sun. Why not say – he is like a lion?

Why is the Moon Smaller than the Sun

He answered – when Hash-m created the sun and the moon He created them the same size.

The moon complained – he said – “Hash-m there cannot be two rulers in the sky. G-d answered him – you are right. Make yourself smaller.”

When the sun was summoned to the discussion by Hash-m – Hash-m asked the sun – what does he have to say? The sun responded – with astonishment. He didn’t understand why he was summoned. He meant to say: “I don’t understand why I am summoned – It is You Hash-m who knows all. It is You who are the ruler of the world – what can I say?”

In that – the insulted who does not respond is like the sun. He accepts Hash-m’s judgement favorably, without complaint.

King David’s Reward

When Shimi ben Gera insulted David HaMelech / King David – His general said this man is rebellious against the King – let us kill him. David Hamelech replied – it is not he who insulted me – it is Hash-m who organized this.” His reward was so great – that his face was placed on the Throne of Glory.

The Best $250 I Ever Lost – Finding the Right Jewish School for Your Child

I remember “Back to School” days. I was so excited. I had fresh new notebooks, new pens and pencils in a tidy pencil case. Everything was spiffy and new. I had new clothes for the new school year. I was eager to meet my new classmates and talk with my old friends.

It was a time of innocence.

The Jew Who Started Formal Education

By the way – the person who started schooling for the general population was a Jewish sage – Joshua ben Gamla – who lived about 1900 years ago. He – the Talmud (Tractate Bava Bathra 21a) states – instituted formal Jewish education and primary schooling. Prior to this, parents taught their children informally. He instituted schools in every town and made education compulsory from the age of 6 or 7.

Consulting G-d About Your Child

Three partners are responsible for the creation of man – the father, the mother and Hashem. The man and woman provide the physical parts – and G-d provides the soul. Thus I mention that before deciding on the welfare of one’s child – they should consult all partners – meaning the Mother, the Father and Hash-m. So when a person wants to send their child to a school – they should also consult the Torah opinion – which represents the view of Hash-m – by asking a competent Orthodox Rabbi.

Difference Between Torah Day Schools and Secular School

Today’s Torah Day Schools teach Kodesh / the Holy – Torah Subjects – and Hol / the Profane – like Math, English, History, Science and the like.

Secular schools do not teach ethics, proper behavior or religion. In secular schools it may even be prohibited. Torah schools – teach Torah topics – which teaches the children to respect parents, do kindness, respect the environment, respect authority and more.

Secular schools offer free tuition. One pays tuition for children enrolled in Torah Day schools. Many offer scholarships. Even if one cannot afford the tuition – they work with parents.

Is Free Really Free?

Free is not free. The money Jewish parents save in sending children to a secular school – is lost by the lack of respect, involvement with drugs and immorality children learn in the secular schools. The secular studies in Torah day schools is of high quality – reaching or exceeding the levels of the secular schools.

Jewish Continuity and Torah Schooling

Those who enroll in a Torah day school are much more likely to adhere to the continuity of the Jewish people – by eventually marrying within the faith. A statistic from a National Jewish Population Study found that Over 95% of those that attend Torah Day schools for 12 years marry within the Jewish faith – as opposed to 30% of people who marry within the Jewish faith of Jews that never had a Jewish education.

Reward for Parents and Kids

Every word of Torah learned gives tremendous reward to the learner – so parents and kids benefit in two ways – the children become better individuals & they get rewarded for learning Torah. The parents get part of the reward because they chose to put their child in an Orthodox Torah Day school.

Better Children

Torah day schools teach – mussar – how to be a better person – but also kids learn Yearat Shamayim – fear of Heaven or of Hash-m. I heard a child develops their awe of G-d before the age of three – so it is well worthwhile to put a child in a Torah day school from a young age.

Neutrality or Partiality of Secular Schools

I heard from school faculty – that Public Schools Today are not as “Parve” / neutral as one would think. A lot of secular schools impose societies “mores & morals” on children. Many which go against Torah ideals. So today it not a neutral thing to place a child in a secular school – the schools try to indoctrinate the children with society’s values.

G-d is with You – the Importance of Yireat Shamayim – Fear of Heaven

Some will ask why is fear of Hash-m important? A person is most of the time on their own. They act the way they feel. Nothing is really stopping them from doing, saying or thinking things that are harmful to others or themselves. When one fears Hash-m – they act with more restraint – for they know G-d is always with them watching them. But it also teaches a child that they are never alone – One of their parents – Hash-m is always with them.

The Choice between Two Jewish Schools

About 20 years ago – we were trying to select a school. We had a choice between – a Traditional Torah day school and a more Modern “Jewish” Nursery School. After weighing the Pros and Cons – we decided to enroll in the Modern “Jewish” Nursery School. We paid $250 for registration fees.  We went to the orientation session. Sitting in the little children seats – the teacher was proudly explaining what they were going to teach the innocent children.

As part of the demonstration – she proudly pointed to a large Television. She said “and every day we show the kids cartoons of popular cartoon characters.” A red flag went up in my and my spouse’s mind. “What? You want children to learn Torah values – from Mickey Mouse?! What kind of Jewish education is that? Is a misrepresentation to call yourself a Jewish school and teach the children street values.”

After the orientation – we politely exited and registered in a Traditional Torah Day School – not far from our home – that was under the auspices of a well-known and respected Orthodox rabbi. We lost the $250 registration fee from the other school. If I remember correctly – the Traditional Torah Day School – waived the registration fee. We were very satisfied with the education and the Yireat Shamayim they learned there.

The Torah day school staff was kind in letting us register at such a late date. Usually – registering for a Torah day school takes place about 8-10 months before school starts. We registered last minute.

That’s the best $250 I ever lost.

Of Angels and Animals – How to Rule Over Animals.

Last week we read the first Parasha / Torah Reading of Bereshit / Genesis. Speaking of the creation of Man it says “You will rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and all living creatures.” (Bereshit / Genesis 1:28)

When G-d made man the Torah says “Let us Make man… and He created man.” It should say let ME make man. Why does it say “Let US make man.” One explanation is that he was talking with the Earth. Man is composed of a physical Body made from earth and Spiritual soul that Hash-m supplies. Thus He said to the earth let us make man.

Another Explanation why it says “Let US make man” is that G-d has 10 attributes / Sephirot (Crown, Understanding, Wisdom, Strength, Kindness, Beauty, Splendor, Victory, Foundation & Kingship). He wanted to include them all in Man.

G-d wanted to teach the world a lesson – one should consult other people – even if they may not be as great as yourself. G-d consulted with the angels before creating man – Thus he said – “Let US create man.” When Hash-m actually created man – The Torah says “And Hash-m created {singular verb form} man.”

Another explanation is that G-d created man with all kinds of “animals” in him – at times he is bold like a leopard, or quick like the eagle, (see Pirkei Avot 5:20) or lazy like a sloth. It is up to man to overcome those animal instincts inside him. Thus it says – “You shall master over … the living creatures” – the creatures – inside a person.

When we do mitzvot, learn Torah and rule over our negative inclinations – we dominate our animals and become the way that man intended us to become. We become more like an angel. But really man is greater than an angel – if he uses his time for growing spiritually through Torah. If he follows his passions he becomes more like an animal.

Animals are naturally afraid of man. But when a man follows his animal inclinations – the animal sees the man as another animal and attacks him.

Once the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh / Rabbi Haim Ben Attar – from Morocco – who wrote a commentary on the Torah – was sent into a lion’s cage by the sultan. The sultan was upset that he – a Jeweler by trade – did not make the Sultan’s Jewelry by the deadline. He took his Talit & Tephillin and Torah Sepharim / Books and sat there learning in the cage. The hungry lions were afraid to approach him.

The sultan saw this, realized that he was a Holy man and released the Ohr HaHaim – and apologized for doing so.

One of the ministers – sneered – perhaps the lions are not hungry. The sultan threw the minister in instead and the lions devoured him.

We can rule over the animals – if we rule over ourselves first.

Lamborghini Stuck in Traffic – What’s Stunting Your Growth?

Driving ahead to the left of me was a Black Lamborghini Aventador. I was stuck in slow traffic. So was he. He got about 30 yards of space so he sped up and then quickly stopped. The idea of a fast sports car is prestige and speed. Well at least he had one – prestige. Regarding speed – he was going about my speed in my old van.

Superheros in Judaism – Superpowers of the Jewish Righteous

People are the same way. G-d endowed people with tremendous abilities. We can even achieve – Super-Human abilities like we see many true instances in the Torah.

Superpowers mentioned in Torah

Some superhuman acts brought in the Torah include invisibility – like Pinhas, being averse to effects of fire – like Avraham Avinu (in the fiery furnace), transporting from one place to another in an instant (kefitzat haDerech) – like Yaakov Avinu (Jacob), walking through walls, seeing the future – like prophets, seeing what is happening in another place, transforming things from one thing to another (like Yosef HaTzadik), transforming oneself into another being, freezing a person, levitation / flying (like Pinhas), levitating objects. (Perhaps I’ll make a new post on it with further details – further on).

So why don’t we achieve? We’re slowed by traffic.

Thank G-d for Free Choice

G-d made the world for a person to choose between good and evil. We say a blessing  in the Daily Morning Blessings for this gift – “Barukh… HaNoten laSechvi Bina leHavchin ben yom uben layla.” / Blessed are You, Hash-m,… Who gives the heart of man the Ability to choose between Day (ie, good) and Night (ie, evil).”

A person can achieve great heights in good or in evil. And with both he or she can achieve the powers above. Witchcraft, sorcery, talking to the dead and black magic are all real according to Torah. But they are all forbidden – because it is using forces for evil.

Whatever can be done through evil can also be done through powers of good. G-d made it that way for a person to be able to have freedom of choice. If a person could only let’s say become rich by doing good – people would only be good – not for good itself – but to become rich.

What’s Stunting Your Growth?

I was at a Bar Mitzvah party last night. I mentioned – that at 13 a boys starts putting on Tefillin / Phylacteries – the black crown on the head and arm sign that a Jewish man wears. At the age of 13 (according to the Hebrew Year) – a Jewish boy becomes responsible to do mitzvot like a man. A girl becomes responsible at 12 for woman’s mitzvot. (Why 12? A girl matures earlier than a boy.)

Knowing our Goal in Life – Self-Improvement through Torah

After a Jewish boy is born he is circumcised. One message of Bris Milah is that a person is not born perfect – it is our job in life to perfect ourselves. Another message is that a person should direct their passions towards those permitted by Torah.

Attaching Ourselves to the One Who said “Let There Be Light”

Tephillin – allude to a crown and attachment to Hash-m. A crown to remind the wearer that he is nobility – that he is a child of the King / Hash-m – making him a prince. Recognizing his high stature and responsibility teaches the Bar Mitzvah – that he has importance in this world to make it better. This gives him self-esteem & confidence to face, overcome challenges and build the world.  Attachment to Hash-m is one of the ways we establish a connection to Him and emulate Him.

So – anything that creates a detour to our relationship with G-d will stunt our growth – excessive involvement in – politics, gossip, watching videos, TV, sports, etc.

The Difference between Permitted & Forbidden pleasures in Judaism

Exercise is good – overdoing it is not. Eating is good – overdoing it is not. Judaism – is not averse to pleasure. In fact it encourages permitted pleasure. Usually – the pleasures of Judaism – are pleasures that build a society, build a family, build an individual – spiritually, physically & materially. If you look at many of the pleasures forbidden by Torah they are pleasures that do not have purpose. They are pleasure without purpose or Pleasure for only for the sake of pleasure.

Change Yourself – to Change the World

Once a rabbi wanted to change the world. He saw he could not. He said he will change his country. He was not successful. He said perhaps his province. No luck. His city. Nope. His family – no success. He finally decided to change himself. Eventually – he changes the whole world.

A good place to start to better oneself – for Gentiles is to learn about the 7 Noahide laws from Torah. For Jews – it is to learn the Shulchan Aruch & Pirkei Avot.

 

The Value of Pain – The Spiritual View of a Jew on Alleviating Pain

Each Yeshiva / Torah Learning institution has a goal. In Hebrew it is called a Shita שִׁיטָה / frame of mind or mindset. Telz Yeshiva – in the outskirts of Cleveland – brought it’s shita to the United States from Europe. They emphasize the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah / a Torah learner.

Majesty of Man – Proper Etiquette

Walking down the street with a Telz Yeshiva Alumni – I was impressed to hear of the high standards of personal etiquette recommended of Yeshiva Bachurim / young students. “In Telz people would bring laundry to the laundry room in a briefcase rather than a laundry bag – because it is unbecoming of a young budding Torah scholar to carry a big bag of dirty clothes.” I was impressed. “A person would not drink directly from a bottle. Using a cup is more befitting.”

Bottle Woe – The Nerve Dilemma

He told me – he knew of someone – that did drink from a bottle. The Popular Pop of that time was Royal Crown Cola. The student was drinking from a bottle. Another student bumped into him unintentionally. His front teeth were broken.

He went to a dentist that mentioned he had the option to keep or remove nerves from his teeth.

Encounter with a Gadol – Great Sage

He went to speak with the Rosh HaYeshiva – Rabbi Mordechai Gifter. The Rosh HaYeshiva mentioned to him that if he had the option of keeping his teeth’s nerves – he should do so. Someone he knew in Europe had his nerves removed from his teeth. Several weeks later half of his face welled up due to an infection. He couldn’t feel the pain. The pain that he would normally have felt was not able to warn him of the spreading infection. If he caught it earlier – he would not have to have a much more serious operation now.

The Value of Pain – the Message

Pain is usually viewed as bad. No pain is good.

Pain is not necessarily bad.

Pain can be a message.  It teaches us – there is something that needs correction. The proper question – we should ask then when experience pain is “Why I am experiencing this pain?”, “What is the Cause?” – not just how can I alleviate the suffering. Alleviating the pain may deal with the symptom but not the cause of the pain.

Suffering may be from physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain or spiritual pain.

The Purpose of Pain

The reason of the pain? To prompt one to improve. The tooth story is a good example.

Are You treating the Cause or the Symptom?

One who treats a problem to alleviate the pain – may be treating the symptom – not the cause. Let’s say the person had nerves to feel the pain. Instead of taking antibiotics to treat the infection he took pain killers. He alleviated the symptom but not the cause.

The Spiritual Connection of Pain

G-d sends us pain. We try to alleviate the pain. But really we should ask “What does Hash-m want from me?” “Am I the cause of my own pain?” “How can I improve myself to not ever get this pain?”

Spirituality & Alleviating Physical Pain

Firstly – if the pain is a sign of a physical ailment – the Torah says to seek proper medical treatment from a competent, reputable Doctor. It says you shall very well guard your soul. One is not allowed to live in a Town where there is no Doctor.

There are 248 members of the body. A Jew has 613 Mitzvot / commandments from the Torah. 365 prohibitions that we avoid 365 days a year and 248 active commandments that we do with the 248 members of our body.

Each part of the body is connected to a particular Mitzvah. If one lacks in a particular Mitzvah it has an effect on that member of the body that it corresponds to.

So the second step – is to also see what spiritually one can do to rectify the spiritual aspect of one’s life to cure the physical member of the body.

Spirituality & Alleviating Emotional Pain

Hash-m made a physical nature in the world. An Apple falls. Heat rises. Plants grow. He also created a spiritual nature that corresponds to the physical world. One general spiritual rule of nature is called Midah Keneged middah. Measure for measure. One that does good gets good. One that does the opposite gets the opposite.

If someone yelled at you – check if previously you perhaps raised your voice at someone else. Do Teshuva / Repentance according to Torah and apologize when in order.

Spirituality & Alleviating Psychological Pain

When one feels down – it might be due to your soul’s feeling down. Really the mental condition of a person depends upon their spiritual soul’s state. The person is composed of a body and soul. G-d through the Soul gives the body life. If the soul is happy the person is happy. If the soul is sad – the person is sad. Doing good deeds makes a person happy. Doing bad deeds make a person sad.

The major problem of people seeking the elusive happiness and not finding it  is because they think that pursuing bodily pleasures and comforts will make them happy. At times the pursuit of pleasures makes a person even more depressed. It is not pleasure that will make one happy – the satisfaction of the soul that will.

The question one must address is “What are the pleasures that make the soul happy? And which are those that dampen it?” I found from experience – that pursuing bodily pleasure only for pleasure – may give temporary pleasure – but in its wake is sadness. If it is sanctioned by Torah – it brings happiness in it’s wake.

The Definition of Spirituality

Spirituality brings happiness. To understand a concept we must properly define it. Spirituality is having a positive, loving relationship with Hash-m / G-d. To enjoy such a relationship – we follow G-d’s Law – the Torah as a guide to develop that relationship. The Jews follow 613 commandments. The Gentiles follow 7 Noahide laws.

The Three Dimensions of Relationships

A person who relinquishes their relationship with Hash-m/ G-d relinquishes one satisfying relationship of life. A person has a relationship with himself or herself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo). They Have a relationship with people and nature (Ben Adam Le’havero). They have a relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom). A non-believer or an atheist or one who disconnects themselves from their Judaism – disconnects from a satisfying relationship that they could possibly have.

The Call of Your Father in Heaven

Pain may be a call for a person to search out a satisfying relationship with G-d – through Torah. G-d is our father. He wants a relationship with His children. Hash-m communicates with us daily. He sends us messages, gifts, kindness, blessings, abundance. Do we communicate with Him? One just has to observe their daily life and see all the blessings.

Measure for Measure from G-d

When people ignore all Hash-m’s kindness – G-d may act with them the way they act with Him – ignoring them – leaving them in the hands of nature. A woman once served her family straw for dinner. The were in wonder – what happened with her. She told them – “You never appreciated – when I served you the best of meals. So I thought for you everything is the same whether it is delicious or not. So I served  you straw – it’s much easier to prepare & you don’t appreciate the good food when I make it for you anyway. A parable to teach us to be appreciative of our blessings.

Sweet Melancholy vs. Happiness

Memories of my youth – I remember my old friends and old experiences. I remember with sweet melancholy. Some memories I remember with Joy. I try to distinguish between that feeling of melancholy and the feeling of Joy. My happiness was many a time sweet melancholy. How do I know? Because Joy is an elation – melancholy is a form of sadness.

From experience I have found that doing good, providing kindness, helping others, learning Torah are sources of happiness. Also from Experience , I found pursuing pleasures not sanctioned by Torah is a source of sadness.

The closeness to Hash-m / G-d is a good barometer that is correlated with a person’s happiness. Doing good brings you closer to Hash-m – you become closer to the source of life & happiness. Thus one is happy when they are close to Hash-m. Or more accurately – the closer one is to Hash-m – the greater is their potential and actual happiness. The farther one is from Hash-m – has the opposite effect.

Pain Prompts People to Pursue Truth

In my youth I was like any youth – I sought attention, I did my share of trouble. I pursued fun, ate non-kosher. I played sports. My world was a world of the average boy. But certain difficulties – like skin problems – prompted me to question life. My question “Why Me?” I was a decent person. Ok, I did my share of trouble – but I wasn’t so much worse than others – “or was I?”

How could I get back to being the Handsome young man – people told me I was? What could I do? I thought I could go to a skin doctor – but I thought that the pain was a message from G-d to tell me to improve. It is very hard to break a habit. It is hard to change your lifestyle. It is hard to change your attitude – but a little pain to wake you up will motivate you to pursue avenues that you otherwise you would not have considered.

My pain motivated me to improve my relationship with myself (Ben Adam Le’atzmo) by improving my outlook on life to correspond more to the Torah Hashkafa / outlook. I learned the importance of proper conduct of a Ben Torah. I improved my relationship with people (Ben Adam Le’havero) – by being more considerate of others feelings. I strengthened my relationship with G-d (Ben Adam La’Matkom) by praying to Hash-m, talking to Him, observing Mitzvot. Through Study of Torah Study, Reading Torah Stories, Learning Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers and making more of an effort to observe Mitzvot / Torah commandments – I made my self-improvement effort to become a better person.

Use Pain to Gain

Some take pain and fall into depression. Some take pain and use it as a spring board to pursue truth and follow it regardless of the changes to one’s lifestyle it entails.

Looking back and looking at the positive points I gained from following the path of pursuing truth & Torah – I am grateful to Hash-m for the hard – but beneficial message he sent me. Now I try to conduct myself in a way to not need those messages anymore.