Spiritual Block? Try This

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Over 20 years ago, I was learning with a rabbi. He told the following story. A woman who apparently was following his lectures asked him – “I want to become more spiritual. I want to follow Judaism and Torah – but I just can’t get myself to do it. I don’t understand the Mitzvot – even if you explain them.”

The Rabbi replied “Try eating Kosher food for a month and you might better understand the Mitzvot.”

She had to go through a detox period. Just like one has to detox for overcoming alcohol addiction – they do also for spiritual growth. Part of the process is start eating Kosher, guarding the eyes, removing oneself from impure thoughts and acts. Then a person can become a better receptacle for spiritual growth through Torah.

I didn’t quite understand the connection between understanding Mitzvot and Eating Kosher. Recently I came upon a Sefer / Book By Rabbi Matityahu Glazer – On Repentance and Hebrew Letters called THE PREREQUISITES FOR REPENTANCE
REPENTANCE IN WORDS AND LETTERS.

Hebrew letters have significance – in that the Hebrew word defines their essence of the object. The word for “sin” in Hebrew is Het / Sin / חטא – Het, Tet, Alef.

REPENTANCE IN WORDS AND LETTERS
THE NEGATIVE EFFECT OF SIN
…This comes to teach us that the destructive power of the סתן (Satan) creates a “screen” ( מסך ) which separates and “locks out” (נעל) the Divine light.
מ precedes נ
ס precedes ע
ך precedes ל

 

The numerical value of the words פגם [imperfection – (in matters of holiness – especially promiscuity)] and מגף (plague) is 123 (80 + 3 + 40), which is the same as נגע (nega, plague: 50 + 3 + 70) and teaches us about the common source of these words, which is בלע (bela, corruption: 2 + 30 + 70).

 

מגף (magaf) is related to מגפה (magaifa, plague),the letter ג and פ combining to form the word גוף (goof, body) and showing that he comes as a result of overindulgence in the material world.

 

The word אלף (alef. instruction or learning the same as the name of the letter א) refers to an אולפן תורה (oolpan Torah, “study of Torah”), the acquisition of Divine wisdom, as is written in the book of Job (13:33): אאלפך חכמה (a’alfecha chochma ; “I will
teach you wisdom”). Through אולפן תורה , the study of Torah, a person merits the revelation of the Divine light of א, for the light of the Torah has the ability to penetrate the barriers created by sin. From here one learns that the repentant should involve
himself in אולפן תורה as much as possible. Rabbeinu Yona in “The Foundation of Repentance” (“Yesod Hat’shoova” found in Gates of Repentance)
teaches that for one who is accustomed to learn one page of Torah, a proper repentance should include learning two pages of Torah.

 

The opening of the letter ח (chet ) is directed downwards, which symbolizes the sinner whose tendencies and desires are also directed “downwards,” that is, to his materialistic and baser nature. Opposed to this is the letter ה (hai )-of the same shape but with an opening at the top, hinting to higher spiritual aspirations. Therefore, if a person
blocks his spiritual striving and closes the upper opening of the ה, it becomes a ח (chet , sin).

 

The difference can be clearly seen in the words חמץ (chametz ) and מצה (matza ). חמץ, the leavened food forbidden to eat or even possess during the Pesach festival, is a symbol of the Evil Inclination (it “fills” with a void and emptiness-like the yeast that
puffs up dough, makes it rise and expand but essentially adds nothing). The word מצה (matza, unleavened bread), on the other hand, is the symbol of the Good Inclination. The only difference in the letters of these two words is the “window of repentance”- the slight opening at the top of the ה.

 

ונטמתם בם

“That you should be defiled thereby,” referring mainly to forbidden food that defiles the
soul of man. One of the most impure foods is the חזיר (chazeer , pig), equal to 225 (8 + 7 + 10 +200) as is the word op (kleepa , shell; 100 + 30 + 10 + 80 + 5).

 

טמא Impurity is the Blockage of the Spiritual. טמא (tameh , impure) has the same letters as אטם (otem obstruction). Impurity causes a general breakdown of the spiritual structure of a person. Just as an אטם in the body is a barrier that prevents the
flow of blood to the heart, so too does impurity ( טומאה, tooma ) prevent spiritual abundance and existence from reaching the heart and brain of a person. The evil impurity caused by an עברה (aveira transgression) can be clearly seen in its letters רע בה (ra-ba, “evil in it”). This is what our Sages mean when they say (Yoma 39a): עברה מטמטמת לבו של אדם
– “Sin dulls the heart of man.” Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler (Michtav M’Eliyahu ) writes: “The sin itself is the dullness-the desire for and cleaving to the sin does not allow a person to find something to oppose it.”

The Power of Humility as a Prerequisite for Overcoming One’s Sins.

 

חטא  (chet, an unintentional sin) involves a lack of thought at the time of the transgression. When one’s mind-the אלף ( א , alef )-is “plastered over” (טח tach ), the result is sin, חטא. Intentional sins (עוונות) comprise -עוות – נ (avoot noon, “the distortion or corruption of the letter נ, which represents understanding). These letters also allude to the power of thought and purity (עיון, eeyoon ), which
is connected to the Fifty (נ = 50) Gates of Impurity  and Understanding,

A pleasant eye”) עין נוה is ( ענוה )The source of humility”

 

The Chida says that the power of humility is so great that it can mend one’s sins; the letters of ענוה (anava , humility) are the same as those of the word העון 190 (ha’avon, the sin). As our Sages say (Rosh Hashana 17a) כל המעביר על מדותיו מעבירין לו על כל ; “Whoever overcomes his feelings, all his sins are passed over.”

 

Repentance out of humility and love for G-d changes negative actions into positive ones. This amazing concept is unique to Torah thought: not only is a person capable of wiping the slate clean, he also has the ability to turn the negativity he has caused in the world into a positive force.

טמא – tameh is impurity. The letters also spell – Alef, Tet, and a Mem – spell Atum – which means blocked or clogged. If a person removes themselves from transgression – they will open up this blockage of the Spiritual.

The Mystery of Teenagers at Samson the Mighty Grave

Shimshon HaGibor / Samson the Mighty was a Nazir / a Nazarite. A Nazarite is not allowed to drink wine, eat grapes or consume other grape products. He was a Judge, tremendously strong and a fierce defender of the Jewish people. His physical might was from heaven. For the Rest of the story – see the Book of Judges (chapter 14-17).

Just recently someone knocked at my door to collect money. He told me his cause was to raise money for Shabbat meals for Young teenagers that come to visit Samson’s grave. He, the caretaker, was perplexed when he saw so many youth visiting there.

He asked them why they come. They told them they wanted to connect with someone who is strong and powerful. They admired his might and apparently his plight in defending the Jewish people.

After youth many seek truth. They want to find real meaning. Apparently this is a step in  their search for meaning in life. The Shabbat meals give them a taste of Judaism and give them a taste and feel of meaning.

Apparently the secular education did not satisfy their person. They did not find the satisfaction or meaning they wanted.

The Sefer Hovot HaLevavot / Book Duty of the Heart – explains that a person is composed of a body and soul. This soul is on a high spiritual plane. It is not satisfied by physical pleasures. Doing good and following Torah is what gives it satisfaction.

Their soul drew them to the mighty. But the mighty Samson recognized that his physical and spiritual strength came from the Mighty One above – from Hash-m / G-d.

Guidebook to Life – by G-d – the Torah

As a teenager – I was one of the popular crowd. I would crack jokes in class – but I was smart enough to make them sporadically to not get kicked out. Once a teacher took me out of class to explain that my behavior of cracking jokes was unacceptable – and if I continued I would be sent out of class. I listened. In my yearbook one teacher wrote something like – “one day when you become a bit more mature you will be a nice guy.” I was already a nice guy – I just liked to joke around.

In Hebrew school I would never study. I think I had a series of zeros on my tests. Then the teacher talked to me after class – saying that I was a smart kid and she knew I could do better. I heeded the words and started getting 100’s on the tests instead. I would try to figure out what my average was based upon the zeros and hundreds. I tried to fiure out how many 100’s I had to get in order to get a passing grade. I think I passed.

My drive to differ continued in college. I was the different one – everyone was preppy – I was the one wearing two watches on my wrist and multi-colored sneakers or sneakers – each a different color.

I don’t know if people got the message. I wasn’t trying do be different to get attention – I was trying to show the world – don’t just follow after society – be yourself – think and act – don’t just act after others – then think.

I guess I still have the same attitude today. I feel people should think more about things – before just blindly following the norms and mores of society.

I started becoming more Torah observant at around 15 years of age. It was a slow process. First I started keeping Kosher outside. Then I started observing Shabbat. Then I started learning Torah. I got my MBA and then I went off to Geneva, Switzerland to start a Marketing Director job. My travels – got me thinking. When I returned to the US I decided to enroll in a Yeshiva. I was about 25 when I started learning Torah seriously.

My high school friends and I became distanced due to the winds of life. It didn’t mean I liked them less – I just put my priorities on different things – like spiritual growth, Torah learning, introspection and following Torah way of life.

In my growth – I was never really tempted to follow another religion or cult. Firstly because I am Jewish – I guess it was proper for me to investigate my religion first before trying others. But another reason was – of the little that I knew I knew that the Torah was the only divine document given to man by G-d before witnesses of millions of people. G-d appeared only once to a nation in history – and that was the Jewish people at Mount Sinai – where He gave us the Torah.

Why should I seek spirituality from some guru – when G-d himself was telling me – in the Torah – what spirituality is. Spirituality is basically doing things that will make you closer to G-d. G-d already told me in the Torah – all other ways of life couldn’t beat that.

— To Be Continued —

Connecting with Children – Entering into Their World

Every year our School has a Chinuch Melave Malka / A meal after Shabbat on Education. One year the theme was “Entering Your Child’s World.” The speakers spoke about caring about what kids care about, talking their language, doing what they like to do. The twofold advantage was 1) to have a better connection with one’s child. 2) To be able to establish a positive relation together – that they will be motivated to listen rather than nagged or threatened to listen to parents requests.

We as Torah Jews already have a boon on our side. We – that send our children to Torah schools – have a commandment from the Torah of Kivud Av VaEm – the Commandment of Honoring Parents – that the Kids learn to respect parents. Kids are motivated to listen – because doing so they do a Mitzvah / Commandment. Even then – it is sometimes a challenge to get kids to listen. But if we have a positive relation with kids – it makes things easier.

I overheard a part of a Shiur / lecture of Rabbi Fischel Schachter – a Rabbi that speaks to you. He says many stories from great Torah sages – that are great lessons for us all.

He mentioned a story about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Zt”l – a former Gadol HaDor – great rabbi of the generation. When some rabbis walk, their followers surround them hoping to get a Torah question answered, or to learn how to act from him, or to ask a question about Torah Hashkafa / outlook. Once Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was walking with his son Reuven. People were asking him questions. Reuven – as a kid – was touching the bars of a fence on the sidewalk. When they reached the end of the fence – Rabbi Moshe turned to his son and said “I think you missed one of the bars – let’s go back and touch it together.”

The great rabbis know how to enter into a child’s world.