The Jugs of Oil that Yaakov Went Back For

Yaakov / Jacob took the right of the first born & blessings from Esav / Esau, his brother. Esav wanted to kill Yaakov. He went to make peace with Esav. The Night before his meeting with Esav – Esav’s Angel encountered Yaakov and wrestled with him till the morning. The Angel encountered him when Yaakov was going back over the river to get some small jugs he forgot.

By Morning time the Angel had to leave to sing praises to Hash-m. Yaakov – told him to bless him and also asked his name. The Angel told him he would no longer be called Yaakov – but Yisrael – for he wrestled with the Divine and won. When asked about his name he responded “Why do you ask my name?”

The Angel was the Evil Inclination – the Satan. Why did he come to attack Yaakov at this time? He had many other opportunities to attack.

Yaakov was going back to retrieve the small jugs of oil. It represented the spark in each and every Jew that cannot be tainted. Some say that the Jug of oil was the actual Jug of oil that was used for the miracle of Hanukah. The angel wanted Yaakov to give up hope on this spark of holiness. Yaakov struggled for all the sparks of holiness – even in a Jew that is very far from Judaism. He still had hope.

When the Romans conquered the Jews and wanted to ransack the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – they were afraid to enter. They sent in a Jewish Informant against the Jewish people. They told him – anything he found he could take. He went in and took the Menorah. They said that is a prize of war that they wanted to keep to show their victory. They told him to take something else. He refused – he said I angered my G-d once – I don’t want to anger Him again. They threatened him with death. He died as a Martyr not to anger Hash-m.

How is this? Several minutes before he was willing to ransack the Temple – in one moment he changed to become a Very Righteous Jew – who gave his life for the Sanctification of Hash-m’s name? The answer – the holiness of the Temple inspired him and removed all of the coverings of impurity that covered that Holy spark within him.

Every Jew has a holy spark within him or her. They just have to uncover it. A Jew should never give up on spirituality – a connection with Hash-m. They are closer than they think.

 

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.

Keep Calm & Move On – Stopping the Self Pity

A family member mentioned to me that someone I know is now ready to get married. He told me the reason why they weren’t ready until now was – they were in a relationship that went bad and it took them 10 years to get over it.

I feel badly for them. That precious time does not return.

OK. The relationship ends – take a week to recuperate. Some days off. 10 years? A bit much. A person should know that the clock is ticking.

What can we learn? We get involved with certain attitudes. This attitude stops us from progressing. I’ll push off making cold calls. I am reticent of following Torah – what will my friends say? I am too depressed to find a new job. Come on – let’s get over it and just do it.

The evil inclination does not just make a person sin – afterward it makes a person feel sad and depressed. So not only will he make a person do a Torah prohibition – but after that it will make a person sad and depressed to prevent the person from doing positive Torah commandments.

If we don’t feel happy – make the motions to be happy and happiness will eventually come. If we are stuck – make the motions – and we’ll get out of the rut and move forward.

“The American Dream” – Will it Really Make You Happy? or Two Things that Really Make You Happy

Does American Dream Bring Happiness?

We were discussing “The American Dream” – Buy a House, a Car and Live there with Family – at the Shabbat Table. Sounds attractive. It’s good to have a house. It’s good to have a car. It’s good to have a family. Will they make you happy?

What You Do with What You Have Makes You Happy

Perhaps. But we mentioned previously that it is not necessarily what you have that makes you happy – it is what you do with what you have that gives you satisfaction. If someone does acts of kindness with their car – carpool, drives kids to pick apples or peaches, drives an old woman to do shopping – the kindness makes you happy – not owning the car or the house.

The Secret to True Happiness / Your Soul is the Source of Your Satisfaction

Why? Because we are in essence a soul that seeks a relationship with the creator – Hash-m. The soul wants to do the will of G-d. When we do – we become closer to him – that gives our soul satisfaction.

Simple.

Dwelling in Israel Makes You Happy

In Last week’s Parasha / Weekly Torah Reading – Ki Tavo it says “VeHaya Ki Tavo El Haaretz”. “Behold when you come to the Land.” In Hebrew grammar there is a Vav HaHipuch. The letter Vav in front of a word – usually means “and”. Sometimes the Vav changes the past to the future. Haya – means “it was” (past) – VeHaya means “it will be” (future). The word Vehaya starting a verse – usually refers to happiness. Why Because we want the past to be in the future – that’s when one is happy. When will someone be Happy – ki tavo el haaretz / when you go to the land – Israel. When a person settles in the land of Israel – they attain a higher level of happiness.

The Soul’s Connection to Israel – Connecting to Happiness

Why? One reason is Apparently because souls come through Israel before entering the body. So when a person goes to Israel – the soul feels a connection to its place of origin. Also Israel is a holy place – the soul feels comfortable in a place of holiness. There are other reasons as well.

Torah Study Makes You Happy

Further in the Parasha it says : “And you will rejoice with all the Good that G-d gave you …” Some Commentators – like the Baal Haturim explains that the word HaTov / the good refers to Torah. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh – says that if a person would know the satisfaction of learning Torah –  he would become astounded to the sweetness it brings. Torah Study makes you happy. We can understand the reason being similar to the reason above. Torah gives the soul spiritual satisfaction and a closer connection to Hash-m.

Why Judaism Treats Women Differently than Men?

I was walking down the street looking for a man to complete the minyan (quorum of 10 Jewish men) needed to recite certain parts of prayer – like Kaddish / the Mourners prayer for the elevation of a soul that departed. I see a man – he’s Jewish. I ask him reluctantly – “Hi sir – can you help us to complete a minyan? Our synagogue is just down the street.” I might have added – someone needs to say Kaddish.

Gathering a Minyan

The woman next to him – apparently his wife – gives an upset look. She says something “You Orthodox Jews differentiate between men and woman!” She was right – but I didn’t have a chance to explain why the Torah differentiates between men and woman – they both walked away with some kind of righteous indignation.

Learning Judaism

I encounter many people like that. They have righteous indignation that I try to offer them a card to help them find meaning & spirituality – by making a connection with Hash-m. Or they outright reject it – apparently they have a fear of becoming closer to G-d. Perhaps I should give them a copy of “The Bible for the Clueless but Curious – Finally, A Guide to Jewish Wisdom for Real People Nachum Braverman. I was perusing it just today. He’s also a co-author of The Death of Cupid. The author has an informal but eloquent – and meaningful righting
I mean writing. Wow I think – it’s the first time I used this strikeout function. OK.

Why People are Reluctant to Follow Judaism

So I understand people – they are reluctant to believe or have a close connection with G-d. Why? Some because they feel it will cramp their lifestyle if they believe. If they believe in G-d – Jews will no longer be able to get a Big Mac. (Hamburger & Cheese is a No no.) Gentiles will no longer be able to eat live animals. (Sorry to mention repugnant things – but some people still do this.) Big loss? I don’t know. I did it. I gave up the peperoni pizza. Nowadays – you have a kosher alternative to almost anything. The Rambam / Maimonides brings 24 reasons – which cause people to avoid Teshuva – Repentance.

The Difference Between Judaism & Other Religions

Some don’t want to believe because they are turned off by religions – that killed millions and keep killing in the name of their religions –  and they stereotype from other religions to Judaism. I hear that – so investigate the difference. The Bible for the Clueless is a good starting point.

Weighing the Losses & the Gains of Judaism.

I was in both worlds – the secular & the observant world – and I find that the benefits greatly out weigh the sacrifices. No more shopping on Shabbat – but a much better relationship with the family. No more eating Big Macs – but a much more spiritually satisfying diet – a Kosher one. They say that non-Kosher food clouds the heart of a Jew. Thus a Jew who eats non-Kosher has a harder time understanding mitzvot than a Kosher eater.

Did I get off tangent? Sorry.

Thanks for Not Making me a Woman

All Jews – men & women – say Morning Blessings daily to thank G-d / Hash-m for all the Good He supplies daily. Like the ability to see, the ability to walk, the gift of clothing, etc. The man’s blessings of the Daily Morning blessings are slightly different than a woman’s. A Woman says “Blessed are You Hash-m … that You made me according to Your Will.” Men say “Blessed are You Hash-m … that You did not make me a Woman.”

Q & A on Woman’s Blessing

You should have 2 questions – one on the woman’s blessing and one on the man’s. The one on the woman’s blessing – “Does that mean that G-d didn’t make the man according to His Will?” One Answer: G-d made a woman more complete than a man – a man has to strive to perfect himself – a woman is closer to where G-d want’s a person to be initially. Apparently, she can grow and she can fall. We all have freedom of choice.

Q & A on Man’s Blessing

The question on the man’s blessing: “Why term it that I am thankful to not be a woman? Since a woman – is closer to the connection with G-d – she has less mitzvot. Mitzvot are  to help a person reach spirituality, spiritual perfection and a closeness to G-d. A man needs a Talit, Tephillin, Lulav, and other external items to become closer to Hash-m. Thus a man has more Mitzvot to become closer to G-d. Thus the man thanks G-d that he did not make him have less Mitzvot – like a woman.

G-d didn’t first create man & woman and say – this would be an appropriate law for them. G-d first created the Torah – then based upon the Torah – he found it appropriate to make a creature called a Man and one called a Woman.

The Error of Society – Not Appreciating Differences in People

I heard in some societies & public schools – they are erasing the gender differences. They say no more boys line or girls line – there is the A line or the B line. It is prohibited in the schools to say “Boy” or “Girl”.

To do what society is doing today – to force a man and a woman to ignore their differences will in the end create confusion and psychological problems. If I can’t appreciate my strengths and weaknesses – so I become like a marshmallow – devoid of form, and purpose and uniqueness. A rabbi said “If one tries to be like someone else – he is not that person and he is not himself – he becomes a non-entity.”

The Torah on the other-hand appreciates the difference between men & and women. It tells a man how he is to talk with his wife – with kindness. It teaches how a man should appreciate his wife – with words & gifts. It teaches how a woman should speak with her husband – with respect – like all people.

Each gender is given their particular laws that suit their psychological and role in the family. These laws bring out their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Say No to the Marshmallow Movement

Say No to being a Marshmallow!

 

 

Purity Counts – the Benefits of Cleansing the Mind

We associate the color white with purity. In the Torah / 5 Books of Moses – the brother of Rivka and father of Rachel & Leah has a beautiful name – Lavan. Lavan means white in Hebrew. Although he had a beautiful name – he was wicked.

Wickedness of Lavan

We say it in the Passover Haggada – “Arami Oved Avi” – “An Aramean (Lavan) destroyed my father (Yaakov / Jacob).” Since Lavan tried to kill Yaakov – he is considered as if he actually did it. Thus we say “An Aramean destroyed my father.”  and not “An Aramean tried to kill my father.” For certain – if they attempt to do an evil act — it is considered as if they actually did it.

Misleading Purity

At times the world of marketing – leads us to believe that certain things are pure and certain things are right. It may be so – it may not.

What is Purity?

There is a difference between Holiness and Purity. Holiness is one who is careful to follow the laws of the Torah with precision. He is loved my man and Hash-m / G-d. A Holy person can be impure. A pure person – can be unholy.

Defining Purity

There are various kinds of purity – purity of the heart and purity of the body are two.

Purity of Heart

Purity of the heart – means a person is careful to guard their heart of hatred. They guard their eyes from seeing the prohibited – improper images – like those of idolatry, the face of wicked people, immodest people and images. They guard their mouths from speaking evil – they speak no evil about others – even if it is true (see laws of Lashon HaRa), they do not flatter, they have clean language. From their mouth emanates truth and kindness. They guard their ears from hearing bad about others. They keep their hearts far from grudges, animosity and controversy. They keep their mind pure as well.

Purity of the Body

A person’s body can become impure several ways. A person who touches an unclean animal – like a lizard, rodent or insect can become impure. A person who touches a dead body or who is in a building with a dead body or in a cemetery also contracts impurity. A menstruating woman or a man that has a seminal issue also contracts impurity. A person’s hands become impure when they sleep – thus we do netilat yadayim / washing of the hands in the morning.

To achieve purity of the heart one reads, learns and applies sefarim / Jewish books on Mussar / Jewish Ethics.

To achieve purity of the body one may immerse in a natural body of water, like a river, ocean, or mikve.

At times a person feels cloudy of mind. They feel depression. They may feel anger. Certain things that bring upon themselves impurity cause depression, anger and being unsettled.

The solution? Purify yourself.

 

 

Is “the L-rd” the L-rd?

Joe ate the sandwich.

A Simple sentence.

The editor edits it – “The person ate the sandwich”

Who ate the Sandwich?

OK. What’s the difference?

Before the sentence is edited – we know who ate the sandwich. After it is edited – we do not know who ate the sandwich.

The Proper Translation of the Five Books of Moses

I don’t know if “editors” or “translators” changed the proper noun of “Hash-m” to the common noun of “the L-rd” on purpose – to mislead people or to refrain from mentioning the true name of G-d because it is forbidden – but that’s what they did to The Torah / the Five Books of Moses. In many translations or editions of the Five Books of Moses / Humash it says “And the L-rd spoke to Moses Saying.”

That is not an accurate translation – in the Hebrew it says “Vayomer ‘Hash-m’ el Moshe Lemor.” Hash-m Does not mean the L-rd. The Word Hash-m replaces the actual name of G-d. Since we are not allowed to use the name of G-d we use Hash-m.

Hash-m refers to a the Name of the Jewish G-d.

It should say “And Hash-m spoke to Moses Saying.”

What is the difference?

When it says “the L-rd” people think it is a generic name of G-d – so anyone can be misled to believe that it is the god of their choice.

But really it says “Hash-m” – the Name of the Jewish G-d.

Some more recent translations of the Humash / 5 Books of Moses accurately translate Hash-m’s name properly. One such edition is The Artscroll Stone Chumash.

Removing the Wool from the Eyes

In the entire Tanach / Torah – 5 Books of Moses, Neviim – Prophets, Ketuvim – Witings – Only Hash-m – the Jewish G-d – is mentioned as G-d of the Universe.

Believe It and Receive It

Believe it will be good and it will be good. If you believe something will be good – Hash-m / G-d will make it good.

Once Hillel Heard yelling from a house in the street. He said to a fellow “I know this is screaming not from my house.” He knew because he taught his household not to scream. But another proposed answer is that Hillel knew everything would be good – so he knew the yelling was not coming from his home.

Hash-m watches people as would a parent. Once I saw a Jewish person filling his tires with air at a Gas Station. I gave Him a card that says “Ein O’d Mile’vado” / There is Only Hash-m. He was astounded. He told me “Thank You. That is my motto in life. Don’t Just give out the card – Live it!”

The way that one wants to go – Hash-m brings him. Live your life a certain way – they will help you in heaven to go in that path. A thief that prays to be successful in his theft will be helped. Though, obviously he will be punished for the theft.

Thus – a person might be led in a path – because he wants to be lead that way. Thus a proper prayer is to ask Hash-m to guide him in the path of Truth. And search for Truth.

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.

Joshua be Nimble – How to Revamp & Relocate Quickly in Changing Times

It was a Motzi Shabbat / After Shabbat. Yehoshua (Joshua’s Hebrew name) comes in to the synagogue after the Avot Ubanim program (where fathers learn Torah together with their sons). He announces He is moving to Florida in 3 days. We were astounded by this quick decision. He had a great opportunity and decided to take it up.

In New York He had financial success, a nice house, his children were in a Torah Day School. He was appreciated in the community. He loved his Rabbi & Synagogue. He had learning sessions / a chevruta in a local Yeshiva with a friend. But he thought – this is a great opportunity. Some encouraged him – and wished him well. Others told him to take time to think about it.

He planned it out – He found a place in Florida. He found an Orthodox synagogue in his new neighborhood. He found a Torah Day school for his children. He found a little community in his new neighborhood. He would take care of selling his former house by an agent.

In several days he made a major life move.

What can we learn?

People are at times stuck. They are stuck with their attitude. They are stuck in a dead end job or relationship. They are stuck in their neighborhood – not because it is best for them – but out of habit. People are averse to change.

Many people left New York recently – I heard over 300,000. I guess the gains of living in NY were outweighed by the benefits of living elsewhere.

Adopting a New Attitude

Today’s times are quickly changing. We can learn from Joshua to move when a good opportunity arises. Or when a new attitude arises. The Torah has many great ways of living a more meaningful existence. A great place to start is by learning Pirkei Avot / Ehics of the Fathers. Shrugging them off we lose a great opportunity.

The Great Aliya in times of Mashiach

Also the events of these times signal and the great Rabbis say that we are in the times close to Mashiach / the Messiah. Miraculous events that will happen will be greater – than those that happened when we left Egypt. There will be a parallel also – just like the Jews of Egypt were asked to leave Egypt to go to the Promised Land – Israel – the Jews will be asked by the Messiah to relocate to Israel. I guess we should learn from Yehoshua – to be light and grab the opportunity. Those that are attached to their houses, Jobs, school, circle of friends, etc. will have to make a choice. Will they chose a golden opportunity to live a more spiritually satisfying life – or remain attached to their material property.

Be Light like the Eagle

This is what Pirkei Avot / Ehics of the Fathers (Chapter 5:20) means :

Be Bold to Do the Will of G·d

20. Yehuda ben Tema says: Be bold like the leopard & light like the nesher [king of birds] & quick like the deer & strong like the lion to do the Will of your Father in Heaven.

Let’s learn to be lighter in our improving our life. Some people were tempted to relinquish the possibility of growing spiritually in Torah and Mitzvoth – and the beautiful life it entails – for a pack of chiclets.

I heard when a certain mountain was supposed to erupt. They knew it beforehand. They warned the surrounding towns and villages to evacuate. Some residents interviewed – they would not relocate. Asked why? They replied – I was living here all my life.

Be Nimble. Be Quick. And Don’t jump over the candlestick. Jump over the attitude stick.