Are Your Ethics Stunting You – Get a Set of New Ones

A person lives a short term in this world.

THE Obligations to Achieve

In this small space of allotted time – one is to learn, observe the commandments partaining to them, learn torah, get a job, get married, have children, determine your purpose in life and accomplish your mission. Not necessarily in that order.

Where Your Ethics Stop Your Growth

People get stuck or stunted by the advertising of ethics of the world.

What Drives Your Ethics?

I am a vegetarian. I have to be slim. I have to eat healthy. I have to accept all people. All people are equal. I have to help the downtrodden people.

Behind all these ideas are a set of values. I am a vegetarian because I love animals. (Did I mention I have a parakeet.) I am into fasting because I want to be slim. I am into BDS because we have to protect the world from Israel. (Not me – but someone might think that way)

Ethics Cannot Be Determined by Feelings but may be investigated by What You Feel

Perhaps the above thoughts are right. Perhaps they are wrong. Who says feelings are necessarily – the proper way to determine ethics. I might feel one way about a matter and someone else might feel another way. So feelings cannot be the way to determine proper ethics.

Abraham determined what what right and wrong based upon his thoughts and feelings – His Kelayot / Liver taught him what was  right and wrong.

נאמר בקורבנות בספר ויקרא: לְעֻמַּת “הֶעָצֶה” יְסִירֶנָּה (ויקרא ג ט) לשון עצה, ובחז”ל נאמר מפורש שהכליות יועצות “לב מבין, כליות יועצות” (ברכות סא)

חז”ל אומרים על אברהם אבינו ע”ה: אב [תרח] לא למדו [לאברהם], ורב לא היה לו, ומהיכן למד את התורה? אלא זימן לו הקדוש ברוך הוא שתי כליותיו כמין שני רבנים והיו נובעות ומלמדות אותו תורה וחכמה, זהו שכתוב: אֲבָרֵךְ–אֶת-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר יְעָצָנִי; אַף-לֵילוֹת, יִסְּרוּנִי כִלְיוֹתָי. (תהלים טז ז) (מדרש רבה בראשית פ סא פס’ א)

Ethics, according to Torah, are not man-made – they are G-d made. The Torah tells you what is ethical – because it is G-d given. That is why a person can generally feel what is right or wrong.

Do Your ethics determine your feelings or your feelings determine your ethics?

The problem starts when a person has a strong feeling – their feelings try to convince them that what they are doing is right. People who support BDS – first they have a feeling of Hatred for Israel or Jews – then they convince themselves it is ethical to support BDS. (I Don’t think G-d wants a person to hate His Chosen People.)

A person loves animals. Their loves for animals taints their ethical viewpoint – to sometimes value an animal’s life over the life of a human.

“I love animals.” I once asked a class – if you could spend a million dollars to save an old ladies life – or that same money to save a racehorse that broke it’s leg – what would you do? One student answered – the racehorse.

The Values of Torah – the Value of Human Life

Obviously – that is not the values of the Torah. The Torah places life of a human being above animals and above most commandments.

A Jew who desecrates the Shabbat is liable for a strong punishments. (A gentile is  not commanded to observe the Sabbath – on the contrary it is better that they do not observe it – it is forbidden according to Torah.) Yet if a person is in danger one is allowed to “desecrate” the laws of Shabbat to save their life.

Syncing Our values with Values of the Torah

Ok. That is our Job in life – to synchronize our values with the values of the Torah. G-d / Hash-m is non-biased. We are biased. One day we can be angry at a person – the next day we can love that person. So our ethics can be swayed.

Why Torah? Millions is Greater than One

Why Torah? Ethics & Religions are a dime a dozen. I heard over 80,000 religions exists. So why choose Orthodox Judaism’s Torah Ethics?  Because the Torah is the only Divinely given law in the world that millions of people witnessed and heard its being given – when G-d Gave the Torah to the Jews the Torah at Mt. Sinai. G-d doesn’t change His mind – so the laws are as valid today as they were when G-d gave the Torah.

Why It Makes No Sense that G-d Changed His Law and gave it to Another People

Many offshoot religions that used Judaism as source for their teachings – say two things:

1. The Jews Did not Observe the Torah – so G-d Chose another People besides the Jews

2. G-d Changed His laws to Make it easier for people to observe.

Point One is illogical. The Jews always observed the Laws of the Torah in their entirety. Either some Jews or all Jews observed. There was never a point in history when Jews did not observe the Torah.

Point Two is also illogical. G-d, at Mount Sinai, initially gave laws for Jews – the 613 Commandments and Non-Jews – the 7 Noahide laws from the Torah. The 7 Noahide laws are laws that are incumbent upon all people to observe. Those are the Laws by which a Non-Jew will be judged by after they die and go to the next world.

It makes sense to know these laws to get in sync to maximize one’s potential for reward in this world and the next. (See 10 or 7 Commandments – Which do you Observe?)

The Long Short Path

The Children of Jerusalem are known for their intelligence. Once a person traveling to Jerusalem asked a child how to get to Jerusalem. He said “Do You want to take the short-long path or the long-short path?” The man answered “I’ll take the short-long  path.” The Child told him how to go. Traveling down that road, the man encountered a thicket of thorns and thistles. He could go no  further. he returned to the junction where he met the boy, He complained “How come you sent me on this path – I was stopped in the middle by thorns and thistles? I couldn’t go futher” The boy responded “You asked me to go on the short-long path. It was a short distance to get there but in the end you had to come back making it take a long time. The long-short is longer in distance but you get there in shorter time.”

Judaism the Long-Short Path

Most religions or ethics are the short-long path. Yes you feel good following your feelings for a while. Yes you are promised heaven to do something relatively easy. Just do A and get a place in heaven. That is the Short path. But it is plagued with thorns and thistles at the end. If you discover the truth only once you get to the next world – its too late to change. You made-up who you are in this world and you remain that way.

But if you take the time to investigate Torah Judaism and see all the challenges it entails and the benefits it provides – you will find the truth in this world and have time to change into the better person you want to be according to Torah.

I’m a Vegetarian. I’m a Vegan. I’m for Animal Rights – Focusing on the Priorities

Every person has a goal, purpose and potential to achieve. It’s true that there are many worthy causes out there. Obviously, one should focus on one main goal – before getting involved in a side goal.

It is good to support animal rights – for the purpose of the Torah Mitzvah of not causing pain to animals (Tzaar Ba’alei Haim). It is good to be a vegetarian – because it is healthy – which is also a Mitzvah (Venishmartem MeOd LeNafshotechem).

Maximizing Your Good – Focusing Your Kindness

In themselves they are good – but when dedicating oneself to a cause – one should ask two questions One – is this the best cause I can be involved with according to Torah? Two – is this my priority right now?

Let’s say a person can be saving humans lives and he is involved with saving animals lives instead – he or she is not maximizing their potential in doing good.

Let’s say a person is involved in BDS – but they could be spending their time saving animals. They are not maximizing their potential.

Let’s say a person is missionizing for another religion – but they could be involved in teaching people about the 7 Noahide laws according to Torah – they are not maximizing their potential.

In a book of R. Shalom Arusch – I think it is called “Garden of Peace for Men” he talks about a person who is learning Torah all day. He is busy teaching Torah and Learning.” Learning Torah is one of the greatest Mitzvot. But this person is not married yet. Being Married is an obligation from the Torah. Having children is another obligation. This person he says is not maximizing his potential and will be held accountable for not getting married and having children because he did not focus on one of the priorities of life and obligations of the Torah.

Focus on your obligations in the Torah. Focus on Maximizing your Good. Focus on making yourself great – to become a greater giver – and you are one step closer to achieving your potential and purpose in life.

What’s Your EQ? Your Emotional Maturity

People get stuck. If it’s for good – good. But if it’s negative – you got to get out of that negativity.

Some people are petty all their lives. They complain about that they never became who they wanted. They never got that job. They look at others and remain in complain mode all their lives.

Sad.

Breaking Potential

We all have much potential. But we waste it on – cell phones, killing time, being stuck in my way or the highway mode.

We think we know it all. More than even G-d. That was my mistake. I was thinking what G-d wants is not my problem – until I had a rude awakening. I learned the hard way. But now looking back – that awakening – painful as it was – was worth it to awaken me from my living the false dreams that occupies most of society’s mind.

Pleasant Reality

Cool water splashing in my face – I realized what reality really is – and it was a pleasant surprise.

Living a Lifetime of Childhood

I was living the life of a child. I want my new toy. Give it to me or I will be upset. Give me my popularity. Say I am cool. Let me be the Mr. Popular of the clique. I was.

My whole clique prided ourselves on being different. I took it seriously. Others took it as a fad. My friends became lawyers, accountants, finance people – but I held on to the Idea – of not following the crowd – somehow discovering myself in the process.

When you break off from following the clique – you realize that – what you thought was individuality was really following the crowd. Most of the world follows what is popular. Even in religious circles – you form a new clique.

The Way Out

Your only safeguard in life is following the truth. If you are lucky – you will realize the truth of the Torah. If you are not – you will jump from one clique to another – trying to convince yourself that your happy and having a good time or that your truth is truth. I know. I was there in that shell – until suffering broke me out of the shackles of society’s ideas.

The path was painful many days. I started learning Torah. Many years passed and I emerged from my cocoon as a new man. Not following the status quo – but trying to please my Creator. It wasn’t necessarily because I was so religiously oriented – but I thought that that would be the best path to alleviate the pain.

So now I share some of my lessons learned.

The Cookie Story

Once a man bought a pack of cookies in the airport. On the plane the passenger sitting next to him  took a cookie from the pack. The man was astounded that someone would take his cookies without permission. He didn’t want to say anything – so he took one cookie as well. The other passenger took another cookie. He took another one also. The last cookie the other person broke in half and they shared it.

After the trip – he was wondering how a person could be so bold to take his cookies. When reaching into his carry-on – he found – the cookies he bought. The person next to him was taking and sharing his own cookies.

Many things one can learn from this story – one thing is that the person that you think is taking from you may really be helping you out. An example – you give a dollar to a poor person – you think you are Mr. Generous. Really that person is helping you out more – because he helped you to receive reward for the Mitzvah that you did by giving him money.

If the same happened to you – how would you react? Would it bother you? Would you say something? Would you complain?

The way you answer is one indicator of your emotional maturity (or your level of generosity).

Let’s say it was your roommate. Let’s say the cookies were really yours. Let’s say he or she took your things on a constant basis.

Do you rank them out? Do you complain to others? Do you feel all upset? Do you mention to them in a nice way that you don’t appreciate their behavior? Do you swallow your pride and don’t mention anything – but you have a silent grudge towards them? Or do you try to find some way to find a way to justify their actions or pacify yourself?

Your reaction – is an indicator of your Emotional maturity.

I was discussing with someone – saying that the most proper reaction is the latter – to find a way to justify their actions. Why? Because all other reactions will not help you grow. You will react to your friend and thus react the same way the next time around. One will be complaining about people eating their cookies for the next 100 years of their life. They did not change. The same way you came into the world – you go out. Grumpy in – grumpy out.

Growth starts with belief in G-d. If one believes not in G-d – when push comes to shove they will usually act like tiger towards an animal that grabbed his lunch. But to grow – you know that there is a higher authority watching you. You cannot just do anything. You cannot go bonkers or overboard – because of the decorum that G-d expects of you.

The man (or woman) of growth will think – “perhaps that person cannot afford to buy their own cookies. Perhaps they don’t like to go out and buy cookies and think that you are a generous soul that doesn’t mind them serving themselves. Perhaps G-d is testing your emotional maturity. Perhaps G-d is trying to help you become more generous.

You choose your reaction. You are not forced to react a particular way. The more mature you are the more cool, calm and collected will be your reaction.

You build your maturity – when you control your emotions. Some just want to let off steam. Some gain pleasure from getting angry. Afterwards they justify themselves by saying “you made me angry.” No one makes you angry – only you yourself decides to get angry.

You choose – either the path of letting off steam or the path to growth. The path to growth will lead you to satisfaction with yourself. The path of letting off steam – you may remain a child – with your childish recations for the rest of your life.

You have before you life and good or death and bad. Choose life. Control yourself and grow. Become more mature. Don’t remain a 10 year old the rest of your life.

You control your reactions – you choose whether you will grow or stagnate.

You choose whether you will become a noble soul or a penny pincher or a tit for tatter the rest of your life.

It is much easier to grow when you believe in Hash-m and Torah. For you know that all that happens to you is for your best interest.

Got a parking ticket & you don’t have great faith – you are miserable all day.

Got a parking ticket & you do believe in Hash-m – you feel great and thankful that G-d saved you from a worse fate.

It takes work, control and belief in G-d – but you can grow to that better person. The Torah is the ultimate self-improvement guide. It teaches us to emulate G-d – what better example can we have?

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” – Learning from Heavenly Messages

It was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. July 16, 1969 at 9:32 am EDT (13:32 UTC) at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The Saturn V rocket lifts off with Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin. On July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC, Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface. His famous words before taking a step down from the Eagle’s ladder -“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

G-d sends us messages every day. Apparently that message – heard throughout the world on TV – was a message to us humans. What was G-d communicating to us?

A message that is as relevant then as it is today.

Each one of us has a specific purpose to accomplish in the world. The winds of mediocrity tell us – eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. But the attitude is a smoke-screen to mask us from achieving our potential. Like the background music that is played in stores – to keep you in a trance to keep you in the store longer – so that you don’t notice the time passing.

The message “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” is telling us to break out of mediocrity. Many times a day we have an opportunity to do a kindness for others. Many times we have an opportunity to do a small act of kindness. We think it is no big deal – but really it can greatly help another person or all mankind.

Take a person who imparts to a non-observant Jewish person the beauty of Shabbat by inviting them for a shabbat meal. That person thinks – ok so he had a meal by home – no big investment – I was going to prepare food for the family anyway. But it is possible that you changed the person’s life. Your small act of kindness was “one small step for man – but a giant leap for mankind.” Because you changed the life of that person. His life will not be the same for now you opened a door to help him or her develop a closer relationship with the creator of the world. He will now change his life because of a small act on your part.

Take a person who teaches another Jew Torah or a Gentile the 7 Noahide laws. We think “so he took five minutes to teach the other person a Torah lesson.” But in reality you may have saved that person’s life from the despondency of living a life void of spirituality and a relationship with the true creator of the universe – Hashem.

These are small examples. But the message is clear. One of our jobs in life is to do acts of kindness – that for us may be small – but make a great difference in other people’s lives.

Once a person fixed the collar of a person in a Yeshiva. He thought nothing of it. Many years later – the boy whose collar he fixed came up to him and thanked him. He said many years ago I felt lonely and was considering leaving the Yeshiva. But your act of kindness of fixing my collar made me reconsider – because I saw people did care about me. I wanted to say thank you.

Imagine the reward for one small act. All the years that the boy studied Torah in the Yeshiva will be attributed to the boy who did a small act. The reward for Torah study is unimaginable. He did a small step, but it had tremendous ramifications.

Two women used to collect charity for poor people in the neighborhood. They decided together that the one who would eventually die first would come back to the other one in a dream and tell them about judgement in heaven. After many years one woman passed away. She came to the other in a dream. She told her – “Judgement in Heaven is rigorous, but the reward is also tremendous. Remember once we waved at a wealthy woman to get her attention – to collect some charity. You cannot imagine what great reward we were given for that small act.”

A small act of kindness goes a long way.

Choose Life! Choose Your Manner of Uplifting or Downfall

G-d knows all. G-d runs the world Middah Keneged Middah. Meaning measure for measure. Do good – get good. Do bad – and get bad from the same source.

Thus –

It’s good to be good.

It’s bad to be bad.

Not only does a good person live a happier, more peaceful life but they do not cause their own downfall.

The detriment of sin worse than punishment – the loss of potential

In a philosophical discussion with my cousin, he asked “If you could do any sin – and not be held accountable – what would you do?” I thought about it a moment and answered “Probably nothing.” Why? There are several negative aspects of sin – One is one does bad to another or to society. Another is the punishment. But another is the bad done to oneself. If I were to chase after women, I would waste my life. Not establishing a family, not bringing up children with proper Torah values, not contributing to the building of society is not worth the temporary pleasure of transgression.”

In Torah it says – “A person only sins if a spirit of folly enters him.” Why? Because if one put serious thought before sin they would never sin. It would never make sense. The loss would always be more than the gain. Take a person who steals. His gain – the value of object stolen. The loss – the pain to the person he stole from. The fear that the police will take them to jail. If caught – the time spent in court, the time spent in jail. The loss of freedom.

Honesty is the best policy.

Punishment – from sin itself

The wicked Haman, in the Purim story – built a gallows that was 50 amot / 100 feet high – to hang  Mordechai, the Jew. What happened. Mordechai was saved. And Haman was hung with his 10 sons on the gallows he made.

In the same story – Esther, risked her life to talk with the king to save the Jewish people. Her life was also saved because Haman’s plans were foiled.

A person was depressed. they decided to focus on doing kindness with others. eventually, their care and efforts for others propelled them out of depression to a meaningful existence.

A man who had trouble marrying off his daughter – pledged to finance the wedding of a poor couple. The couple, grateful to the man, knew someone that was a fine candidate for his daughter. They eventually got married.

Do good and receive good.

G-d says – I have placed before you good and evil – life and death. Choose life.

Our job in this world is to Choose Life!

The Need to Knead – Rising to the Challenge or a Timeless Lesson from Abraham

img_0380The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, was written by G-d.

G-d’s words in the Torah are concise. Something that can be said in three words, will not be said using four. He is not redundant. Every word is calculated. If there is a seemingly extra word or phrase found in Torah, it must be teaching a lesson.

In this week’s Parasha / Weekly Torah reading, Parashat Va’yera, we find several instances of seemingly redundant words.

Avraham Avinu, the forefather of the Jewish nation was exemplary in doing kindness. His Tent was open on four sides to accomodate guests, so that they would find a door on any side they approached.

He had great desire to do kindness. So much so that on the third day of his circumcision, the most painful day, he was sitting outside his tent in the scorching heat searching for guests.

G-d was speaking with Avraham, when he saw three angels, disguised as men. His desire for doing kindness was so great that he excused himself from speaking to G-d to invite these men for a meal.

He asked his wife to knead the dough and prepare bread.

Two questions – why did he have to ask her to knead the dough? Sarah, his wife, knew how to make bread. Also Sarah had many servants, why should she knead the dough?

One answer is, making dough is the most rigorous part of making bread. Avraham wanted to teach her that if a Mitzvah comes in one’s hands, do the most difficult part.

Apparently, he was telling her for self perfection, through mitzvahs / commandments, doing the more challenging part will help a person to better themselves. It will help them become closer to G-d and they will get the greatest reward.

Because it is difficult it is not bad. One has to rise to the challenge. Life without challenge is existance. Life with overcoming challenges is living. Life can be difficult but still be good for the person.

Some shy away from doing mitzvot because they are challenging. challenge is part of the Mitzvah. Challenge helps us grow. as opposed to challenges from exercise and sport, which can make a person a stronger athelete, Challenges from the Torah make us a better person.

when we overcome we feel better about life and ourselves.

This is one explanation of the saying in Pirkei Avot “According to the pain is the reward.”