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We are now 40 days from Rosh Hashanah…

By | Blog

We are now 40 days from Rosh Hashanah. Scary thought – just 40 days.

 

 

So we should begin to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur. What exactly are we supposed to experience, what should our thoughts be. You know that the month before Rosh Hashanah is the month of Elul which is special on the Jewish calendar – 30-day preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Forty days is also significant. Like 40 days before a child is conceived, the angel announces the fate of that child. So some kind of judgement is announced 40 days before an event. So 40 days before Rosh Hashanah the judgements that G-d is going to give us is already beginning. It may be a distant, transcendent it may still be very subtle but it is real. And so the preparation for Rosh Hashanah in a sense begins. And that’s why we are already in the habit of wishing each other “to be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year.” So if you write a letter and you sign off the letter you say “You should have a good year.” So yes, already Rosh Hashanah is starting to be real.

 

So a quick thought about Rosh Hashanah. On Rosh Hashanah G-d considers his Kingship. Being the King of the universe. Our Father, Our King – big theme on Rosh Hashanah. Royalty, sovereignty, being a King. Now in the ideal reality of Torah, a King is a devoted servant of his people. He provides, He protects He defends his country and his people. When G-d created the world, He became the King of the world. On Rosh Hashanah every year, the anniversary of creation, G-d reconsiders being King over the world.  Meaning in a sense He has no choice ‘cause if He is not the King there will be no world and He wants the world to exist so He has to be the King. He has to continue to take care of his creation. But where is the pleasure in His kingship? So G-d is thinking, “Do I enjoy being King?” and He asks us “If you coronate Me, if you ask Me to be your King for another year, it will make being your king a pleasure. If not, I guess I’ll have to do it anyway, but it won’t be pleasurable.” According to Kabballah, the purpose of Rosh Hashanah is that we should reveal the potential pleasure for G-d in being King of the world…

 

So where is the pleasure in it for Him? The answer is, if there is a relationship between us and G-d, if we are excited about that relationship, it makes it enjoyable for Him and He loves His world. He loves being King – He gets pleasure from it…

 

G-d is very proud of His creation… beautiful. But G-d is telling us “If on Rosh Hashanah you say you don’t want, you’re not coronating Me, you’re not pledging allegiance to Me for another year and this relationship goes on, then I don’t need heaven, the earth… I have no pleasure in [nature], the pleasure is in you. So if we blow shofar and we coronate G-d and we tell Him you are our Father and You are also our King, and we are not quitting on you – don’t quit on us then all of creation becomes beautiful, meaningful, but without us …

 

This is very different from the secular view [where] we are the problem, we spoil nature … but it’s us – we are the ones who give G-d pleasure in His creation…

 

It’s our job to give G-d pleasure and nachus – in being our Father and our King – that’s Rosh Hashanah. So as we get ready for Rosh Hashanah – this should be our thinking. You look at all of creation – magnificent – what a venue for our relationship to unfold, to blossom. But it’s all about the relationship otherwise as beautiful as [the venue] is, it loses its significance and its appeal. We have an awesome power – G-d gave us that power to make His creation either pleasurable for Him or tedious. So we are not afraid that the world will end – its not going to end. But we dread the thought that G-d will continue creating us, maintaining us and the whole world, the universe without pleasure; we dread that thought. We don’t want to be drudgery for Him. We want our relationship to be exciting, full of pleasure, full of meaning, full of satisfaction – like a good marriage. So Rosh Hashanah – unlike Shavuot the anniversary of us receiving the Torah – that’s when the wedding actually happens. That was the wedding. Rosh Hashanah is choosing the venue and being pleased with the venue in anticipation of the wedding. So we have to make the universe – the creation pleasurable for G-d and we do that by making it the venue for our really special relationship. It’s all one theme – Rosh Hashanah, Shavuot, coming out of Egypt – it’s all one theme. It’s the development, the growth the deepening of a special relationship.

 

It’s a little different than the fire and brimstone version – “You better get your act together ‘cause G-d is going to judge His creation.” Yes, He is going to judge His creation. He is going to check it out to see if there is any pleasure left in keeping this world going. Of course we’ll make sure that there is. That’s our job.

Dealing With Guilt And Regret

By | Uncategorized

When you make a bad choice, God doesn’t abandon you and leave you to your own fate. Even when you make a bad choice, God still has to decide what’s going to happen to you from your bad choice, and how it is going to affect other people. So even when a person makes a bad choice in some way god protects you from your own bad choices. God is still in charge of what happens.

Teshuvah is when you start to sin and stop it. God is no longer angry at you and he will not punish you for this sin, but it’s not like you never sinned. To clean it up you do all these extra things but the forgiveness was already there and that’s why Yom Kippur is not a day of forgiveness. Kippur doesn’t mean forgiveness – kippur means cleansing. You want to erase even the memory of it but you’re already forgiven when you stop sinning, which could have been before Yom Kippur.

God forgives you for violating his commandments even if you complete a sin, and the realization of this forgiveness improves your relationship with God exponentially. Kapparah is the desire to have that beautiful, heightened relationship with God because of God’s forgiveness of your sins. Forgiveness is the beginning of a whole new relationship with God – it’s not the end of a problem. 

Some people cannot forgive themselves even after God has forgiven them, which takes all of the attention away from God. The reason you did something bad in the first place is because you were just thinking about yourself. You can’t be the criminal and the judge, so forgiving yourself makes no sense because no one is asking your opinion about yourself. According to the Chasidic teachings in Tanya, you should be grateful for the discovery about yourself that you had an impulse to sin but didn’t do it. A good person is not someone who never gets into a bad mood – a good person is someone who even when they’re in a bad mood doesn’t do anything bad.

If you commit a sin and then regret the sin you committed, the person committing the sin can’t be the same person as the person who regrets the sin. Real Teshuvah means you separate yourself from the one who did the sin and become a different person who would never do that sin. When you sin you’re sinning against your better judgment, and then you regret the sin because you never wanted to do it. 

The part of you that remains innocent is what your conscience is about. We always think of guilty conscience but what is a human conscience? Even if you never did anything wrong and there’s nothing to feel guilty about, do you still have a conscience? The Torah says yes, that conscience is your sense of purpose and not necessarily your sense of guilt. We must focus on our healthy conscience instead of our guilty conscience, because that is what keeps us doing what we are supposed to. 

Knowing Yourself, Inside and Out

By | Uncategorized

For most of history, human beings who were thoughtful, responsible, and mature understood that they have free choice. You can be good or you can be bad, you can be beautiful and you can be ugly, you can be idealistic, or you can be low, greedy and selfish. We have good inclination and evil inclination, and we can either be constructive or destructive. For so long, humans lived their lives based on reward and punishment. 

Then, Chassidic Judaism came along and said that’s not really what you should be worried about and that’s not really who you are. There’s something much prettier, much more elegant, and much more worthy of life: that is that you have actually two souls.

One of the souls is Godly, which means it gets excited by Godly pleasure, Godly will, Godly wisdom, Godly emotions, and Godly behavior. With those aspects of your soul excited, you’re a complete person. Then there’s the human soul, but in the human soul it’s all human pleasure, human will, human intelligence, human emotions, and human behavior. My human part is selfish – it’s always about me. The Godly soul is all about a mission, what I am here for and what I am supposed to accomplish. 

You are a being that can choose between being human or being Godly. You should put all your energy into your Godly soul, because if you put all your energy into your human soul you will become a really decent human being without knowing what it’s all for. The only source of knowledge that can answer the question “why am I here”  why was i born is in your Godly soul. That’s because your Godly soul just wants to do whatever is the reason for its existence in this world and whatever mission the soul is supposed to accomplish by being born. You can be practical and successful as a human being, or you can be idealistic and find the truth of why you exist in the first place. Your creator has a reason for you to exist so if you fulfill that reason, you are serving God and becoming Godly yourself.

Who Needs…. Anything?

By | Uncategorized

What do we need? How badly do we need? How do we get what we need?

These are questions we all ask ourselves, all of them based on the assumption that “we need.”

It seems the younger generation doesn’t understand this. A grandfather tells his grandson to get up for prayers, “you need to get up!” But the same thing keeps happening: the grandson simply says “no i don’t!”

The grandson is correct.

What young people understand is that we don’t “need” anything. How could we? We didn’t even need to be born! We are born against our will, and now we “need” to do things?? God puts us on earth without our consent, and now we “need” to follow his laws? Why? We didn’t ask to be born.

We didn’t ask to be born, but God needs us on this earth. He is the one who “needs,” not us.

Why God Talks

By | Uncategorized

Torah is full of dialogue. God talks to Avraham, Avraham talks to god, God talks to Moses, God talks to he Jewish people, etc

Why all the talking?

Couldn’t God just let us know what we need to know in one shot?

In the desert, it was common that when a Jew asked Moses a question he didn’t know how to answer, Moses would go ahead and ask God. This happens over and over.

Surely God can find more efficient ways to get his message across. Why no writing on the wall? Why couldn’t God just put the answer in Moses’s head?

What is clear is that God does not need to talk to us. He just loves it.

When we recognize that the Torah is a love story, things start making sense, and questions fall away.

The Torah is full of dialogue, which means God loves talking to us.

Black Lives Matter? All Lives Matter?

By | Uncategorized

We have become vastly improved because of the lockdown. We have a better world today; you just don’t see it in the news. But everybody knows in their own life that things got better – we matured, we were wiser, and we’re kinder. Now all of that positive improvement is concealed behind the riots and the fear of a repeat of COVID.

Recently many people have gotten caught up in the argument between the idea the “Black lives matter” and “all lives matter”. Either way, focusing on the idea that lives “matter” reduces things so much. We need to get beyond the idea of “mattering” and strive for something more. “Lives matter” makes life negotiable – matters how much? Matters to whom?

Life is sacred. What that means in simple terms is that it doesn’t matter whether life “matters”. You’re not allowed to murder and you’re not allowed to steal – even if life doesn’t “matter” to you still can’t kill, and you can’t kill anybody. That’s morality, and that’s the core of Torah without any mention of race.

Along those lines, the whole structure of the police force needs to be rethought. The police does law enforcement, when they really should do law maintenance. You maintain the laws that people live by, instead of enforcing the laws the people don’t want. A democracy means people get together, write down their values on a charter and elect the government that’s going to maintain their values and a police force that will maintain the laws that they want to have. Instead, we’ve been putting laws on people who didn’t ask for it.  For example, we all believe that speeding on the road is bad, but sometimes we get distracted and do it anyway. The police aren’t there to force you to do what they believe is right, they are there to remind you of your own values! In case you should forget that you don’t believe in speeding, we have traffic patrol.

When we have cooperation, good things can happen. But if we don’t have personal values then you can’t have a police force because that’s just a declaration of war. We need an awakening. We need to simply find the failure of our lifestyle staring us in the eyes. The good news is that the way we’ve been living is such a colossal failure, and we don’t need any more motivation than that to change.

Does Judaism Have A Future?

By | Uncategorized

In the past, the future had a very definite cast. Everybody knew that the future was secularism. Religion was no longer relevant. After the Holocaust it was all over – the Jews who came from Europe with all the traditions were going to be the last generation. America was not a place for religion, and every year there would be more secularism and less religion. 

However, the Rebbe said that in freedom we can be better Jews. Freedom allows us to serve God with a whole heart and with no fear with pride. It allows us to share it with others, something we could not do in Europe for at least 2,000 years. The Rebbe says here in America if you teach people they can do everything because of their freedom. There are no restrictions here so Judaism will be better here, stronger, more enthusiastic than it was back in the old country.

The Rebbe was very optimistic about the nature of American youth. The uncomplicated, honest straightforward innocent commitment that an American is capable of would bring fresh enthusiasm to the mitzvahs that we’re supposed to be observing and have been observing for three thousand three hundred years. Now it was going to be with more joy, totally voluntary, out of commitment, out of pleasure. What a beautiful picture compared to what was going on in Europe.

Now the future is young couples raising their children with the awareness that Judaism is alive and well, God is lovable, and God should be served wholeheartedly enthusiastically not only to maintain a sane society but to fulfill the bigger purpose for which we exist. 

 

The message of Judaism has always been that God took us to Mount Sinai and gave us a Torah in which he describes the many many ways in which we can serve Him. He’s telling us what he needs from his creation, his wish list. Since receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, that’s what we’ve been doing but recently we’ve lost our focus. 

A mitzvah is something you don’t need – you’re doing it for someone else and that’s why charity is the ultimate mitzvah. The future is not only more mitzvahs, it’s mitzvahs done right. You don’t have to be observant, you don’t have to keep Shabbos, you don’t have to give charity – you don’t need anything. You’re a guest. But the Creator has a vast eternal plan and He’s depending on you to do it. 

The future is human beings with no needs. It means that we’re going to stop being needy, we’re going to stop being dependent, we’re going to stop being miserable. We won’t have to scheme, we won’t have to compete, we won’t have to be jealous. We will be comfortable in being the creation, not trying to be a creator – and then we will serve the Creator with absolute joy.

We are here because we are needed, not needy.  That is a divine truth. Therefore we can serve God with joy. Not only are we not burdened with needs, we’re actually fulfilling a vast eternal plan for the creator of the world.

If we are all here to serve the vast eternal plan that God envisioned when he created the world then we are indispensable to each other. I can’t fix the world unless you’re doing it with me because you have your piece of the world. God needs you for the same reason he needs me. That’s why we have to have one God – “One God” meaning one plan and one purpose for which we all exist.

We are not here to take care of our own needs. We are here to serve the creator, and every passing day makes that truth more compelling, more convincing, and more obvious. Anything we can do to further this cause and get more people to ask what they are needed for instead of what they need will make the world a better place.

 

This Scares Me

By | Uncategorized

There is a health hazard out there that isn’t getting enough attention. Loneliness. Or, rather, “aloneness.”

Aloneness is tragic.

The only true remedy for aloneness is marriage.

But today we are seeing something very scary: men and women, who are married, still feel alone in the world.

This is horrific, if marriage doesn’t fix that feeling, nothing can.

This is happening because we are forgetting how to connect with each other. We get too distracted by each other’s attributes, we fall in love with things about each other, but forget the person themselves.

The solution is intimacy. True intimacy means removing all distractions and external characteristics until there is nothing left but the husband and wife, together, and when that happens they can dissolve into each other and become one. And then, neither will ever feel alone, forever.

 

Keep Climbing

By | Uncategorized

Sometimes things don’t feel right. Anxiety creeps in and we wish for a simpler time, a more balanced time, a more stable time.

In order to go higher up on a ladder, we can’t stay comfortable. We need to lift up one leg, and for a moment, stand on one foot until the other foot settles on the next rung. Standing on one foot is unstable, hard to balance, and is not comfortable, but that’s what we must do if we want to get moving.
When, in life, we feel like we are standing on one foot, our balance is off, things are unstable, and we feel anxious, we need to remember that that is how we move higher. We need to remember not to try to come down the ladder to where we remember we were comfortable, but to keep going up. Keep climbing.

Who Needs Religion?

By | Uncategorized

A boy from a Chabad school stops a stranger on the streets of Manhattan,

“Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?” the boy asks.

“Yes.”

“Would you like to put on Tefillin?”

“Oh,” says the man “I’m really not religious…”

“It’ll only take a minute” the boy says.

“I understand,” says the man “but I’m not religious!”

“Did you know that putting on Tefillin helps people everywhere?” says the boy

“Okay. But I’m not religious!” the man says.

The boy starts rolling up the man’s sleeve. “Say Baruch, Atah…”

The man starts repeating the blessing. “Baruch, Atah, but I’m not religious!”

This story has happened a thousand times and still does all the time.

Clearly they are not communicating. The source of the misunderstanding is that the man thinks that tefillin is a religious thing, therefore it is for Religious people.

The boy was raised with the rebbe’s teachings, that Tefilin is for the Jew. That “religion” has nothing to do with it.

The Rebbe taught that every Jew is a part of God, who wants to be connected to God.

And the fact that this story keeps happening, and ending with the Jewish man putting on the Tefilin and loving it, proves him right. Who needs religion anyway?