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Dealing With Guilt And Regret

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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

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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?

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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

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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?

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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?

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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

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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

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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?

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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?

Dating During The Pandemic

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This Corona experience has given us time to rethink our approach to dating as a mindset and lifestyle. Now that we’re a safe distance from how life used to be we can be more honest, realistic, and objective about the entire picture of dating in our lives. 

There should be no difference in the way you conduct your life today because of the isolation or distancing we are facing. If something is real, if something is true, if something is natural then it should apply under all circumstances. The fact that we’re keeping a distance has a sobering effect. 

The first notion we should examine is that somehow dating takes away the feeling of being alone in the world, that somehow that gives you a relationship. We’ve created an alternative to marriage – a semi marriage, a quasi marriage. It turns out that this semi marriage has all the problems of a real marriage and none of its benefits. It produces more anxiety than it resolves and it makes you feel lonelier than if you had nobody. We should be grateful that we cannot date- dating as an artificial lifestyle or alternative to marriage was never a good idea. 

The only thing that a man gains from a woman is the completeness of the merging of male and female which happens only in a marriage. The Torah tells us that when God created the first human being, that being, that one person was male and female and that was the perfect model, the perfect standard. To be only male is not enough, and to be only female is not enough – you need to be both. After we were separated by God himself the only way to become male and female is through a permanent bonding, where they literally become one and their identity has merged. “I” becomes “we” – “us”. Any real intimate bonding experience has to be created in heaven. It can’t happen by human effort because it’s a superhuman achievement.

The bond of marriage is created by a humility and vulnerability that is absolutely essential, natural, and true. Vulnerability doesn’t mean vulnerable to hurt – that’s a weakness. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Healthy vulnerability is the realization that I am not enough, that I cannot be satisfied with myself. To be vulnerable means to be lacking intimacy. Intimacy is the bonding that brings two people together so that they become one. The me is not the enemy, it’s the absence of the other. When you don’t have an other, you’re lacking in intimacy and your vulnerability is painful but it’s a strength not a weakness. 

The first vulnerability that every human being should have is with God. The first statement of any religion should be you’re not alone – you have a God, your God, your Creator. When you get married, you reproduce an intimacy with a human being that you already have with God.

 We should always try to act that intimacy out, to find another human being with whom we can be one. God gives you love to be able to love others, not to love yourself. Keep a minimum for yourself and give the rest away. You need to be more than you, not more of you. You don’t need to be more of you, you need to have someone else beside you. God will not deprive you of anything you need. He also won’t give you everything you want. It’s a good deal – make that deal with God. 

Leave the “me” monster out of the conversation – it’s not about me, it’s about where the me can go to become bigger, to become complete, to become more purposeful. That is the meaning of serving God with joy. Look for something beyond yourself and then people will be attracted to you, you will become a true nurturer, you give off life. This separation we are currently facing can be a great blessing for us. Let it be the turning point in your life where you get past yourself into something bigger, better, richer, and more Godly.

Click here from some more dating tips from Rabbi Friedman:  https://ap109.infusionsoft.com/app/page/free-dating-tips