Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tests and Challenges

One day, a donkey fell into a pit. The animal cried and whined for hours while its owner tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the farmer decided that since the animal was old, and the pit needed to be covered up anyway, he'd just bury the old donkey right there. He got a shovel and started filling in the pit. The donkey kept up its wailing, but then fell silent. After an hour of furious shoveling, the farmer paused to rest. To his amazement, he saw his old donkey jump out of the pit and trot away!

At first, when the donkey realized what was happening, he cried even more piteously. But then the animal hit on a plan. As each spadeful of dirt hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up on the growing mound of earth. Eventually, the mound grow high enough for him to jump out of the pit.

Life is going to shovel dirt on us, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the pit is to shake it off and take a step up. We can get out of the deepest pits by not stopping and never giving up. Just shake it off and take a step up.

The word, "test" - Nisayon, comes from the word "l'nasos", which also means "to raise high".
The tests and challenges we face are intended to enable us to reach a higher spiritual level.

G-d chose to allow us to reach a higher spiritual level through tests and challenges.
When we realize that there is G-dliness contained in these challenging experiences, it helps us become aware that they are, in essence, hidden good.

When we realize and believe that everything is really good then it will cause us to be truly happy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"Father! Father! Answer me"

The following is an excerpt from the diary of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, which he wrote after a pleasant visit to a park in the hamlet of Serebrinka. A park that evoked detailed memories of the walks and talks the Rebbe had with his father.

"For an hour and a half I luxuriated in strolling through and sitting in the park, gazing at the sky and drowning in memories, until I heard the voice of my three year old daughter Chanah calling to me: "Father, father, where are you...? Father, father, answer me..." repeating her call twice and three times.

The call interjected most aptly into my thoughts: at that very moment I had been thinking about my father's discourse of the past Shabbat Naso, entitled, "G-d Descended Upon Mt. Sinai". In it, father cites a metaphor to explain the difference between the Divine effluence which comes in response to one's Torah study and observance of mitzvot and G-d's response to one's "service of the heart", one's prayer. The service of Torah and mitzvot draws a Divine response comparable to a father's pleasure in a son who toils in his father's business to increase his father's wealth. But the response evoked by prayer is like a father's response to his small child who yearns for him and cries, "Father, father, answer me..."

Hearing my own daughter's cries, I sensed in my own self how a child's call of "father, father" causes a pleasing of the spirit and awakens an inner delight that is incomparably greater than the pleasure accorded by the older son's most impressive accomplishments.

The calling continued: "Father, father, where are you? Father, father answer me, hug me." I followed her voice and she hugged me and told me that grandfather, grandmother and mother were all waiting for me for the evening meal."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Parsha - Naso.Birkat Kohanim

An ancient Jewish theme is the idea of one person blessing another. Everyone has the power of blessing to a certain extent, but some people have it to a greater degree. The person giving the blessing is calling on G‑d to help a particular individual, to pour on him or her Divine bounty and goodness.

G‑d told Abraham "...through you will be blessed all families of the earth". G‑d was hereby granting Abraham the power of blessing.

This week's Torah reading, Naso, gives the text of a very remarkable blessing: the words with which the Priests, the kohanim, bless the people. They used to chant this daily in the Temple. Today too, on festivals, they stand in front of the Ark and bless the congregation:

May G‑d bless and protect you. May G‑d make His counte­nance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.

Rabbi Akiva explains that following the blessing of the kohanim, G‑d responds and gives His infinitely exalted blessing to the Jewish people.. The kohanim pronounce their blessing, and G‑d responds.

We just celebrated the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. One of this holiday's lessons is the ongoing interaction between each individual and G‑d. The same effect as when the Kohain blesses and G-d responds, is with each individual when we study Torah, G-d responds. We connect with G-d.

An individual actually, connects with G‑d at every step. Whether as a kohen blessing the congregation, or any person studying Torah, or indeed carrying out any mitzvah, G‑d responds, at every moment of our life.
Shabbat Shalom! Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:34