Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10th of Tevet - Fast day - opportune day....

Tomorrow we will fast, mourn and pray, remembering the day -- the 10th of Tevet. It is the day on which began the siege on Jerusalem by the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar, which led to the conquest of the city, the destruction of the Holy Temple, and the expulsion of the people of Israel from their land.

Why are we fasting? It's not our fault that the Temple was destroyed. The people at that time refused to listen to the prophets who warned them to better their ways. We are still suffering the consequences.

On this, the sages explain: "Every generation for which the Temple is not rebuilt, is as though the Temple was destroyed for that generation." If so, a fast day is not really a sad day, but an opportune day. It's a day when we are empowered to fix the cause of that first destruction, so that our long exile will be ended and we will find ourselves living in messianic times—may that be very soon.

"Because of baseless hatred between Jews," says the Talmud, "was Jerusalem destroyed."

Why, asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe, does the Talmud insist that the hate was "baseless"? Were there not reasons, both ideological and pragmatic, for the divisions amongst the Jews? But no reason, explains the Rebbe, is reason enough for hate. The commonality of our fate runs so much deeper than any possible cause for animosity. All hate, then, is baseless hatred.

So if "baseless hatred" was the cause of the destruction, continues the Rebbe, its remedy is "baseless love"--our rediscovery of the intrinsic unity which overrides all reasons for discord and strife.

Show love to a fellow Jew--no matter how he or she differs from you. For if there is one redeeming virtue in being under siege, it is the opportunity to realize that we're all in this together.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

PARSHAT VAYECHI - Yaakov blesses....we have potential...

If life were a chessboard, would you be a pawn who can travel only in one direction? Or would you be a queen, who can strike out in the direction of her choice?

Angels are unidirectional. Their characters are molded by G-d into single, predetermined profiles. Some angels serve G-d in love. Others serve G-d with joy. etc. Angels are described as stationary. It is incapable of doing things that are different from their nature.

But we are different. We are referred to as G-d's bride. If G-d is the king, then we are his queen. On the chessboard this means that the Jewish soul IS capable of multi-directional travel. We each have our own characteristics and prefer our own path of worship. Some of us are joyful, others loving. Some like to study, and so on. Our paths are unique to ourselves, but unlike angels, we CAN veer from our characters.

Just before his passing, Yaakov blesses his sons. Each son receives a blessing consistent with his character of spiritual worship.
After Yaakov blessed each son individually, he repeated all the blessings to each of his sons because he wanted his children to enjoy all forms of spiritual worship, not only those with their individual characters. He wanted them to engage in all mitzvot even those inconsistent with their personalities.

Jacob's blessing, which enabled his sons to transcend their limitations and enjoy all manner of spiritual worship, endows us, too, with that wonderful ability. Which means that no mitzvah is beyond our potential.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

PARSHA - VAYECHI. The Big Picture....

This week’s Torah reading speaks of Yaakov's final years of life, the seventeen years he spends reunited with his family and the blessings he gives them for the future.

Throughout his life, Yaakov is continually being taken by surprise; him taking the blessings from Esav, then needing to run away, being tricked into marrying the sister of the woman he loves and then the disappearance of his beloved son, Yosef. But at the end of his life he is peacefully reunited with his family, and in these final years, he is able to recognize the patterns of his journey through life. He sees the intent of each step along the way, realizing the bigger picture. It becomes clear to him that all the details of his life were bringing him to this place he was now at.

In life we have the ‘big picture’ vision and ‘small picture’ vision. Very often we find ourselves stuck in the ‘small picture’ reality. We get bogged down by the small picture vision of life that we forget the big picture. We see the trees and not the forest, as it were. Our lives have a route, yet, we often lose ourselves in the minutiae, “this and this person did this to me, i can’t believe this is happening to me now, etc . . ." It is because of this that we forget the bigger picture, and we veer off course.

This week’s Torah reading gives us the ability to step back from the details and recognize the little fragments as integral parts of a whole. And This way, we recognize the minutiae for what it is and we dont get stuck in the smallness of events and/or emotions.

This week, let's keep sight of our greater goals and purpose, and not get bogged down by the details.