What’s Important Now?

When you try to help others and they don’t listen to you, you have a choice. You can say “it’s impossible to help them” and blame them for not being more open. Or you can view the situation as your own lack of proficiency at influencing and motivating others.

A blame-free attitude is the best path to choose. This can motivate you to develop your skills and talents on how to persuade, influence, and motivate. It could be that what you said is exactly what this person needs. As you enhance your presentation skills, in the future you will influence others to follow your beneficial suggestions.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Develop your Motivational Skills”
Daily Lift #570

Oh my! This could be applied to every blogger who has ever tried to convince (often in vain) an audience why their point of view is correct and why his/her audience should change their minds and adopt the blogger’s perspective/belief/faith/whatever.

Really, how many blogs and how many comments on those blogs are specifically dedicated to the blogger blaming the audience (or at least those people in the audience who disagree with him/her) for being blockheaded, stubborn, ignorant, and “impossible to help?”

More than I can count, I’m sure.

So what should we do with this piece of advice? Should we redouble our efforts as bloggers, assume that our presentation skills are lacking somehow, and focus on how better to “influence others to follow our beneficial suggestions” in future blog posts?

Is Rabbi Pliskin’s advice here the answer?

A person who feels joy when performing mitzvahs will forget all his suffering and misfortunes. In comparison to becoming closer to the Almighty, of what import is pettiness and trivialities?

A person who experiences joy in doing good deeds will feel greater joy than a person who finds a large sum of money. Why should a person expend his efforts trying to find happiness in areas where the basis is transient and ultimately meaningless, when he has a far better alternative?

I suspect it is the answer, if we were to take Rabbi Pliskin seriously and actually apply his suggestion to our lives in a consistent manner. Unfortunately, we who continue to participate in the blogosphere, either as active bloggers or the observers who don’t blog but who frequently comment on the blogs of others, take ourselves way too seriously (me included). This is true in spite of the fact that there are probably well over 181 million blogs in the world right now. As far as U.S. bloggers are concerned, our “right” to have our say and express our opinion seems to have reached crazy, chaotic, out-of-control proportions, thanks to cheap, high-speed Internet access and the ability to create a blog for absolutely no cost in just a few minutes.

So what’s the answer, what’s the answer, what’s the answer?

I’d like to say “turn it all off,” but I know how difficult that would be in my own case, so I can hardly make that suggestion to others. But Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, makes that exact suggestion, at least in part.

Imagine someone calling you an idiot. Or that you’re stuck in traffic. Or that the boss is hassling you.

When this happens, you can become angry and caught up in the pettiness of life.

The remedy? Take a moment to go outside and walk under the stars. When you witness the vastness of the universe, it puts things into perspective. When you come back inside, you won’t be starry-eyed. You’ll be energized. You’ll say, I’m sorry. Let’s forget it and move on.

Awe helps release you from the limits of the body. You are suddenly in a world of different dimensions, transported into the eternity of beauty, power, majesty. You’ve got an expanded perspective. It’s no longer me versus you. We’re all one. So why be aggravated?

Awe carries us beyond ourselves. In times of war and tragedy – as well as prosperity and joy – people get “bigger.” They treat each other nicer. Pettiness is forgotten.

Anytime you’re in a rut, blast yourself out. Take a walk under the stars. This will unleash the power. You cannot be bored or petty when you are in awe.

The ultimate source of awe is, of course, God. Since we often can’t directly experience God, we usually must “settle” for experiencing the reminders of Him that He has left for us; that is, His universe, His creation.

It’s ironic that when we compare ourselves to the vastness of God and His Glory, we feel very small, and humbled, and yet at the same time, grateful and even exhilarated. We don’t feel jealous that God is so big and we are so tiny. We don’t resent God for being omnipotent while we are so powerless.

And yet let another human being or another group of people claim some heritage, some experience, some relationship that we ourselves don’t have access to, and suddenly we’re deeply envious, hurt, and outraged. We feel victimized. We feel as if our “rights” have been violated. Why can’t we have the same access to what “those people” claim is uniquely theirs?

Yes, of course I’m talking about the current (and seemingly endless) debate between certain corners of Christianity which can be thought of as “Hebrew Roots” or more specifically “One Law” and the various Judaisms, including “Messianic Judaism.”  The struggle is fueled by those who find in the Bible the justification for “One Law” Christians to have the “right” to everything that God granted Israel as a perpetual gift at Sinai, which is the heritage of every Jew on earth today. Naturally, when Jewish people hear such rhetoric, they tend to “push back.”

I suppose this too is an “issue” that we people who were born and raised in the West and specifically in the U.S. have to deal with, since “our rights” are all we tend to think about (or is that “our entitlements?”) relative to what other people have that we want.

But what should we have learned by now as people of faith? What did Jesus teach? To claim our rights? To take what wasn’t given to us? What did he teach that we seem to be forgetting?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ –Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV)

Did Jesus “teach Torah?” Absolutely! What else would a Second Temple period itinerant Rabbi teach to the “lost sheep of Israel?” Did he expect his disciples to take his teachings and pass them on through imitation and active “preaching?” Absolutely! That’s what disciples do. Do we see Jesus overtly teaching Jewish covenant signs and identity markers to his Jewish audience? Not as such, since each Jew in Roman-occupied “Palestine” would have been raised from birth to know all these things. In other words, for a Jew in that place at that time,  knowing how to tie tzitzit would have been a “no-brainer.”

So what did he teach and what did he expect his Jewish disciples to pass on to the disciples from the nations? (Matthew 28:18-20) What were his most important commandments?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. –John 13:34 (ESV)

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” –Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV)

That takes us right back to what Rabbi Pliskin said earlier:

A person who feels joy when performing mitzvahs will forget all his suffering and misfortunes. In comparison to becoming closer to the Almighty, of what import is pettiness and trivialities?

It’s pointless to fuss and argue over God and His special relationship with the Jewish people. After all, God gave the nations of the world the most precious gift possible; the life of His one and only son, the unique one, the Messiah, who died so that our sins could be forgiven and who lived so that we could have eternal life with the Father as His own sons and daughters.

The next time someone says something outrageous about religion (or anything else) on the Internet and you want to fight back and stand up for your rights, step away from the keyboard. Go outside. Experience the awesomeness of a thunderstorm or the magnificence of the starry, starry night. Perform a mitzvah such as visiting a sick friend in the hospital or donating a few canned goods to your local food bank. Retire into a quiet place and pray, turning your heart away from your own small concerns or hurt feelings and turning your spirit toward God.

After you have done that, ask yourself, “What’s important now?”

Do I need to take my own advice? Yes. Fortunately, Shabbat is coming up. When sundown approaches, I can put away the Internet and return my heart and spirit more fully to the God of all creation, may His Name be blessed eternally and without end.

4 thoughts on “What’s Important Now?”

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