Overcoming Life

Malala-YousafzaiThe scene took place last week at the United Nations. In attendance were nearly 1000 young students from around the world at a specially convened Youth Assembly in the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as Gordon Brown, Britain’s former Prime Minister.

The guest of honor was a young girl celebrating her 16th birthday. It was a day that the Taliban, many months ago, cruelly sought to prevent her from living to see. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani whose crime was that she wanted to go to school to get an education. So, last October, when she was on a school bus in Pakistan, a man with a gun got on and said, “Where is Malala?” He shot her in the face at point-blank range. The bullet entered near an eye and ended up near her left shoulder, but miraculously she survived.

The Taliban proudly claimed responsibility. They called her efforts pro-Western. They feared she might set an example to other women. Education is their enemy. They desperately wanted Malala dead. But Malala refused to be intimidated.

-Rabbi Benjamin Blech
“Malala at the United Nations”

A great percentage of many people’s suffering is based on illusion. People feel they have problems and difficulties, when in reality the problem exists solely in their minds.

When you have a problem, ask yourself, “How would I view this problem if someone else were in this situation? Would I consider this a valid problem or not?” This can help you gain a more objective perspective.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Today’s Daily Lift #892 – Put Troubles in Perspective”

We’re used to thinking that our problems are the worst problems to have. We tend to believe that no one could really understand what we’re going through and how bad we can feel sometimes. Of course, when we actually try to explain to someone else what’s going on with us, we’re likely to get a response that others have it a lot worse. That usually doesn’t help, because then, on top of whatever emotional pain we’re experiencing, we also feel guilty for hurting our own hurts when other people are suffering so much more. Further, we’re liable to also feel shame when we realize that people with greater hurts are handling (at least in public) their problems so much more gracefully and courageously than we are.

There’s no way to win.

Well, that’s not true. Sometimes the trap is to compare who we are and where we are with others and naturally, we can’t ever measure up. Rabbi Pliskin has sage advice in that area, too. Don’t compare situations.

Waitaminute. What about all those motivational books and blogs pointing to people who suffer with grace and humility and keep on cranking along? Aren’t we supposed to be inspired by them? Why do those stories seem so depressing instead? Because we are violating Rabbi Pliskin’s advice not to compare our current situation with others?

It is said that you are what you think (no, I haven’t read that book) and that attitude is everything (no, I haven’t read that book, either). But I think it may be possible to stress if not overwhelm a “positive attitude.”

In 2001, an Arab terrorist detonated a guitar case filled with explosives in Sbarro’s pizzeria at the corner of King George Street and Jaffa Road, the busiest area of downtown Jerusalem. The heinous attack killed 16 people and wounded 100. Among the dead were five members of the Schijveschuurder family, and Shoshana Greenbaum, an American who was pregnant with her first child. A few months later, Al-Najah University in Nablus opened a public exhibition, a gruesome reenactment of the Sbarro bombing, strewn with fake blood and body parts.

Day in Jewish History, Av 20

kerry-netanyahu-israelThere has been much ado about the so-called Israel-Palestine Peace Process lately, and for those of us who are Biblical, conservative, and pro-Israel, seems like just another round in a long list of futile and frustrating efforts to pander to the “two-state solution.”

Human beings struggle against injustice and many are willing to fight and even to die for our beliefs, and yet the soul that God created within us also desires peace. Watching the world around me, and especially Israel, it is difficult to imagine the Messiah’s return and his redemption and restoration of the Jewish homeland. There is so many people and nations against Israel and against what I consider to be justice.

Tishah B’av has passed, and we have now entered the seven weeks of consolation, seven weeks in which God is viewed as comforting us for our losses, both on the personal and the collective levels. People have different reactions and different ways to relate with calamity. Following the Torah’s inner dimension, we can identify four such ways, which in turn correspond to the four letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah (yud, hei, vav, and hei). We will consider them in reverse order (from the final hei, to the vav, to the higher hei, to the yud). Contemplating these will also give us deeper insight into the suffering that the Jewish people have endured throughout their history, up to and even including the Holocaust.

-Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
“The true meaning behind our sorrows”
Wonders from Your Torah

Rabbi Ginsburgh goes on in his article to describe the four different levels of how we can perceive difficult and even horrific events in our lives and in the world. We can get angry at God. We can believe that bad things happen because we sin. We can see God’s compassion in times of trouble.

And then there’s this:

The fourth and highest level (corresponding to the yud of Havayah) is to understand that God sends us woes in order to bring us to a higher level of consciousness. To better understand what it means that God seems to be absent for our own benefit, Rebbe Hillel of Paritsch offers an insightful parable involving a Rabbi and his beloved student. In the course of teaching his student Torah, the Rabbi suddenly falls silent. From the student’s point of view, it appears that his teacher is angry with him because of something he did wrong. The student’s point of view is reinforced when suddenly his teacher walks out of the room and does not return. However, Rebbe Hillel explains that the truth is that the teacher is not angry with his student but is preoccupied with a sudden spark of new insight he has received. Since the nature of such sparks of insight is to fade away back into the super-conscious and disappear altogether if they are not captured immediately and meditated upon, the teacher is forced to ignore his student for a time, forsake the current lesson, all in order to capture the insight. Actually, the Rabbi has his student in mind when doing so, since his ultimate intent is to pass the new teaching on to his beloved student. God too has acted in this way, says Rebbe Hillel. In those times when He seems to be absent from our lives, in truth, He is actually preparing a new light for us to enjoy.

sbarro_bombingYou say something to your spouse or loved one and he or she is silent in response. Are they angry? Did you say or do something wrong? If you respond from those assumptions by becoming defensive, angry, or sad, you may miss the point. Perhaps he or she didn’t hear you or was contemplating something else entirely. As the saying goes, “it’s not all about you.”

In 2001, a terrorist explodes a bomb in a popular pizza store and kills and maims innocent people. Later, the terrible scene is re-enacted as a tribute in a Palestinian controlled part of Israel.

One young, defiant, teenage girl is shot in the face by Taliban terrorists just because she wants what we take for granted in the United States: an education. She goes on to speak courageously in front of the United Nations about how education and not warfare, is our most powerful weapon.

One who is full of himself fills all the space around him. There is no room left for anyone else. Therefore, he despises another person by virtue of the space that other person consumes. He may give reasons for his disdain, but the reasons are secondary.

This is called wanton hatred. It is the reason given for our exile. It is the core of all evil. It is balanced and cured by wanton acts of love and kindness.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Wanton Love”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

How do we combat our personal struggles when contrasted against the world-wide stage of tragedy? How do we fight our own small battles that always seem to beat us down, when even young girls rise with amazing courage after horrible trauma and injury?

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-13 (NASB)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (NASB)

looking-at-heavenThere is a place we can go. There is someone who loves our very soul. Even the strongest among us sometimes feels defeated. Look at a powerful warrior such as King David. Look at the immense sufferings of Paul the Apostle. Yes, they were extraordinary human beings, but they were human nonetheless. You and I may not be extraordinary, but we have the same source of strength. Even when depressed, injured, beaten down, crippled, wounded, dying, He is there. He comforts us. Surely goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our lives.

And we can immerse ourselves in goodness and kindness, letting God restore our souls. Then we can share goodness in an evil world.

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:20-21 (NASB)

You can sit in sorrow or you can make a difference in the world. You can become Partners in Kindness.

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt


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