Tag Archives: challenge

Asking to Walk with God

father-son-walkingOn further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G‑d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one’s real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, “I was created to serve my Creator” — seeing that most of one’s time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledgeability, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.

-Translation of a letter from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
“Is Most of My Life a Waste?”

Some people feel discouraged. They then assume that these feelings are facts: since they feel discouraged that is a “proof” there is no hope. But feelings only represent a person’s present state of mind, they cannot predict the future.

They can ask themselves: “Do my present feelings actually prove that there is no hope?” Of course not. There is never absolute proof that your situation will not improve. By believing you have no hope, you are causing yourself great harm. Adopt the attitude: “It is always possible that the future will turn out much brighter than I presently feel it will. What constructive action can I take for improvement?”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift 943: “Feelings Aren’t Facts”

Last Sunday afternoon, a friend challenged me. I hate these sorts of challenges because they always mean that I have to crawl out of my comfort zone. Yes, we all have one. The place where we spend most of our lives or want to, anyway. The place where we excel. The place where people see us as competent, and significant, and see all of the good things in us we want them to see.

And we see them in ourselves.


…but there isn’t so much to actually achieve there. The comfort zone is where you exercise all of the skill sets you are already really good at. There’s nothing more to learn in the comfort zone. Oh, you may learn some stuff, but it’s stuff that never really surprises you. It never shocks you. It certainly never scares you.

That’s why when my friend suggested that I get out of my comfort zone and ask God to show me more of Himself…a real encounter with Him, I experienced true dread. I know that sounds horrible. After all, in the realm of religious people, who doesn’t ask, plead, beg to experience a closer walk with God?

Most of us. A closer walk with God means having to change, not just a little bit and not in the direction we feel comfortable changing (or not changing and just pretending to change). I mean real, unanticipated, unpredictable, uncomfortable, “I don’t wanna go there” change.

Yuck! Who wants that?

But what’s the alternative?

My soul thirsts for You; my flesh pines for You.

Psalms 63:2

One Yom Kippur, after the Maariv (evening) services that ended the 25-hour fast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev exclaimed, “I am thirsty! I am thirsty!” Quickly someone brought him water, but the Rabbi said, “No! I am thirsty!” Hastily they boiled water and brought him coffee, but again he said, “No! No! I am thirsty!” His attendant then asked, “Just what is it you desire?”

“A tractate Succah (the volume of the Talmud dealing with the laws of the festival of Succos).” They brought the desired volume, and the Rabbi began to study the Talmud with great enthusiasm, ignoring the food and drink that were placed before him.

Only after several hours of intense study did the Rabbi breathe a sigh of relief and break his fast. The approaching festival of Succos with its many commandments – only five days after Yom Kippur – had aroused so intense a craving that it obscured the hunger and thirst of the fast.

It is also related that at the end of Succos and Pesach, festivals during which one does not put on tefillin, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok sat at the window, waiting for the first glimmer of dawn which would allow him to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin after a respite of eight or nine days.

Today I shall…

…try to realize that Torah and mitzvos are the nutrients of my life, so that I crave them just as I do food and water when I am hungry or thirsty.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 11”

plead1Particularly in Jewish thought, performing the mitzvot are the nutrients of life but what you do lacks meaning if you do not employ kavanah, otherwise known as “intention” or “direction of the heart.”

When asking for a closer connection with God, it’s always important to consider that time-honored caveat, “Be careful what you ask for.”

It’s sort of like dying of thirst but being afraid to drink because you might drown. It’s like dying of thirst, but the only source of water is at the bottom of a massive waterfall. You only need a few drops or a glassful, but your only option is a raging torrent.

How about just a little revelation, God…something I can handle, something not too scary or overwhelming. Let’s warm up with that and see where we should go from there.

Believing in God is easy. Trusting God is hard, and yet we have this.

Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

Psalm 146:3-7 (NASB)

I have plenty of experience being disappointed in human beings, including me. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by God, but then again, have I ever given Him the chance?

Has this ever happened to you?

Who Do We See In The Mirror?

Whenever you notice a fault in another person, check where you have that fault yourself. We have a strong tendency to notice our own faults in others. This awareness gives us many opportunities to learn about our own shortcomings -since it is easier to recognize a fault in someone else than in ourselves.”

What fault do you commonly notice in other people? In what ways do you have that fault yourself?

Use this awareness as a tool to stop yourself from speaking against others. Who would want to speak against others knowing that you are merely drawing attention to that same fault in yourself?!

Today, catch yourself in the act of criticizing others. Then think about the implications for yourself.

-see Talmud Kiddushin 70b; Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin – Ruach Chaim 2:1
quoted from Aish.com

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…”

-William Shakespeare’s
“Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)”

According to Attribution Theory in the field of Social Psychology, we tend to think that a person’s behavior is attributed to something we believe about them. For instance, let’s say you don’t like “Fred” for whatever reason. You think Fred is a blockhead and a pain-in-the-neck. You see Fred at your local fast food place and just after picking up his order, he trips and spills his tray all over the floor. This just “proves” what you’ve known all along. Fred is a klutz and a moron. See how he spilled his tray?

On the other hand, you may really like Sally and think she’s a great person. She’s kind, gives to charity, and is nice to children and small animals. You see Sally at the same fast food joint and she spills her tray in an identical fashion to Fred. However, you feel sorry for Sally. Someone (like Fred) must have tripped her. Instead of gloating, you rush over to help Sally clean up the mess.

Why we like or don’t like other people may be just what we believe about them. It may also be what we see in them. If Fred has characteristics that are like those in ourselves that we don’t like, we probably aren’t going to like Fred. If, on the other hand, we see things about Sally that are the same as some of the characteristics we like in ourselves, we’ll probably like Sally.

That’s a gross oversimplification of a complex set of variables, but you get the idea.

But what does this have to do with the Internet?


I mentioned yesterday that we do a fair amount of complaining on the blogosphere about a lot of things and a lot of people. But is it really necessary?

I suppose wearing the “mask” of the web over our “faces,” and given the fact that you can create a functional blog in just a few minutes, we all suddenly have the ability to spew our thoughts and feelings out to whatever audience chooses to read them. Once we start interconnecting, we start seeing people we like and don’t like and naturally, since we don’t have to face any of these people in real life, we tell them what we think about them.

Or are we really revealing something about how we like or don’t like ourselves under the mask?

Interesting, isn’t it?

Of course, if all of our complaining is really telling the world how we see ourselves, maybe it would be a good idea to turn it down a notch before everyone notices that we’re airing out our dirty laundry on the most public clothes line in the universe.

Whenever you see that someone has made a mistake, view the situation as a learning experience to prevent yourself from making similar mistakes.

Moreover, utilize this experience to discover what knowledge you may be able to impart to others so they, too, can avoid making similar mistakes.

Today, think of three mistakes you have seen people make recently. In what way have you made similar mistakes?

-see Ralbag – Shaar hachochmah, no.11
quoted from Aish.com

Turning that piece of advice around, if we look at the “faults” of others as if they’re our own, maybe we are really just learning from our own mistakes as we project them outward.

That would make the blogosphere one really, really big mirror. That ugly, nasty troll or witch you see on someone else’s blog is actually just your own reflection.

Terrifying thought.

I’ve got a suggestion. Visit the blog or website of the one person who really gets under your skin and read through a significant portion of their content. Pay close attention to what it is about the stuff you’re reading that really sets you off. Make a list of suggestions you’d like to give the blog writer about how they could improve themselves as a writer and a person. Then stop and ask yourself if you tend to say things or hold attitudes that are equally irritating, annoying, and offensive.

If (being perfectly honest since this is all happening within the privacy of your own thoughts) you start seeing these rather ghastly connections between them and you, begin considering the advice you wanted to give to that other person. Would it be good advice for you to take as well?

For those of us who have faith, we’re supposed to live in a community of like-minded believers. Our ideal is to obey the “new commandment” of our Master and to love one another (John 13:34). It’s supposed to be the defining characteristic of disciples of Jesus. Yet, given the nature and tone of our conversations on the Internet, we do everything else except love.

One should daven together with the community – 8a

Someone asked R’ Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, would it be better if one davened without a minyan if he felt he could daven with more kavannah in a room by himself. Which was more important, davening with a tzibbur or increased kavannah?

R’ Moshe responded (Igros Moshe O.C. 3:7): If the person can concentrate even minimally while with a minyan, it is better to daven with the tzibbur, even at the expense of added kavannah. We find that a person must extend himself to daven with a minyan, and it is even an obligation to do so. In an earlier letter (O.C. 2:27) R’ Moshe contends that the obligation stems from the fact that the prayers of a person who is in a group are certain to be accepted, while the prayers of an individual are not necessarily accepted. A person has the responsibility to daven to the best of his abilities, so he must go to daven where his prayers are more readily desirable. Accordingly, the advantage of davening with a minyan is essential, for this can make the difference whether one’s prayers are accepted or not. Davening with a bit more kavannah is only a substantive advantage. Therefore, a person must daven with a minyan, even though his kavannah may be somewhat diminished.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Davening with a minyan or davening with more kavannah?”
Berachos 8

As we can see here, the sense of community and davening with a minyan is considered more important than experiencing greater kavannah in prayer by davening alone. God never really designed us, Jew, Christian, or anyone else, to relate to Him by ourselves. We know that loving God and loving other people are incredibly intertwined so perhaps that’s part of where this principle comes in. But whether we always like each other (or ourselves) or not, we are still all his disciples (I’m speaking of the community of faith now). We don’t get to escape from one another just because we sometimes fuss and bicker.

I recently issued a sort of challenge to Judah Gabriel Himango on his blog suggesting, starting next Sunday (or Saturday night after Shabbat) that “we spend a week posting only uplifting material and not announcing to the world why we think we’re right and the other guy or gal (it doesn’t matter who they are) is wrong.” For me, that means writing a minimum of six blog posts that don’t mention supersessionism, replacement theology, and my opinions on some of the major theological expressions in the Messianic Jewish/One Law community. I suppose it also means I can’t take the church to task for any of its perceived failings or take shots at atheists either.

All Judah has to do is not blog for a week and he’s covered, so I’m biasing this challenge in his favor just because I post “morning meditations” six-days a week. If anyone wanted to take a cheap shot at me in the comments section of my blog and not receive a pithy rebuttal, this coming week is the time to do it (I’m saying all this somewhat tongue-in-cheek).

Let’s see if I and anyone else, can choose to consistently take the moral high road and only offer uplifting, supportive, and encouraging words on the “intertubes.” I predict that the number of hits on my blog will plummet like a stone dropped in Lake Mead (I hope I’m wrong).

But I also hope that maybe the online community of faith will get something positive out of it, too.

We’ll see how it goes. Anyone else out there game?