Tag Archives: preparation

Getting Ready

TeshuvahRav used to say, “There is no eating or drinking in the World-to-Come…tzaddilkim sit with crowns on their heads and enjoy the glow of the Shechina.” -17a

Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch illustrated the lesson of this Gemara with the following parable. A man planned to move to America. In those days, the only way to go from Israel to America was by boat. The trip was too long for one excursion, so the boat first stopped in France for two weeks, as the crew prepared the ship for the longer leg of the journey across the Atlantic. The traveler did not know English nor French, and he wanted to prepare himself for the journey, so he began by teaching himself French. When he arrived in France for the two week stay, he began to enjoy conversing with the natives. After the two weeks elapsed, he once again joined the other passengers and crew for the rest of the trip. When the finally arrived in America, the man tried to use his new skill of speaking French, but no one understood him, and he also did not understand the English speakers. Upon observing this, one of the French travelers who was with him on the boat smirked and commented, “It seems quite foolish for you to have spent your time learning French, which you knew you would only use for a total of two weeks, instead of learning English which you knew you would need for the rest of your life!”

This pearl of wisdom in our Gemara which Rav was used to say taught this lesson. A person is in this world for seventy or so years. His permanent abode will be in the eternal world to come. There, the language spoken does not include mundane matters such as jealousy and hatred. Nor is the topic discussed involve eating or drinking. Yet, what do people spend their time doing in this world? They busy themselves becoming inundated with concerns which are of this world, which is only temporary. The language spoken in the World-to-Come is simply where “the tzaddikim sit with their crowns upon their heads, and they radiate in the glow of the Shechina.” When a person comes to the עולם האמת , he will have to explain the language he studied, and whether he is prepared to communicate as is done in the World-to-Come.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Preparing for the World-to-Come”
Berachos 17

Even though I may not comment or otherwise indicate my presence, I visit a fair number of “religious” blogs on a daily basis and sample their content. A significant number of them indulge in various controversies (think Titus 3:9) and debates that are almost always swept into virtual “black holes;” like immense gravity wells in space that swallow all light and life but return nothing.

It’s like the Jewish gentleman in the above-quoted parable who learned a “language” that would serve him for only two weeks and ignored the greater requirement of learning the “language” he would need for a lifetime. Now imagine learning that the debates and discussions we deem so important in the here and now aren’t what’s really important to God and to our fellow human beings in the long run.

Today is 1 Elul on the Jewish religious calendar. It is, as I previously mentioned, a month in which observant Jews (and perhaps the occasional Christian) all over the world prepare themselves for their most important annual encounter with God.

You can think of the month of Elul in terms of the life you lead. Jews use this entire month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but our lives, from birth to death, are also a time of preparation.

During Elul, Jews take a frank spiritual assessment of themselves, dedicate themselves to turning away from willful sin, give generously to charity, make increased efforts at Torah study, perform more frequent acts of lovingkindness, and diligently repair relationships that have been damaged. Imagine if all of us did that all of the time? Imagine if doing so was our highest priority?

If you return, O Israel … you shall return unto Me. –Jeremiah 4:1

Today is the first day of Elul, a period of time which is particularly propitious for teshuvah, for it precedes Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment.

Elul and ShofarThe Sages say that the Hebrew letters of the word Elul, form an acrostic for the verse in Song of Songs: I am devoted to my Lover and He is devoted to me (6:3). Song of Songs utilizes the relationship between a bridegroom and his betrothed to depict the relationship between God and Israel. Any separation between the two causes an intense longing for one another, an actual “lovesickness” (ibid. 2:5).

The love between God and Israel is unconditional. Even when Israel behaves in a manner that results in estrangement, that love is not diminished. Israel does not have to restore God’s love, because it is eternal, and His longing for Israel to return to Him is so intense that at the first sign that Israel is ready to abandon its errant ways that led to the estrangement, God will promptly embrace it.

Song of Songs depicts the suffering of Israel sustained at the hands of its enemies, and we can conclude that the Divine distress at this suffering of His beloved Israel is great. Teshuvah is a long process, but all that is needed for the restoration of the ultimate relationship is a beginning: a sincere regret for having deviated from His will, and a resolve to return.

Today I shall…

seek to restore my personal relationship with God by dedicating myself to teshuvah.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Elul 1”

Imagine taking the time during the month of Elul, but ultimately with the rest of your life, to restore your relationship with God and with all of the people around you. Now take that imagination and put it into action, turning thoughts and wishes into a tangible reality.

When Judgment is an Opportunity

Shortly, it will be Rosh Chodesh Elul (August 18th and 19th), the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. This means that there is one month and counting to Rosh Hashanah (Sunday evening, September 16th). Many people might ask, “So, what?” or might think, “Thanks for the reminder to buy a brisket!” However, the answer to “So, what?” is that we have one month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah … and Yom Kippur. Why would one want to prepare for Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment when the Almighty decides “Life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth.” Does it make sense to prepare for a day of judgment?

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
from Shabbat Shalom Weekly for
Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17) 5772

Good question. Actually, for most Christians, the only “Jewish holiday” most of us are aware of is Passover. The rest of the Jewish religious calendar is something of a mystery to us and therefore has no particular impact.

Except for those of us who are married to a Jewish spouse or have some other reason to be aware of the annual “lifecycle” of Jewish religious observance and faith.

Also, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are rather moot to most Christians because we were all “saved” when we became believers and confessed Christ. We were all forgiven of our sins and never once looked back or considered our past sinful lives.

More’s the pity.

But why would I say that? Shouldn’t a Christian celebrate and even revel in the fact that, from God’s point of view, our sins are as far away from us as “the east is from the west?” (Psalm 103:12)

Yes and no.

Please don’t get me wrong. Salvation from our former lives as slaves to our own personal wants and desires and reveling in our isolation from God is a tremendous thing and the cornerstone upon which our faith is built. But I sometimes think we Christians gain a little too much mileage from our salvation. I think the result is that we think too little of our sins, at least some of us, and don’t consider that even though we are disciples of Christ and sons and daughters of the Most High God, we’re not perfect.

Far from it.

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” –Romans 3:9-12 (ESV)

OK, so we’re saved but not perfect. We have no righteousness of our own and we depend on the righteousness of Jesus in order to be reconciled with God. But what does that have to do with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

The Jewish religious calendar is replete with times of preparation. Jews prepare themselves for their formal meeting times with God. Jews prepare for Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot, and of course, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

But Jews formally meet with God every week on Shabbat and twice daily during formal prayer. And Jews prepare for each event, regardless of its scope and frequency.

What do Christians prepare for? The formality and august, immense, majesty of the Days of Awe seem to be without comparison. I’m not even sure if Christians approach Easter with the same solemn effort of preparation and anticipation (but it’s been a long time since I attended a church).

But maybe we should (after all, Easter comes only once a year). Maybe we should do something to remind ourselves of the price that Jesus paid so that the rest of us; the rest of the world could be redeemed. Maybe we should spend some time taking stock of ourselves, making an inventory of our spiritual lives, and determining where we have failed God in the various areas of our walk of faith.

This can include quiet introspection and prayer, but let’s have a look at what else Rabbi Packouz suggests (all this and more is at his Shabbat Shalom Weekly commentary):

  1. Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year — a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people you’ve interacted with b) your level of mitzvah observance.
  2. Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, a yeshiva on how to prepare. Read articles on Aish.com and listen to world-class speakers on AishAudio.com.
  3. Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of the The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (possibly available at your local Jewish bookstore or at Amazon.com — about 26 left).
  4. Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (One is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree — Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
  5. Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards — and correct the situation.
  6. Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family — what you want to work towards and pray for.
  7. Limit your pleasures — the amount of television, movies, music, food — do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously.
  8. Do an extra act of kindness — who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
  9. Read a book on character development — anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would be great!
  10. Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you … but in a nice way!

studying-talmudMany of these suggestions probably will seem strange or a poor fit for most Christians. But just look at the level of detail and organization that’s being suggested for Jews as they prepare for the single most holy time in their religious year. Imagine if we in the church were to go through such efforts in order to prepare for our own meeting with God.

I know that Christians and Jews differ on a fundamental level in how we see our service to God. For many Christians, service to God operates in an internal realm and is made up of faith, belief, and prayer. For most religious Jews, although those internal states are present, the main focus is behavioral, not conceptual. Giving to charity in preparation for a meeting with God is totally appropriate. So is taking a religious class, reading an inspirational book, studying relevant sections of the Torah, and reconciling with a friend from whom they have become estranged.

The month of Elul is an opportunity for Jews to review their lives and particularly their failings, and to generate efforts to make amends, to repair relationships, to turn away from sins, and to anticipate the future. In a month, Jews all over the world will approach the throne of God with fear, trembling, and rejoicing. Even on the Day of Judgment; on Yom Kippur, we can learn to dance with God, embracing His Awesome Holiness as both judge and teacher, knowing that we have prepared ourselves for the day of judgment and the day of forgiveness.

Did I say “we?”

The Days of Awe aren’t generally considered appropriate for Christians, but I don’t think it would actually hurt for us to accept Elul as a month of opportunity. Why can’t we use this time to prepare our hearts as well? Couldn’t just spending a little time learning about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur benefit us? Might we not learn to feel just a tad bit more compassion for Jewish people if we learned how they see the God of Abraham and anticipate the Messiah?

We all fail. We all have shortcomings, even the best of us. We can either let that stand or we can do something about it. We can either maintain a “status quo” relationship with God or we can challenge ourselves to draw closer to Him. But that means we’ll have to go through the humiliating and painful process of making a detailed examination of who we are and what we have done to wrong God and to wrong other human beings. We will have to commit ourselves to fixing those damaged and broken relationships, as long as it is within our power to do so. (Romans 12:18)

The month of Elul is the month of reckoning. In the material world, if a businessman is to conduct his affairs properly and with great profit, he must periodically take an accounting and correct any deficiencies… Likewise in the spiritual avoda of serving G-d. Throughout the year all Israel are occupied with Torah, Mitzvot and (developing and expressing) good traits. The month of Elul is the month of reckoning, when every Jew, each commensurate with his abilities, whether scholar or businessman, must make an accurate accounting in his soul of everything that occurred in the course of the year. Each must know the good qualities in his service of G-d and strengthen them; he must also be aware of the deficiencies in himself and in his service, and correct these. Through this excellent preparation, one merits a good and sweet year, materially and spiritually.

“Today’s Day”
Shabbat, Menachem Av 27, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

Failure is wasted if you return only to the place from where you fell. If your plans fail, think bigger, aim higher.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Exploiting a Setback”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

There is no higher goal to aim for than God.

Many Christians believe that devout Jews approach the Days of Awe only with fear of judgment and the almost panicky desire to avoid punishment by “doing things,” to appease an angry God. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, acknowledging failures, confessing sins, and making amends is certainly very humbling and one should not approach an all-powerful God with a casual attitude, but (and my Jewish wife explained this part to me) this is also a wonderful opportunity. This is a wonderful opportunity for Jews to pick up what they’ve put off all year-long, to make their lives and the lives of others better, to improve their relationships, and to almost literally watch God punching the “reset” button on Jewish lives, making everything fresh and new.

While Christians (Jews, too) can do all these things at any time during the year, as human beings we tend to avoid difficult events and tasks. As I said before, the month of Elul is an opportunity to stop being lazy, to get into gear, and to make the effort to be better people that we’ve put off for so long. If this sounds like a terrific opportunity for Jewish people, why shouldn’t a few of us non-Jewish religious people take advantage of it, too?

Pausing Before Engaging God

So we’ve determined that meditation is not just a nice thing, but crucial for every human being with functional grey matter. It’s something that was always considered core to the tefillah experience, at least by those who were into that experience. For some, it meant the mind’s contemplation of the vast beauty of G-d’s creation that their eyes beheld, gazing upon the stars and the wonders of nature. For others, it was the reverie of the worlds of the angels, who stand in constant praise and song. Still others focused upon G-d’s compassion and love for His creatures, and all His kindnesses to us.

So was the practice of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as they sat in perfect awe beneath the star-speckled sky of the still desert night; so too, the ancient prophets in the Judean hills, strumming musical instruments as they gazed upon the mysteries of heaven and earth, awaiting the vision of prophecy as the morning’s horizon awaits the rising sun; so did the sages of the Talmud, the Bahir and the Zohar lift their souls on mystic journeys through orchards and palaces, chambers and pathways of the spiritual realms, never sure that they could return to their earthly bounds; so too the chassidim were lost in contemplation and the ecstasy of their prayer from early morning until the hours of night.

So now you’re asking: If meditation is so vital to Jewish observance, and if it is such an embedded tradition, why don’t I see it happening anywhere?

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Meditation’s Hallway”
from the Multimedia Guide to Jewish Prayer series

Good question, and one that can probably be applied to Christians as well. The answer is that some do meditate before prayer but most don’t. I think I know why.

When I got up this morning at around 4 a.m., I was pretty tired, but I knew I needed to get out of bed if I intended to make it to the gym when it opened at 5. My brain is never really “on” when I first wake up, so I had a cup of coffee, a glass of water, and read the “funny papers” online as a slow and casual method of getting my thoughts to engage. I was still telling myself to “wake up” as I drove to the gym.

Forty-five minutes of sweating later, my mind and body were definitely awake. I was conscious enough to “engage” God in prayer, but time is limited. I also had to publish the day’s “morning meditation”, post it on twitter, Facebook, and Google+, eat breakfast, say “hello” to my wife who was also in a state of not really being awake as she got ready for work, shower, get dressed, make lunch, and various other routine morning tasks. Somewhere before 7 a.m., I have time to read from the Bible and to pray, but meditation, as you can see from Rabbi Freeman’s description, is time consuming.

More accurately, it’s time consuming because you have to take your recently reawakened brain and put it in a calm and contemplative place. That’s a little dangerous for me, since I’m libel to start feeling sleepy again.

Don’t worry. I get Rabbi Freeman’s point.

If you ever hire an architect to design a synagogue, you will need to inform him of the two-door rule: The worshipper must first enter into a vestibule that precedes the sanctuary before walking through the doors of the sanctuary itself, as verse in Proverbs goes, “Fortunate is the man who listens to me to watch by my doors day by day, to watch the doorposts of my entrances.” (Talmud Berachot 8a. Tur, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, Levush 90:2. Magen Avraham ibid. Shulchan Aruch Harav 90:19.)

The first door, explains Rabbi Sholom Ber of Lubavitch in his “Booklet on Tefillah,” (Kuntres Hatefillah, siman 11) is the door in from the street. You first need to leave the confusion of the world outside and empty your mind of all worldly concerns, power down your cellphone, spend a few moments to gain calm and focus. As Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel would say (Avot 1:17), “All my life, I grew up among the sages and I did not find anything better for a person than quietness.”

Not, however, to get stuck in the hallway. Despite the common misconception, that’s not the goal of meditation. It’s not a path to placid bliss, transcendentally oblivious to the temporal world. Serenity is not a goal in itself. Calmness and stillness provide a healthy frame of mind from which to begin meditating, praying, struggling to grow and change—to enter door #2. But not to simply bathe and soak in. As Adin Steinsaltz once put it bluntly: serenity is death, life is struggle.

You prepare yourself in the hallway, then you enter the Sanctuary of God. Life is struggle. Apparently, so is prayer. Maybe that means, that prayer is also life. It makes sense, since I struggle with both.

But life is busy. I’ve mentioned before that all of the details Rabbi Freeman presents as relevant to preparing to enter your day are numerous, and most folks who have a regular job and who live with a family might not be able to incorporate everything he suggests.

Getting back to my original metaphor, here I sit at the bottom of the abyss, attempting to practice being still, (I’m not doing a very good job) and contemplating that ladder God has put down in the hole with me. The problem is, getting my mind to be still enough to do a good job at contemplation. Whenever I try to shut out the bedlam of life around me, the bedlam of life inside me takes over. Where do I go from here?

When the soul awakens, it descends like a fire from heaven.

In a moment of surprise, we discover something so powerful, so beyond our persona, we cannot believe it is a part of us.

In truth, we are a part of it.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Fire From Heaven”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

There’s only one more part of Rabbi Freeman’s series on Jewish prayer, which I’ll present tomorrow. But what then…what then?

Considering Meditation

The cruel facts are that to do what a Jew has got to do, you must think. Not just think as in “If apples are $2/lb., then two pounds are gonna cost me $4.” I mean think as in contemplate, cogitate, ponder, fire up your cerebral cortex into high gear.

That was Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda’s point. Rabbi Bachya was a Jewish sage of 11th century Spain. He noted that many authors write about what a Jew is supposed to do and speak—what he calls “duties of the external limbs”—but none write about the “duties of the heart.” He penned a classic work by that name that is still studied to this day. In his introduction, he provides his list of some of the Torah obligations that involve mind and heart. Among them, those that are relevant to deep, contemplation—which he recommends throughout the book…

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Is Meditation Kosher?”
from the Multimedia Guide to Jewish Prayer series

With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:13-16

Meditation can seem like it’s some sort of far out contemplative state associated with a far eastern religious practice, but both Judaism and Christianity have a history of associating meditation and prayer. I Googled “should a Christian meditate” and got a ton of search results, too numerous for me to review, especially within the context of a single “morning meditation” (Gee, there’s that word, again). I picked the first one available which is from BibleStudyGuide.org:

At first thought, meditation is something that we may believe is reserved for strange, far-out cult members. But, Christians are to spend time in meditation. The meditation of Christians is much different than cult meditation which may use a mantra. Webster defines meditate as “1: to focus ones thoughts on: reflection or ponder over 2: to plan or project in the mind … : to engage in contemplation or reflection.” The greek word logizomai is translated various ways, but is translated meditate (NKJ) and think (KJ) in Phil. 4:8. Vines says of logizomai in Phil. 4:8 “it signifies ‘make those things the subject of your thoughtful consideration,’ or ‘carefully reflect on them.'”

Paul exhorts brethren to carefully consider, reflect, ponder, meditate on those things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. He says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, what ever things are lovely, what ever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Phil. 4:8). In other words, Christians are to immerse their thoughts in everything that is good and spiritual in the Lord.

I have no idea how accurate all that is relative to mainstream Christian thought, but it seems to be enough, on the surface, to justify Christian meditation, even as Rabbi Freeman supports Jewish meditation associated with prayer. We also see, from my quote of David in Psalm 119, that meditation upon the acts of God pre-dates the first Temple in Jerusalem, so it enjoys a very long tradition among the chosen people of God.

But what exactly is meditation, how do we employ it in terms of prayer, and how are we to consider God and ourselves through this process? In Jewish thought, it has to do with the concept of “knowing.”

Note, both in Maimonides’ language and in Bachya, the knowing. Not “to know,” but actively, perpetually going about knowing. There’s a difference between knowledge and knowing. You can stop knowing and still have knowledge. Knowledge is something you have. Knowing is something you do.

But what does that mean? How do we actively participate in the process of “knowing” God versus having “knowledge” of God. For a Jew, it has to do with meditation and obedience to the first five positive and the first five negative commandments of the Rambam’s 613 mitzvot.

Here’s an example from Rabbi Freeman’s article:

# Mitzvah Source Text Source
+1 Knowing that there is G‑d. I am G-d your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d. Exodus 20:2; Deut. 5:6
-1 Knowing that there is no power other than G-d. You shall have no other gods besides me. Exodus 20:3; Deut. 20:4
+2 Affirming G-d’s oneness. Hear O Israel, the G-d is our G-d, the G-d is one. Deut. 6:4
+3 Loving G-d. You shall love G-d your G-d with all your heart… Deut. 6:5
+4 Revering G-d. You shall revere G-d Deut. 6:13
+5 Serving G-d with your heart (i.e. prayer) You shall serve G-d your G-d.…and to serve Him with all your heart” Exodus 23:25; Deut. 11:13

According to Rabbi Freeman, the process of “knowing” as well as “affirming,” “loving,” and “revering” God requires that we meditate upon Him. But that still doesn’t tell us what it means, only why a Jew must meditate; in order to obey the Torah of God. There’s also the problem of loving and revering. How can a person be commanded to love? You either love or you don’t. You can’t turn the process of loving on and off like a light switch. You can decide to meditate upon God, but can you decide upon command to also love Him?

What is the path to love and reverence of G-d? Meditate on His actions and on His wonderful and vast creations and you will become aware of His endless and unlimited wisdom. Immediately you will come to love, praise and glorify G‑d with great desire to know His great name.

—Rambam (Maimonides), Foundations of Torah 2:2

According to Rambam, you can learn to love God “on command” … by meditating. Think of it the way you think about someone you love romantically. Usually, in the early days of a relationship, you can’t keep your mind of the other person. If you are apart for any reason, you think about them, remember your last conversation, imagine the way the person looked the last time you saw them, and try to conjure up the sound of their voice. In a way, you “meditate” upon them and “all their works” (things that they did). Does this not contribute to our active “knowing” of the person and our progression of “loving” them? Is that so different than David meditating on all the works and wonders of God?

But the last positive commandment is to “serve” God. What does meditating upon God have to do with serving Him? In Judaism, “serving” God is traced back to the duties of the Priests in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, when performing various services, including the sacrifices. After the destruction of Herod’s Temple by the Romans, much of the concept of the Temple service was translated into prayer. To serve God is to pray to God.

But prayer, in Judaism, isn’t just the act of “talking to God.” Especially in liturgical prayer, a Jew is to contemplate on, concentrate on, and meditate upon, the process of prayer, right down to the individual words involved in the act of praying. This sounds a lot like a sort of meditation during prayer, but meditation is also involved in the Jewish person preparing themselves for prayer, prior the act of Tefillah.

Don’t begin tefillah until you have achieved koved rosh. The fervent ones of old [“chassidim harishonim”] would pause for an hour before tefillah, so that they could focus their hearts on their Father in heaven.

—Talmud Berachot, 30b

Before tefillah, ponder matters of the majesty of the exalted G‑d and of the smallness of humankind. Remove all human pleasures from your heart.

—R’ Moshe Isserles, ibid.

Meditation then, is a state of preparation, wherein you make yourself ready to enter into the presence of God in His realm. You don’t just “drop in” on God (although there are times when we need Him in a very immediate sense). You treat God with awe, dignity, and respect. You prepare yourself as if you are preparing for an extremely important encounter, by making your mind and your emotions ready for the experience. All this is fine for Rabbi Freeman’s Jewish audience, but is anything he’s talking about applicable to the Christian?

I haven’t cited anything wild and kabbalistic, esoteric or arcane (don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon). Just plain Judaism, the stuff that’s meant for every Jew—and wouldn’t hurt for all the rest of humanity as well.

That seems to be a pretty straightforward answer, though if any readers found some of the Jewish concepts in this blogpost challenging, it may be a bit daunting to discover that nothing “wild and kabbalistic, esoteric or arcane” was involved. Not only is a period of contemplation and preparation required for the Jew, but it’s recommended for anyone who is about to enter the Throne room of the King of the Universe.

But how do you do that? I’ll save the answer for next time.

It has to come from the core, but we are not masters over that place.

We can barely master our wardrobe—our conscious thought, our words to others, what our hands and feet are doing. Never mind the hidden things within.

But we can do this: We can wash our clothes and bathe our skin in pure waters. Meaning: we can focus our thoughts, guide our words and clean up our act.

Once scrubbed enough that light can pass through, we await the moment when the core awakens.

This is what Moses told his people on their last day together: “The hidden things belong to G‑d. But the obvious is for us and our children forever, to do what needs to be done.”

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Core”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson