Tag Archives: repent

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?”
Chabad.org

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”
Aish.com

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…

…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”
Aish.com

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?

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Yom Kippur: The Brokenhearted Offering

broken-heartedI hated Yom Kippur because it made me feel like a fraud. I would bang away at my chest all day, enumerating all my sins, promising I was repentant. But in my heart I knew that I would return to my mean self the moment the fast was over. I didn’t believe I could ever change, that I was really worthy of life and that I would ever be able to redeem myself. So I would go through the day anxious for it to be over, hating myself for being such a big, fat fraud.

-Eliana Cline
“Why I Hated Yom Kippur”
Aish.com

I’m writing this on Sunday, almost a full week before you’ll read it. Today, my Pastor’s sermon in church was on Yom Kippur. The timing was deliberate. Last week’s sermon, which I missed because I decided to skip church for the holiday weekend, was on Rosh Hashanah. It’s always interesting to hear a sermon in a Christian church about something that is so profoundly Jewish.

Aaron shall place lots upon the two he-goats: one lot “for Hashem” and one lot “for Azazel.” Aaron shall bring near the he-goat designated by lot for Hashem, and make it a sin offering. And the he-goat designated by lot for Azazel shall be stood alive before Hashem, to provide atonement through it, to send it to Azazel to the Wilderness.

Leviticus 16:8-10 (Stone Edition Chumash)

One of the things I’ve come to learn about Jewish holidays and festivals being preached in the church is that these Jewish events can never be allowed to just stand on their own. They always have to “point to Christ.” Otherwise, I guess, they just aren’t really worthy, God-given events all by themselves (that was a little sarcasm).

Anyway, it is Pastor’s opinion that each of these two goats represent the first and second coming of Christ. I have no idea where this idea comes from, but knowing Pastor, it comes from some Christian source or authority. Although I sometimes disagree with him, Pastor does his research and he hardly ever “shoots from the hip” in a sermon.

The analogy, which is how I think of it, falls apart when you realize the Azazel goat (Pastor called it by the more common name “scapegoat”) must bear the sins of Israel and be sent out into the Wilderness, presumably to die. One commentary in my Chumash on verse ten says:

Or HaChaim notes that the goat is referred to here and in verse 21, before the confession, as alive. After Aaron pronounces confession upon it, however, it is no longer called alive, even though it would be some time before it would go to its death. The confession had the effect of placing all of the people’s sins on the goat, which would then carry them off to the desolate Azazel. The presence of such contamination on the goat rendered it spiritually “dead;” thus it was called alive only before Aaron’s confession.

Even if you don’t quite buy what Or HaChaim says, the Azazel goat seems a poor symbol for the King of the Jews returning to redeem Israel in glory and power, leading an army of angelic beings.

But Pastor said a lot of really good things about Yom Kippur and how we Christians can learn from the Day of Atonement. Yes, he said our final atonement is Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and who was resurrected to give us the promise of eternal life through faith in him.

struggling_prayBut he also deconstructed the mechanism of teshuvah (though he didn’t call it that) as the observant Jewish world sees it, and said point-blank that simply answering an altar call or raising your hand at Christian camp professing belief in Jesus doesn’t automatically grant you the aforementioned eternal life. Seeking atonement of your sins requires much, much more, and we aren’t fully disciples of the Master and Children of God until we do. After that, we still need to have a life of continual repentance, since we sin every day.

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet wrote a rather lengthy article called The Dynamics of Teshuvah, which I won’t quote from here. I think it could be called “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Teshuvah But Were Afraid To Ask.” If you want to know more, Rabbi Schochet’s article is a good source.

But the heart of teshuvah and atonement is contained in the more modest missive written by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zelvin called The Master Key:

One year, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov said to Rabbi Ze’ev Kitzes, one of his senior disciples: “You will blow the shofar for us this Rosh Hashanah. I want you to study all the kavanot (Kabbalistic meditations) that pertain to the shofar, so that you should meditate upon them when you do the blowing.”

Rabbi Ze’ev applied himself to the task with joy and trepidation: joy over the great privilege that had been accorded him, and trepidation over the immensity of the responsibility. He studied the Kabbalistic writings that discuss the multifaceted significance of the shofar and what its sounds achieve on the various levels of reality and in the various chambers of the soul. He also prepared a sheet of paper on which he noted the main points of each kavanah, so that he could refer to them when he blew the shofar.

Finally, the great moment arrived. It was the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and Rabbi Ze’ev stood on the reading platform in the center of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue amidst the Torah scrolls, surrounded by a sea of tallit-draped bodies. At his table in the southeast corner of the room stood his master, the Baal Shem Tov, his face aflame. An awed silence filled the room in anticipation of the climax of the day—the piercing blasts and sobs of the shofar.

Rabbi Ze’ev reached into his pocket, and his heart froze: the paper had disappeared! He distinctly remembered placing it there that morning, but now it was gone. Furiously, he searched his memory for what he had learned, but his distress over the lost notes seemed to have incapacitated his brain: his mind was a total blank. Tears of frustration filled his eyes. He had disappointed his master, who had entrusted him with this most sacred task. Now he must blow the shofar like a simple horn, without any kavanot. With a despairing heart, Rabbi Ze’ev blew the litany of sounds required by law and, avoiding his master’s eye, resumed his place.

At the conclusion of the day’s prayers, the Baal Shem Tov made his way to the corner where Rabbi Ze’ev sat sobbing under his tallit. “Gut Yom Tov, Reb Ze’ev!” he called. “That was a most extraordinary shofar-blowing we heard today!”

“But Rebbe . . . I . . .”

“In the king’s palace,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there are many gates and doors, leading to many halls and chambers. The palace-keepers have great rings holding many keys, each of which opens a different door. But there is one key that fits all the locks, a master key that opens all the doors.

“The kavanot are keys, each unlocking another door in our souls, each accessing another chamber in the supernal worlds. But there is one key that unlocks all doors, that opens up for us the innermost chambers of the divine palace. That master key is a broken heart.”

Eliana Cline’s article captured what it is for a Jewish person on Yom Kippur in a more modern setting:

This Yom Kippur, I can feel the pain of not being in a state of connection and own the consequences of my choices. I can say to God, “This is not me,” and mean it. I feel repentant, not from fear – but from a genuine desire for connection, love and transcendence. Getting in touch with my higher self that yearns to be good has enabled me to sense the sadness of my past choices.

The Talmud teaches that on Yom Kippur we are compared to angels. I never really got the comparison. Until now. On Yom Kippur all the daily responsibilities and tasks are removed; it’s a day we transcend the physical and live with total purpose. It’s a day with one sole mission, like an angel, to pray, to think and to connect – to God and to our inner soul.

PrayingWe can choose whether or not to truly repent of our sins and approach God. Most of us most of the time (am I being too cynical?) repent by saying “Sorry” to God, knowing full well, or at least suspecting it in the back of our minds, that we will be revisiting our same old sins again by the by. Repentance for the moment, sin for a lifetime. No wonder Cline felt like a fraud. Most of us should feel the same way.

But Christianity doesn’t have an event on its religious calendar that’s anything like Yom Kippur. Easter probably comes the closest, but that’s a holiday of victory over sin and death, not taking responsibility for sin and repairing relationships with people and with God.

Yom Kippur can seem incredibly depressing if you don’t come at it from the right direction. If you see it as having to wallow in your sins, feeling like a fraud, feeling like an abject failure, then yes, it’s really depressing. You afflict yourself, usually by a complete food and liquid fast for twenty-four hours and a bit more, and hope that’s enough to appease an angry God. But only pagan gods need to be appeased. You can’t “buy off” the One Living God with a sacrifice unless that sacrifice is you!

For You do not desire a sacrifice, else I would give it; a burnt-offering You do not want. The sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit; a heart broken and humbled, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:18-19 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

And by “you,” I mean your broken, humble, and contrite heart.

Take words with you and return to Hashem; say to Him, ‘May you forgive all iniquity and accept good, and let our lips substitute for bulls.’

Hosea 14:3 (Stone Edition Tanakh, verse 2 in Christian Bibles)

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

Hebrews 13:15 (NASB)

Whether you’re a Christian or a Jew, we all turn to the One God when we repent and ask for forgiveness, though we are unworthy. As Christians, we turn to God through our great intercessor Christ, and we pray that God reveals Himself and his compassion to us through him. I once heard a Jewish person tell me that no man stands between a Jew and his God. I can only ask, especially now, since as you read this, Yom Kippur is just a few hours away, that God reveals all truth, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.

Yom Kippur is a gift. It allows us to remove the barriers that separate us from a Holy God and to once again draw near to our Father in Heaven. The gift is offered by grace. All we have to do is accept it. The only cost to us, is to be sincerely brokenhearted.

Have an easy fast and may you be inscribed in the book of life.

12 days.

 

 

Make Teshuvah Now

TeshuvahWe have now gone well beyond Moses’ arguments with God. God’s power is not automatic or unbridled; it is, rather, an expression of God’s will. God can choose how and when to use that power. Teshuvah is God’s gift to us, a singular opportunity to sway God from anger to compassion. This distinctively Jewish idea also teaches that, ultimately, it is human beings who have the power to determine how God will use that divine power. We invoke this theme throughout the liturgy of the High Holidays.

-Rabbi Neil Gillman
“Chapter 2: God is Power,” pg 25
The Jewish Approach to God: A Brief Introduction for Christians

I often write about what Messianic Jews have to say to Christians, hopefully in a very positive light, but Rabbi Gillman’s book is what other Jews, those who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah, have to say to Christians. By providing the Jewish viewpoint on God, Rabbi Gillman is attempting to be a “light to the nations,” showing us who he believes God actually is (as opposed to who Christians think God is).

We don’t often think we can change God’s mind but I think Rabbi Gillman may have a point.

Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes. He issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Jonah 3:4-10 (NASB)

Gillman calls Jonah the only successful prophet in the Bible. Typically, all other prophets call for repentance (usually of Israel) and they only receive a deaf ear in return. Often these prophets are killed by the very people they’re trying to save. The prophet warns Israel. Israel ignores the prophet and does not repent. God fulfills the prophesy by doing terrible things to Israel, which usually include war, exile, and death.

…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NASB)

jewish-repentanceIf the people who are called by God’s Name would humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wickedness, then He would hear from Heaven and forgive their sin and heal their Land. Seems pretty straightforward to me. But then, God set up the conditions. If you do this, then I will do that. If you do not do this, then I will do something else. God is prepared to respond to Israel depending on what choice Israel makes. It’s not as if God changes His mind as such.

But what about this?

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”

But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought up this people from their midst, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, O Lord, are in the midst of this people, for You, O Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, ‘Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’ Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.

Numbers 14:11-21 (NASB)

On the surface, it certainly seems as if God was ready to wipe out the Children of Israel, but Moses, appealing to God’s reputation, gets Him to change His mind. Or was God setting up the situation so that Moses would change his mind? Remember, it’s far easier for a human being to lose his cool than for God to do so. By deliberately putting Moses in between the Children of Israel and God’s wrath, God is forcing Moses to make a choice. Either Moses can side with God and advocate for the destruction of his people, or he can confront God as Israel’s protector…the very role for which God chose Moses.

Ultimately, if God is Sovereign and if His will and His decisions are always perfect, then He really has no need to change His mind. We, on the other hand, have to change our minds all the time, and I think God is at work trying to get us to do this. We are flawed, sinful, imperfect, self-centered creatures and God loves us anyway. It’s like being the Father to billions and billions of two-year olds. We’re all screaming “mine,” all fighting each other over our toys, all hording the goodies for ourselves, and we all don’t want to listen to God telling us to be good and to share.

Yom-Kippur-ShofarYom Kippur starts at sundown on this coming Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday. Although the Day of Atonement has very little meaning to most Christians, we can still allow it to remind us that there may be some people we have hurt and we have neglected to repent of that. We may have sinned against God and have neglected to repent of that. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to repent, to turn back to the ways of God, and to make amends with anyone we have injured.

But who knows when one will die?

Rabbi Eliezer said: “Repent one day before your death.” His disciples asked him, “Does, then, one know on what day he will die?” “All the more reason he should repent today, lest he die tomorrow.”

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 53a

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (NASB)

Even during the days of Mashiach, it will still be permissible for people to repent…but why wait? God is reminding us to make teshuvah now.

Doing Joy

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

Therefore, first of all, man ought to be happy and joyous at all times, and truly live by his faith in the Lord who animates him and is benignant with him every moment. But he who is grieved and laments makes himself appear as if he has it somewhat bad, and is suffering, and lacking some goodness; he is like a heretic, Heaven forbid.

Igeret HaKodesh 11 (Kehot)

Apparently, I struggle with joy. I suppose it’s part of my nature or my personality to do so, just like I struggle with everything else, including God. I don’t have an easy relationship with joy. It’s like my relationship with all those religious and spiritual people who seem to be so happy and carefree all the time. I just don’t see how they can be perpetually “warm and fuzzy” (kittens, puppies, John Lennon quotes) and still manage to relate to those of us who seem to need to keep a toe or a foot in the real world.

Was that cynical?

While I have recently acknowledged joy, I have even more recently mourned its lack in my life. But I have still managed to say something hopeful about joy.

I can only conclude that joy, like love, is a verb; it’s something you do, not something you feel. We can love by performing acts of love, such as feeding the hungry, hugging a crying child who just skinned his knee, helping an elderly, infirm person across the street, or visiting a sick person in who is in the hospital. But how to you do joy?

This morning (as I write this), I realized that last night I actually did joy. I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time. That means I actually do joy more often, much more often than I thought I did.

Here’s what happened.

On Tuesday evenings, my son and daughter-in-law take a class and they ask my wife and I to watch our grandson Landon while they’re out. Last Tuesday night, my wife had to work late, so when I dropped off my son at his place after work (we commute to and from work together), I took Landon home with me (oh, he’s three-and-a-half years old, just so you know). My daughter was home and cutting up lots and lots of organic and recently picked apples on the back patio as part of her latest culinary masterpiece project (cider, I believe). The sukkah was still up, which should help set the scene for you.

Oh, one more thing. Rabbit and Alley. We have two hand puppets that we acquired (I don’t remember the details) when our own children were small. One is a rabbit and the other is an alligator (hence, “Rabbit and Alley”). Landon adores Rabbit and Alley (or “Raddit and Alley” as he calls them). They are his very close friends, almost as close as “Baby” which is his favorite stuffed toy (a giraffe).

When we got to my place, he saw that his aunt was out back and he wanted us all (Grandpa, Rabbit, and Alley) to play outside so we could be with her. My grandson is a picky eater, so he didn’t want to have dinner with me. He did sit beside me and we chatted while I ate. After my hunger was sufficiently assuaged, we proceeded out back.

Landon consumed a lot of (Auntie provided) fresh apples between periods of playing in the sandbox. Rabbit and Alley (and I) watched him as he transferred sand almost endlessly from one container to another. He put sand in a small bucket and pretended that he was planting (alternately) “pretty flowers” and tomatoes. Rabbit received the honor of watering the “plants” (pouring more sand in the bucket). He gave Rabbit and Alley “flowers” to put in their “pockets” and fed them imaginary tomatoes, since Rabbit and Alley like their vegetables (Landon, not so much).

When the sun went down sufficiently, I turned the lights on that are mounted on the sukkah, and we went inside. Landon ate more apples and asked me to read the Hebrew that is on two walls of the sukkah. I can’t read Hebrew, but was able to point out the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Landon was a little confused when I mentioned that David played a harp because his Dad (also David) plays the drums. I had to explain that one is a King and the other is his Daddy.

We ran around the outside of the sukkah “hiding” from each other. He hid behind bushes. He picked up a “pretty rock” and carried it around for a while. I’m pretty sure I was wearing Rabbit and Alley on my hands the whole time. I tend to forget they’re actually on my hands when I’m playing with him, unless I need to take them off to turn the pages of a book I’m reading to him, or some similar activity.

In fact, when the sun went down, we did go in and I read him two books, one about an adventurous young penguin, and the other about a duck who likes to make soup.

His parents came to pick him up and, as is true with most children who are in the middle of having a good time, he didn’t want to go. So, to encourage Landon to go to the car, Rabbit, Alley, and Grandpa went out to the front to see him off. After he and his parents left, I went back inside and only then remembered to take off Rabbit and Alley and place him in their seat of honor near the fireplace.

I woke up this morning and realized that playing with my grandson was “doing joy”. It’s not that I had been emotionally ecstatic and overwhelmed with mind-bending happiness, but I recalled, looking back on the evening, that I had been quietly, pleasantly happy. I’ve mentioned before that one of the acts of love we are able to perform is to hug a crying child who has just skinned his knee. If that’s love, then joy must be playing “Rabbit and Alley” with a small child who on some level (even though he sees me put the puppets on and take them off) believes that Grandpa, Rabbit, and Alley are his best friends.

Love and joy are playing with your grandson. The next time you can’t find the Spirit of God within you and you feel lost, abandoned, and arid inside, play with someone you love. There, you’ll find joy and every other gift that God provides.

When man has moved away from the Divine, the only rectification is for man to move back toward God. Therefore the Zohar concludes that repentance is the key to heal the rift, which caused the destruction of the second Temple. This would also explain the Midrash cited at the outset — Moses knew that the absence of the Temple necessitated man’s movement toward God; therefore, Moses instituted thrice daily prayer, in order to remind man constantly, in all his experiences, that he must not forget God, rather he should take every opportunity to stand in front of God.

Furthermore, prayer is described as “service of the heart.” Evidently the heart, the emotions are crucial for this return.

But the Zohar insists that repentance coming from the heart full of love is needed to return the Jews to the level which should have been reached via the first fruits offerings. When this happens, joy will become a reality — everlasting and complete joy.

-Rabbi Ari Kahn
“Joy: Commentary on Torah Portion Ki Tavo”
(Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8)
Aish.com

I’m beginning to think that Moses should have instituted thrice daily play times with small children to remind us constantly that we must not forget God.

Turn away from feeling lost and lonely by cherishing whoever God gives you to play with, and your heart will return to Him. Go do love and joy.

Rise

The memory of a righteous person is a blessing.

Proverbs 10:7

At a family therapy session, one family member said something totally uncalled for, provocative, and insulting to another person. The remark was extremely irritating to me, even as an observer, and I anticipated an explosive outburst of outrage from the recipient. To my great surprise, the latter remained quiet and merely gestured to indicate that he was dismissing the comment as being unworthy of a response.

After the session, I complimented the man on his self-restraint. He explained, “A friend of mine once had a very angry outburst. During his rage he suffered a stroke from which he never regained consciousness.

“I am not afraid that if I become angry I would also suffer a stroke. However, what I and everyone else remember of my friend are the last words of his life, which were full of bitterness and hostility. That is not the way I wish to be remembered. Since no person can know exactly when one’s time is up, I made up my mind never to act in such a manner, so that if what I was doing was to be my last action on earth, I would not be remembered that way.”

The Talmud tells us that when Rabbi Eliezer told his disciples that a person should do teshuvah one day before his death, they asked, “How is a person to know when one will die?” Rabbi Eliezer answered, “Precisely! Therefore one should do teshuvah every day, since tomorrow may be one’s last day.”

The verse cited above may be explained in the same way. People should behave in a way that they would wish others to remember them, for that can indeed be a blessing.

Today I shall…

behave as though this day is the one by which I shall be remembered.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Elul 10”
Aish.com

There’s more than a little anger flowing around on the Internet. Anyone with the ability to create a website or a blog potentially has access to a vast audience (though in reality, how many people really read all these messages), and whatever ax they have to grind, the website owner or blog writer freely grinds. I can’t exempt myself from such company since, given a good enough reason, I can go off half-cocked, just like the next guy.

But as we can see from the story told by Rabbi Twerski, if we allow hurt and anger to rule our lives, hostile words may be the last thing anyone remembers about us. Is that the sort of legacy you want to leave behind?

Many years ago, a psychologist friend of mine told me that anger is a “secondary emotion.” People don’t feel anger without some other emotion happening first. Usually it’s some sort of hurt or anxiety, like when you accidentally hit your finger with a hammer. First you feel pain, then you get mad at the hammer.

But there’s another kind of pain that people can suffer from, often for years or even decades. It’s the pain of unresolved fear or anxiety or loss. When we see a person fly off into a rage, all we are aware of is the rage, the unpleasantness of hearing such angry words and seeing someone screaming red-faced at us. We typically aren’t able to see behind the face at the sad, lost, and frightened person who is hiding beneath the anger and hostility.

Believe me, that “rager” isn’t half as angry at you or me as he or she is at themselves.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus said this?

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” –Matthew 22:39-40 (ESV)

Why love your neighbor as yourself? What if you don’t even like yourself? What if you detest and loathe the person you are? How could those feelings in any way translate into loving another person and how in the world could Jesus make “love” a command? Emotionally, some people are just barely able to get by from day-to-day. Love would be an enormous stretch for them.

Right now, feel a greater sense of self-respect and respect for others. This will be reflected in how you speak and how you act. Repeat the words “self-respect and respect for others.”

If you had a greater amount of self-respect, what is one special thing you would do differently today?

What can you do today that would be an expression of greater respect for others?

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Today’s Daily Lift #560”
Aish.com

AbyssLook at what Rabbi Pliskin is saying. He’s associating self-respect with respect for other people. I’ve said in the past that Jesus directly connects the commandment to love God with the mitzvot of loving your neighbor. You cannot say you love your neighbor unless you love God and you cannot truly love God if you do not love your neighbor. But to love your neighbor; to respect him or her, you must also love and respect yourself.

No, I’m not suggesting leaping into the depths of narcissism, but as I’ve said in the past, depression robs us of the purpose, the meaning, the joy that God has created for all of our lives. It is the thief that takes from us who we really are.

Depression is not a sin, but it can take you to places lower than any sin.

-Chassidic saying

When you’re sitting at the bottom of the abyss, buried up to your neck in darkness and held in place by the heaviness of your chains, it can be extremely difficult to imagine any other type of life. And yet God did not create you to live in darkness and to exist in the shadows. While there are circumstances that can be difficult or even impossible to overcome physically; slavery, imprisonment, chronic brutality by a spouse or parent, God has always intended more for us.

Even when the physical or emotional torture and abuse has passed and we are free from those chains, often times, we continue to forge bonds of our own and then place ourselves in their power. Unfortunately, the darkness and chains that some people live in are invisible to the rest of us. All we see is the anger, the outbursts, the bullying, and the ugly way we are being treated by this person. We never see how terribly they are treating themselves.

If only there were a way out of the abyss; a way to rise up and climb into the light.

Higher consciousness is more than a state of mind.

It is a way of eating, of sleeping, of loving, of speaking, of doing business—it is apparent in all your ways.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Higher Mind”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I know the climb seems insurmountable. I know you don’t even want to admit you are at the bottom of your well. It’s never too late. Not as long as you don’t give up hope. Not as long as you can still look up and see the light.

Look at the light. Begin your climb. Rise.