Posted by: reuvenflamer | November 1, 2010

PARSHAS CHAYA SARAH – MAKE MATCHES

In this week’s Parsha of Chaya Sarah, you are afforded a (rather long) glimpse into  a significant Jewish event. Unlike today, whaen  this sort of thing is kept under wraps, the Torah reveals the entire process of the shidduch ( arranged marriage) between Yitzchok and Rivkah. It even spells it out twice. First there is the account of how Avraham commissioned  Eliezer his servant as his shliach, (messenger or proxy). He sent him on a mission to locate a proper  match for his son. We watch the steps  Eliezer took to find her,  follow his journey, and share his success. A   second time the entire episode is repeated as Eliezer recounts the entire story to Rivka’s family. ( instead of writing ” Eleizer told what happened” or something similar, the Torah records Eliezer’s repetition of the entire story).

The Torah is  usually circumspect in the amount of words it chooses to convey a message or idea. It hides myriad laws and lessons in nuance and allusion, often times  in just one letter. Yet here it disregards a terse style and opts for repetition!

Why?

And what do you gain from this “story”?

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

There are four  scenes in the  Torah’s account of this  first wedding.Scene One: Avraham appoints Eliezer as his shliach. His mission: avoid the local riffraff and go back to his brother’s family to find Yitzchok a match. Scene Two: Eliezer has a heart to heart conversation with G-d and shares his plan of action with Him: G-d of my master Avraham, send me, I pray good speed this day, and show kindness to  my master Avraham.  So let it come to pass, that the young lady  to whom I shall say: Take down  your water  pitcher, that I may drink; and she shall say: Drink, and I will give your  camels also to drink; let the same be she that you have  appointed for your servant. Scene Three: Instantly the plan unfolds, Rivkah arrives, gives him and his camels water. Eliezer gives her gifts and then affirms who she is  ( Rashi explains he was so sure of the merits of his master Avraham, that he assumed she was the right girl, from the right family). Scene Four: The negotiations between Eliezer and the family. Curtain closes, as Rivkah and Eliezer ride back home. ( Next ACT, the wedding!)

Scene one: You do not have to pick your reason or raison d’etre for what and why you are here, what to do, and what is worth pursuing ( ” what color is  your parachute”,” purpose driven life” “meaningful life” etc., etc.,) . Rather, whatever you WILL choose, or be chosen for, is prefaced by knowing you have been sent. ( in Hebrew, m’shaleach, the sender, and shliach is the one sent).

You are a shliach. And this means that everything you do, whom you meet, what you struggle with, your demons and your better side, your successes and failures, are all intertwined and based on Shlichus.

Shlichus means: your mission is less about you. It is less about  even fitting into a bigger picture! It is less about fulfillment. It is less about how much you can get with as little investment. It is less about finding happiness. It is less about being great. It is less about being occupied or busy.

But it is about Making Matches!

What Do I Do Now?

How much of (adult) life is taken up with the angst of ” what do I do now”? Lose your job, what do I do now? Lose big in the market, what do I do now? Anytime something doesn’t go the way you expected, is a ” what do I do now” moment. Each ” what do I do now” moment is often accompanied by a sinking feeling of being ” on my own”. Life didn’t quite work out the way I planned. No plan to rely on, I am on my own. Lost what I had. I am on my own. Wish I had better this , more of that. Then the missing piece leaves me ” on my own”. A person I relied on let’s me down, I am on my own.

But  this view is two dimensional –  like pieces on a boardgame of life. Take the piece I was engaged with, and  ” I am on my own again”.

Two dimensional living gives the pieces a lot of power and leverage!

But the boardgame is three dimensional.

Meshaleach (Sender) ,shliach ( you),  and the pieces on the board game. And the flow of energy is not between pieces. Remove  a piece off the board, the electricity still flows, so to speak – from Sender to you. You do not wait for a  new piece to replace the old to make the connection for you and take you out of being on your own! You make the connection for it! The piece is alone and you are a match maker!

In truth, explains Chassidus, you yourself are a match made in Heaven! Practically speaking, you are your body! Hashem took a very Holy soul, neshamah, and connected it to what you are most  familiar with – your body. And this connection is from head to toe. Mind to movement. At any and all points of time, you are a match. The soul makes the match between G-d and body. The soul is the shliach. The shlichus: feel the shliach and the m’shaleach more and more.

The soul and body  – together ( that means you!) is also a shliach. And the shlichus is once again, to make a match – bring light, soul, kindness, righteousness, to all the pieces on the boardgame that come your way! The pieces need you (not the other way around!) So make a match, connecting them to the one who sent both of you!

A beautiful thing evolves when you see life as Shlichus. No piece is alone. Each piece on the boardgame is not simply a part of a large picture. It is the large picture itself. Since we are all shluchim, says, the Torah of Chassidus, and the game itself is making matches, then the one piece at the time you and it are together, is the whole picture. Not just a means to an end, or greater goal!

Does the degree of  meaningfulness  fluctuate with how many and how global its impact? Is your corner of life less meaningful in the ” bigger picture” than your neighbor who has a greater sphere of influence?

Not to your children! Not to your spouse! And certainly not to theMeshaleach, the sender! True, together as one, the connections we each make,  add up to a final end result. But each connection is theshlichus itself. Make a connection and rejoice!

This idea is seen in a Gematria made famous by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Shliach, is the same gematria, mathematical Hebrew equivalent, as Sameach – Joy. For Shliach means each piece is crucial, Make the connection, the shlichus, and voila, Sameach – joy. A Match Made in Heaven

Scene Two

If you are indeed on Shlichus, then move to Scene Two. Connect the pieces to the Sender.

You are dealt a set of pieces on your board. They need to line up properly in order to bring a successful result. Never, however, are the pieces or you, outside of “Shlichus”. So, says Eliezer, if this is a Shlichus that my Master wants, then certainly his Master wants it too! So Eliezer negotiate with the  Master of the gameboard. I am going to do my part, as I see it, with the talents ( from head to toe) that You have given me.

( shlichus of mind and body match). The next  question is slippery. You must  make sure you really mean this: Isn’t it incumbent on you to make Your shlichus work? ( this is less about me and more about You). So, I will do x, y, and zee. You make it happen.

Connecting the Sender to the pieces is itself making a Match.

SCENE THREE

If you are sincerely clear that what you are to do, and the steps you take to do them (given what you have in talent and ability) is ” SHLICHUS” , then assume total trust in the outcome. We do not mean a simple mantra of ” think positive” and some law of attraction will make it happen. Rather, trust that the steps ahead ( the other pieces on the board that are about to appear) will unfold ahead of you because they are also part of the Shlichus ( refer back to step Two). As Eliezer did: he gave Rivkah engagement gifts after she gave him and his camels water AND THEN asked who she was ( the wrong family would disqualify her as shidduch potential for Yitzchok) . Now that is trust that the pieces indeed fall in place!

SCENE FOUR

So you make it. Success! There remains one last step: expand your players! Sure, Eliezer made the right moves. Rivkah came to the well at the right time. But with Rivkah comes her FaceBook friends too! The shlichus rolls on! Eleizer involve her parents, her family, setting more pieces in motion! ( a obvious sign that you are not following the Shlichus paradigm: you stop with satisfaction when you achieve a goal. For, as the tasks at hand become your thing and not theMeshaleach, then there is a limit to them. My age limits me. My income limits me. I. I. I. And this satisfies me! When the steps in your life are the Meshaleach – and  face it, He is with out limit) then the SHLICHUS doesn’t stop. Ever.

MOSHIACH SHLICHUS

Another  Gematria made famous by the Rebbe: Shliach with the number ten ( a yud) equals Moshiach!

Moshiach is when the Matchmaking is complete. The Ultimate Shidduch. Use the ten powers you possess and do so with joy ( sameach) and make as many matches as possible, (shlichus) and you will be the Matchmaker  – between an entire world and Moshiach!

Matchmake today! Learn On! Light On! Moshiach On!

Posted by: reuvenflamer | November 1, 2010

Tradition Can Include Nutrition

Jewish cultural  and the protocols  that come along with it can  be  thousands of years old. When a tradition involves food, the ingrained habits of dinner time are an especially treacherous  road to take an exit ramp from!  Eating  rituals  dictate timing, location, the manner, and even the speed in which you come to bring fork ( who said you must eat with a fork anyway?) to plate.

Thus they have a strong  gravitational force on practice, habit, and like all food, health. But they are not necessarily based on firm Jewish principles. So fellow Chassidim, take a second look at “ its tradition”.

One of the  strongest  foodie gestalt experience icon, is the Jewish Sabbath gourmet item of the Saturday lunch, called Cholent! This  traditional Jewish stew simmered  overnight, for 12 hours or more,  has developed over the centuries to conform with Jewish law that prohibits cooking on the Sabbath. (The pot is brought to boil on Friday before the Sabbath begins, and kept on a hotplate, slow  cooker or stove top until the following day). Alongside the rather new custom of Scotch whisky tasting klatches that seem to be popping all over the place, the cholent club is to  be found in Tasmania, to San Francisco, to Tashkent!

 

Nothing wrong about cholent. After all its Tradition!  But, add to the cholent pot of (excuse the pun) the particulars of the raw materials, and cholent takes on new meaning. And the gravity gets even more of force too deal with!

For the tradition can include Nutrition!

I say Combine Both, Mix Well, and you have a meal for for a Sabbath Queen!

Think New York and Jewish food, eventually you will  conjure up the boisterous cacophony of the “NY Deli”.

Corned beef. Matzah ball soup. Borscht. And the almost extinct gribenes ( this is the grandest of the Jewish menus – chicken fat stir fried with onions and traditionally spread on black bread, rye, or eaten alone by the spoonful! Oy vey!)

 

How did food habits that are a prescription for a certain early demise of the circulatory system evolve in the first place?

Jewish cooking developed with the help of  the cuisines of countries that Jews found themselves in! The Jews are the first to conform to “eating local”! Adapting  to their new host country, usually arriving quite hungry from the latest expulsion, they quickly learned their new local menu. Kosher Jewish food is as varied and global as Jewish geography is.

Jews of the Middle East cook with lots  of lemon, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil, cumin and turmeric, vegetables, rice, ginger, and saffron & chilies. Fruits, vegetables, spices, and grains were plentiful in the Mediterranean climate, and these healthy items  are used  heavily.

In contradistinction East European Jewish menu uses lots of meat and potatoes, knishes, kugels ( pasta noodles, eggs) cheese cakes, cinnamon buns, and of course cholent.

Like so many countries of old, dishes like gribenes, were used for two reasons: every piece of the raw materials you had the luck to come afford is used. Meat, skin, bones, and even the little toes of the family hen! In order to celebrate and make a meal a special occasion, you added what is considered as “ fit for Royalty” . As meat was expensive, well, refer  to reason one!

And the impoverished Jew wished to honor his or her Sabbath with a meal fit for a King.

However, in a modern world  of complex distribution logisitics, where just about everything is available to you, what  stops you  from replacing gribines with fig and date spread or chick pea and lima bean pate with garlic and onions?

Are the  items on your centuries old Jewish Sabbath menu sacrosanct? Isn’t your vitality more royal than a corned beef sandwich?

And the hot Nutritional Cholent, served hot after 12 hours after your scotch whiskey L’chaim, is also Traditional.

Here is a wonderful recipe for a great Cholent ( if you must you can add your favorite meat or fowl):

This historical Eastern European Sabbath stew typically prepared by Jewish women consisted of a simple, earthy combination of beans, grains, vegetables, and meat. The women would seal the pot with a paste of flour and water, and carry it to the village baker. By Friday evening, the large baker’s oven was brimming with many Cholent-filled copper pots that slowly stewed overnight. After Sabbath morning prayers, the men would stop by the village bakery, collect their aromatic stews, and carry them home for their afternoon meal.

This wholesome vegan medley of lima beans, red beans, barley, and buckwheat gleans its flavor from a galaxy of vegetables heightened with maple syrup and Dijon mustard.


1/2 C. (120 ml) dry lima beans
1/2 C. (120 ml) dry red beans

3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 onions, coarsely chopped
3 medium potatoes, unpeeled, quartered
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cut into large chunks
1/2 C. (120 ml) barley
1/2 C. (120 ml) buckwheat
1/2 head of garlic, chopped
1 t. salt
Freshly ground pepper
Water

1/2 C. (120 ml) maple syrup
1/4 C. (60 ml) Dijon mustard
1 t. salt or to taste

  1. Pick over the lima and red beans, and discard any spoiled beans, debris, or tiny stones. Rinse the beans, put them into a large bowl, and add water to cover by 2-inches (5 cm). Soak 8 hours.
  2. Drain off water and rinse beans. Put them into a large, open stockpot with water to cover, and bring them to a boil. Turn heat down slightly, and boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain off all water.
  3. Place the beans in a crockpot, add carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, sweet potato, barley, buckwheat, garlic, salt, pepper and water to cover by 1 1/2-inches (3.5 cm).
  4. Cover the crockpot, and put it on medium heat. and cook for 12 hours or overnight.

Serves 6 to 8.

 

Posted by: reuvenflamer | November 19, 2009

Quick Speed, Shotgun Weddings!

This week’s parsha has  a  form and structure unlike the rest of the Torah.  And out of  this uncommon  pattern emerges an elixir for adventurous living and “longer days”, (called in the Torah arichus Yomim, lengthened days).

The bulk of the this week’s Torah reading  of Chaya Sarah, the life of Sarah, revolves around Eliezer  the servant of Avraham. We first learn of Avraham instructing  his servant Eliezer  to travel  to Avraham’s relatives to seek a fitting shidduch, match for his son Yitzchok. The scene switches  to Eliezer conversing with G-d, as he negotiates  a strategy for success to complete his task.  Miraculously, as he finishes with his communion with G-d,  Rivkah suddenly appears.  She not only  meets the requirements as requested by   Eliezer to   G-d, but the speed of events and the manner in which they unfold is  lightning quick!

Eliezer is escorted by Rivkah to her home.

Here the Torah takes an unusual turn. In place of a succinct mention  that Eliezer informed Rivkah’s family all what had taken place the Torah has us read of the entire story over again! Eliezer tells point by point his journey from Avraham’s tent to meeting Rivkah.

This leads the sages to point out that unlike where important rules of law are concentrated in even in a nuance of one letter –  that the Torah is very circumspect and speaks in as few words as necessary – the “conversations of the servants of the Jewish forefathers” are laid out at length. They remark “the conversations of the servants are beautiful even more than the Torah of their children! This is clear in the  repeated recounting of  Eliezer’s story.

Why does a house servant get such a lengthy part in the Torah? What do we gain from this?

Skipped Real Estate

Speed seems to be the rate of occurrence in the entire parsha of Chaya Sarah. Sarah suddenly passes away. Eliezer, setting out on his journey experiences Kafitzas Haaretz –  literally land skipping (or special quick travel) – the usual 17 day journey was done in one day! Immediately after  his request to G-d to help him find a match, Rivkah appears!

Should you too sharpen your skills  in quickening the mechanics of life? Then, even your conversations are especially recorded, superseding even the “Torah of the children of Avraham

Excitement Crackling

We all experience “slow rime” and “ quick time”. Though perhaps only subjective, quick time usually advances as  their content increases in meaning and importance. The more significant your endeavor, the time it takes for you to live these moments  seem to stretch further and longer! The child who enjoys their summer camp experience sees it “fly by”. The tedious chore of a task less desired can be excruciating slow!

Chassidus explains that this “experiential subjectivity” of time speed occurs precisely because it matches a reality that is more than subjective!

QUICK TIME RECIPE

Peering into the parsha  the recipe for elongated time is clearly laid out: volunteer to be the shliach, representative, of a Holy man (Avraham), talk to G-d, and have a wedding as your task!

Then sending of Eliezer on his important shlichus, or mission, is the first mention of this concept: a legal like structure that places the m’shaleach, the sender, in the shoes of the shliach, the sender! When the shliach accomplishes his mission, in actuality, explains the Torah, the one who sent him did it! Literally, the shliach is the m’shaleach!

What does it take for the sender to be wherever the shliach is?

A thorough dedication to the mission.

Though the shliach Eliezer was never told how and what to do to fulfill his mission (the process is his creative addition to the task) , as long as there is no deviation from the sender’s wishes, the shliach is the sender!

Eliezer first contacts G-d before actively looking for which woman would be the candidate . ( he obviously learned this trick from Avraham. This accomplished two things: he connected to whom Avraham was a shliach for 2)  he looked to inject into the natural picture around him a higher dimension that would smooth out any obstacles (it is  quicker ride down a highway free of traffic then the clogged arteries of the inner city).

Thirdly, his task was to unite two Jewish people (the first after the Mitzvah of Bris Milah was given to the family of Avraham, the mark of the Jewish peole, as explained last week). This would build an eternal Jewish home founded on eternal principles that would insure a sustained lineage (until today)

MARRIAGE – 24/7

Men and women are very different! Marrying them together is described in the Torah as bringing to very different forms of fire together! Without the right combinations, this fire can explode! Yet, the very purpose of life, on its most basic form, is that a man and woman should marry, and create from their union a string of descendants who will continue the process!

This paradigm is an example used in Kabbalah for the spiritual task that each of us have. Unifying the male male waters (or mah) with the female waters (bunn). In short (this subject is lengthy) the unity of mah u’bann is the peaceful unity of intention and action, body and soul, Mitzvahs with  Torah, and G-d with the Universal Experience. It is the task of creating a complete fusion with your mundane everyday self with your Holier dimension.

In other words, you are , at every moment at a wedding.  The Chassan, groom, your soul. Your body, the bride.

The task – make them one!

The way to accomplish this gargantuan task, is to be a shliach! Bring G-d into the picture. After all, He sent you in the first place!

The  Torah’s picture for this: the everyday steps of a servant of Avraham . His heart felt please for success, and  his business conversations (with Rivka’s parents).

ALL AND NOTHING

When Avraham sent Eliezer on his way, he gave him a  document . It turned over all of his wealth (which was much) to the care of Eliezer (he would in turn give this to Yitzchok and Rivkah). How come Avraham gave all of his money away? Surely, Avraham, who kept the entire Torah prior to its historic giving at Mount Sinai) knew of the prohibition of making one destitute (even for a charitable motivation).

When it comes to building the Jewish people, insuring the historic significance and import to the world, Avraham was willing to risk all! And devoid of any boundaries.  So he gave it his all.

THE INNER CHILD

The expression Inner Child now takes on a different meaning. When your life is as exciting and meaningful to you as summer camp is to the young boy or girl then things move quickly! This happens when everything around you is connected to that which has the inner dimensions of  soul and body. When the “ Inner” is threaded throughout every step of your mission, then the Inner Child makes living as fun as camp!

SHLIACH SECRETS – MOSHIACH

The word shliach is made of four  Hebrew letters –  shin, lamed, yud, and the ches. The same letters equal  the word sameach,  joy or simcha when added an extra yud or ten to it. The word Sameach also equals Moshiach!

In order to experience the highest moment of the fusion of body and soul, spirit and world  which is Moshiach – the clear seeing of G-dliness in the world) one needs to a) be a shliach, uniting mah u’ban at every moment’s opportunity – life is a wedding b) you use all ten (the added yud) of all your talents (mind and  emotions) and c) you are filled with joy (sameach) at your incredibly exciting task and mission of being G-d’s messenger!

This generation has been given an awesome shlichus: make your task to bring Moshiach!

When you volunteer to be a shliach in all your ways,  just like Eliezer was given all of what Avraham had, so too you will be given “all of what G-d has”. And just like G-d is beyond time and space, your life will speed up as the road of life clears of all obstacles and traffic!

More on this next week.

Posted by: reuvenflamer | September 14, 2009

Meditation and Love – Netzavim Part 2

TEACHING  THE UNKNOWN

A parent has the awesome responsibility to teach, to mold, and direct a child’s thinking and conscious beliefs. Children essentially show up a blank slate. When you finish with them they are a full blackboard! (Some spend years unlearning what was written!)  What  do you decide what to teach and what not? Are you sure of your beliefs 100 percent before you pass them along to a child ? Do you go  to the fact checker websites first to check whether your beliefs are true?

We always teach  “universal core beliefs”:

Put 100,000 first graders into the UN. Bring out the UN chairman. Do we have him teach that “world peace” is attainable or the opposite?

Do you teach your children that peace is natural and war is an aberration? How do you know that peace is a goal to strive for? Isn’t it true that there have been few (if any) years in history when mankind was peace and war -free? So why do we teach this irrational belief? Maybe its better to teach the art of warfare then the hope in peace and love?

peace

How did the idea of peace become  ingrained in the human psyche when there is not a scintilla of evidence that there ever was peace in the world and therefore doubtful that there will be? Certainly experience did not fuel this value!

In the human heart and soul burns a inner belief  that we should and can live in peace. Motivated by this inner  sense or belief we research into it , write about it , experiment with it  ,  teach about  it , sing about it, and even hold prayer vigils for it – all in the name of  creating  world peace!

Left to rational discovery and historical proofs, would  peace be a pursuit for  mankind?  Left on its own, would we ever reach this lofty goal? We  build on the universal belief and then internalize it in mind and heart. The more we spend time on the learning about peace, the more we reveal the inner built in belief that we all share.

The neshama – soul incubates some  unique beliefs too . One is in the “Being of Truth ” –  that is, G-d,  who  is  the source of all, exists by virtue of what he  is ( and is not created), referred to by RamBam quoting  King David, as “The G-d of Truth”. He exists by what He is, everything else exists by virtue of Him).  (RamBam in the first chapter of Mishne Torah).

What Kind of Being is this, that exists by virtue of what it is?

Who knows!?

This is what is what G-d answered Moshe – no one can know me as you ask  – like a mind that knows a subject and internalizes it  within the intellect as a separate piece of data ! In the words of the Tikunei Zohar: no thought can contain or grasp Him. This essential being  of G-d is left for  emunah. Thankfully each neshamah is blessed with the innate emunah in this Elokim Emes – G-d of Truth (like the human race believes in peace)

On the other hand, writes the RaMBam , we are obligated to “know G-d ” as well as believe. Because the soul is naturally in touch with this Truth Being, it also has a natural love to this being of Truth!  The more you learn what you can about G-d, the more fertile ground you lay for the natural ahava mesuteris to emerge and give expression.

So we learn about G-d in order to give a sacred space for the natural love we all have. Our “knowledge of faith: must become as internalized as possible through knowledge and meditation.

ROSH HASHANA – The Love is Now

The task of Rosh Hashana is to accept the innate ‘Kingship’ that the soul shares with G-d – The Being of Truth is the root of all existence  – continually creates and has a unique mission for each of us. We are the subjects and He is the King.

This is the literal meaning of Teshuvah – return – The Return is to yourself. And the return is really a RE-TURN! And when it happens, the Torah is close in action and speech and heart!

At the outset, on Rosh Hashana we must touch the inner  Netzavim – the firm stance of the  personal inner core of the soul . Chassidic custom says that this time of  year is  to make commitments and resolutions in the spiritual realms. A core and basic platform for the next year shall be: I will learn more than I have ever before about what G-d is and massage my inner love and connection out of hiding . I will join a lesson in Chassidus and Kabbalah and I will implement into action in my prayers, in my thoughts, and my actions.

Moshiach: The Inner Core

The truth why the whole world feels that peace is a worthwhile pursuit is because the purpose of creation according to Torah, even of the souls themselves, is to reach the ultimate Shalom in the world with Moshaich Tzedkainu. Thus, all Jews, before Rosh Hashana also must take upon themselves to learn more about what the Torah says Moshiach is, thus nurturing the Moshiach spark we all share!

Learn ON Light On! Moshaich Mow!

Posted by: reuvenflamer | September 14, 2009

Love and Meditation – Nitzavim Part1

The Shabbos that closes the door on the outgoing year and blesses the New Year is always the parsha of N‘tzavim-Veyalech (V’yelach, its partner, is read together with it on most years, but the two can be read in separate weeks – N’tzavim before Rosh Hashana and V’yelach after Rosh Hashana).

After hearing the 98 curses (read last week) the Jewish people asked how they could continue in such a relationship? What chances was there for a life of peace and survival when so many curses are hanging over them? Moshe quickly responds: “Atah Netzavim – you are all firmly standing here today.” Rashi explains: despite the many transgressions and even (subtle?) mutinies of the past forty years, you remain standing – strong! You will continue to do so.

This declaration of Jewish sustainability is one reason why this parsha is read each year before Rosh Hashana. Despite the impending judgment on the past and the unknown outcome on the future, “you stand here today, firm, and strong!” Expect a definite blessing for life and strength for the new year.

Following the Torah completely seems an impractical expectation. Are we comfortably drawn to the spirit and ready to drop what we naturally pursue? Chassidim say: If G-d would have written about the evil inclination in a book, and placed G-dliness in front of us (and not vice versa), just think what would be accomplished!

Yet, the parsha writes: “This Mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not outside your grasp, is not distant, not on the heavens or across a vast ocean. Rather, karov elecha ha-davar m’od b’ficha, b’lavavcha, la’asosa – it is close to you, in your mouth, heart, and to do! Even the heart easily feels close to G-d. But how do you love the invisible? If keeping love in a marriage has its challenges, how much more so preserving a G-dly love!

Isn’t living a Jewish life based, and fueled by, emunah (faith). Either you have it or you don’t? There are “religious” Jews (who are The Believers) and there are the “non-religious” who don’t have it (The Non-Believers).

An Eternal Debate

The founder of Chabad writes otherwise in Tanya. The Torah means what it says. Torah is close to each one of us! Enter into the picture “natural love”.

Each of us, explains the Tanya, possess a natural love and attraction for G-d! We do not create it. We do not acquire it from outside. Nor is it rational. This love is stamped into our souls. It is “an inheritance” which we all receive – from the head of the nation to the lowly “water carrier.” However, this innate, inborn love is called “ahava misaterus” (the hidden love). At times, its not consciously felt or even known. For some, it may wake up in only the most extreme or trying of times.

In other words, the challenge is not to create a love for G-d. The demand is to reveal the love for G-d. It must permeate and saturate all parts of life. It is natural but demands effort to reveal it! When it is brought out into the open, then you are “close in your mouth, heart, and in deed.” Nothing will stop it. When it remains obscure, however, you become “distant” and there are good chances that various “reality challenges” will prevent you from connecting your daily affairs with a G-dly realness.

How do I reveal the “ahava mesuteras”?

The RaMbaM lays out a system to build appreciation and love for G-d: “One cannot love G-d except with the knowledge one has of Him; a little stirs a small amount, more knowledge stirs much more!”

Simply put: to know Him is to love Him!

Others disagree.

Yet, the Prophet exclaims: “ who can search for G-d and find Him?” The Tikunei Zohar states: “No thought can grasp Him”! Moshe asked G-d, “Show me your Glory”. G-d answered back that a man of body and soul cannot grasp His true being.” According to this, isn’t the relationship with G-d one of faith and belief and not “knowledge”? Don’t all things come down to faith and creed?

Posted by: reuvenflamer | September 8, 2009

Parshas Ki Savo – Part 2 Thankfully Yours

Thankfully Yours

It’s natural to be grateful for the joys of life. It’s not that difficult to express it either. We recite a blessing before a meal (the hungry stomach thanks the prospect of a meal). We recite a brocha over extra special moments with a shechiyanu – thanks for bringing me to this moment. We thank G-d for Shabbos by reciting Kiddish (rest is a true pleasure). We thank G-d for traveling safe. We thank G-d for the pleasure of smell. And we thank G-d for health after sickness.

We thank G-d for Life with “Modeh Ani l’fanecha shechezarta bi nishmati.” Upon opening our eyes in the morning we thank G-d for returning the soul to the body –  “you are reliable! I admit that your great mercy has returned me my soul.”

The common denominator of all the above is that thanks is for what you have. Food. Song. Consciousness. Purpose. Life.

Bikkurim

The unique Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the first fruits – in force during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh (the farmer takes his first fruits of the season and places them on the altar in the Temple, and rejoices in his good fortune). It also has a directive today as well (as all ideas and direction in the Torah).

Unlike thankfulness through thought and speech, the Jew is commanded with Bikkurim, to thank G-d on the physical action level as well. Not only does the farmer give thanks for his first fruits of his very hard labor, but he also deposits them “in front of Hashem” (the kohanim would eat the left-behind offering). The Bikkurim is not a simple thanks that a blessing was given and received. The Mitzvah of Bikkurim is a statement that all that we have, and are, remain “in front of G-d.” Life is not from G-d. Life is with G-d.

The perspective that life is a blessing, health is a gift, wealth is good fortune is a perspective that once given that which I have is mine, and is my domain! Thanks for sending it.

The Torah’s view is that everything remains “in front of Hashem,” sitting on the altar in the Temple! There is no aspect that remains outside. Life’s blessings are not a process of transference from here to there, nor are they a sum total or end result.

This is seeing life like a fruit basket! I am a container. I am waiting for something good to be placed inside. When a deposit is made I am happy (this is how many view the soul and body). The body is like a basket, and the soul sits in it! In truth however, the life energy force in the body is not an added element to the various body parts! The soul life is so deep and all encompassing that the body parts themselves become alive – as long as one is alive, the meat, blood, and sinews of the body are transformed to living tissues. The soul is not moving the body, pushing it around. The body is a moving lifeforce itself (as long as the soul resides with it).

The Curse of Sadness

The Tanya lays out two general types of sadness: depressiveness from physical hardships (financial stress for example), and sadness over one’s personal failings (sinfulness, etc.). Both are poisonous! There is a Chassidic saying: though sadness is not a sin, it does the most harm – more than any sin!). Sadness allows the excuse for giving up (after all my effort I remain who I was before – I might as well drop the discipline and give up. Your last diet ended when you decided that the lapse in your menu was enough to call it quits). The natural progression from this point is that nothing really matters anyways.

“Nothing really matters” does not simply mean that nothing counts. “Nothing really matters” means that this moment now, the breath I take now, is in itself not a “purpose.” This matter is really nothing! In other words, this moment is outside the perspective of the being in front of the altar, and not a Bikkurim. This is turn removes any feeling of “thankfulness” – joy of the soulful experience that this moment is indeed with G-d, (not only from G-d). All sadness, the curse that sadness brings, is traceable to not “serving G-d with Joy.” Even the joy of a Mitzvah, for what it brings or achieves (down the line), is a state not entirely “on the altar.” It is the beginning of not serving (every moment and facet) Hashem with joy!

Moshaich, Chassidus, and the Art of Joyful Life

In the prophetic description of the Messianic era, Isaiah says “and on that day, all flesh will see G-d together.” Like the ocean is filled with water, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d. Moshiach is not the reward for having lived life. It’s not an added step in the history of mankind. Rather, Moshiach is the moment of awareness (permanently) that we all sit “in front of Hashem, on the altar.”

The power to see life this way comes about through the teachings of Chassidus, revealed by the Baal Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe. Their birthday falls within the aura of the portion of the first fruits. Their teachings energized a nation that was in dire straits, and very much in a saddened state. They teach how everything is indeed “in front of the altar.” As we approach the New Year, and seek to revitalize ourselves, it is a fitting time to delve more often and deeper into the living waters of Chassidic teachings. It will make your next moment an altar of living!

Learn On! Light On!


Posted by: reuvenflamer | September 8, 2009

Parshas Ki Savo Part 1 – The G-d of Joy

Two weeks prior to Rosh Hashana we read this week’s Torah parshas Ki Tavo: “when you come into the land.” The parsha begins with the Mitzvah of offering the first fruits of one’s field (thank G-d for all your blessings) which includes in it a list of “curses and evil predictions,” and comes to a final conclusion with the promise for success when living according to the covenant and the urging to live up to it. Ki Tavo also is read in approximately the birthday anniversary of the Baal Shem Tov – the founder of the general teachings of Chassidus – and the Alter Rebbe – the founder of Chabad Chassidus, and author of the Tanya.

Why do you think that curses are promised to rain on the Jewish nation? Naturally, you would expect the Torah to give the reason for “The Divine Curse” as the just reward for various evil deeds. After all, the Jewish G-d is a vengeful one, isn’t He? Isn’t that what motivates religious behavior in the first place (the “run for the fox hole” syndrome in war and catastrophe)?

However, the stated surprising reason sits smack in the middle of inventory list: “for you have not served Hashem (G-d) with joy (simcha) and a good heart (tuv levav)!

Be joyless and live without many blessings. Unhappiness breeds curses!

A new take on the jealous G-d of Israel!

Choice

When do you feel the happiest? Does a five-star meal do it for you? Do you cheer when the home team wins (Go Yankees?)? Do you feel on top of your game when a financial windfall comes your way? Is joy falling in love?

The deeper picture on simcha is captured through Torah terminology: simchas ha nefesh – “joy of the soul.”

“A good meal please – I am hungry”. And if I am going to eat a meal, make it taste good at least! Afterwards, there is the physical satisfaction of satiety and the pleasure of a good memory! This is called simchas haguf – body joy. And no one denies that the body can have fun and give “what to live for.” For a while.

A step up on the ladder of joy is the pleasure one has at the performance of a world-class symphony. Music brings joy – different than the culinary delight of a first rate meal. A good song lifts the heart.

Climbing higher, there is the joy of an inspiring new insight. Discovery through learning can bring the greatest of joys. The scholar lives for the mind and in the mind. A new idea, a deep insight, lights up the face! This is the inner joy of the mind.

A rung or two higher is the joy of purpose. Discovering your “raison d’etre” – the reason why you are here – truly energizes. When you know exactly who you are, what you are here for, and (therefore) what you must do here, nothing will deter you. “Simcha breaks boundaries.” A man on his mission is unstoppable. And happy. The joy of being.

An even subtler level is the joy of choice. Making a conscious choice (and not out of habit) can be incredibly energizing. This is the joy of freedom. Breaking the physical limits of mind and body is invigorating. Choosing to confront a life challenge is a great joy! The joy of power!Parshas

Posted by: reuvenflamer | August 30, 2009

Body and Soul

Perspectives.   Yours are the  looking glass prism  on life. Change your perspective and the color of the universe changes too!

A different perspective on body and soul .

All agree that life is precious.  Common thought says  that life is a gift. G-d deposited  each of us with a soul. We are responsible for its upkeep and proper care. Eventually, it will be all over and it will return where it came from.

The Codes of Jewish Law see otherwise.

In the section of the laws on damages to the body, it is written that one is not allowed to harm the body. Why not ?

Because it is not yours to begin with !

You live 70 or 100 years not gifted with a soul, rather  you are a a soul gifted with a body! The soul was given a “deposit” –the body!

As  it is not yours, what right do you have to  damage it!

You could ask: so what? What difference does it make whether I see myself as the “body” and the soul as a gift, or the soul as me and my body as a gift? Either way isn’t it  in my best interest to keep healthy?

When is it more likely to stumble?

Its easy to experience me as  body. I  eat. I  sleep. Thank G-d for the life He gives me,  for my soul I thank Him. At times my “body” craves. Oftentimes harmful things! However, this is me after all!  As long as I am not hurting others, why not?

When experience is the body is  a “deposit”,  that is given to my  soul to care for , the picture  drastically changes . First, I am primaly life and soul. Body is second. However, the body , must be kept in best condition. It is not mine to do as I please!

What do you take care of with more care and diligence, and work over more : the car you own, or the one you borrow?

Posted by: reuvenflamer | August 14, 2009

Wellness and Science a la CNN

“Welnness”  took on a new twist recently with an article on the Times CNN Wellness blog: The Science of One NIght Stands! http://wellness.blogs.time.com/2009/08/11/the-science-of-one-night-stands/ Their heading on the blog says: A Healthy balance of  the mind, body and spirit!

What is interesting to me is the healthy balance of mind, body and spirit  connection ( or do they admit there is none?) . For us men, actually, there probably is not that much of  anything interesting here. One night stands are defiinitely feel a good balance for the body – men are men after all.  Men want a good time. Especially with no commitments! (which may be why the Torah says that men have an obligation to marry and have children, and women do not!)

For women , there’s another story.

So where is the balanced mind, body and spirit? Or is the title irrelevant? Or perhaps the article only takes on the body side of the equation! But can you leave out mind and sprirt and only focus on body – an still remain balanced?

This brings us back again to the spiritual science of eating, ( I can borrow the term from CNN!)  mentioned before. Can you focus on “body focused” eating for delight and fun while simultaneously ignoring the ill health and negative impact that the food will have on you?  You cannot live balanced when only focused on the  spirit or only focused on the body.

There is no such thing as a balance of mind, body, and spirit in  a one night stand. The article either is a disgrace to the title Wellness, or the people at CNN have no idea what a one night stand is!

I refer you to an interesting study and book at: http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com

Why men love one night stands and women less so has littel to do with biology (as one comment writes) but more with who has more spirit and who doesnt!

Note the following comment in the opening laws on Marriage, bu the RamBam , Maimonides:

” Prior to the Giving of the Torah, a man would meet (bump into) a woman in the marketplace if they both nutually consented, she would go home with him, and they would consider themselves as married” In a follow up statement he writes: Before the Torah was given, a man would meet a women in the market, agree on a price, and they would spend the evening together”.

One night stands for free and for money is nothing  new.  The institution of insuring more than this was new. And apparently seems to be in peril, if you ask the men!

Posted by: reuvenflamer | August 13, 2009

An Apple a Day – Paradigm Shift 1 – Soul With Body!

Emergency firefighting cover - Operation Fresco

So how do  we shift the  religious culture of  “outlet eating” , (not to be confused with  “outlet shopping!) to Zip Food eating

( zip food is food that gives energy, vitality and best of all, healthy living. Replaces fast food)!

Kosher is an obvious override  over anything else when it comes to food. Simply stated: better  a kosher certified red dye # 1 colored cherry  adorning a cholov yisroel banana split, then the non kosher certified, organic certified granola with rice milk!  The reason is clear: better to do harm to the body (to a point) then to the soul! (This is a not so secret Jewish secret – soul over body – G-dliness over personal gain through compromise. Has kept us alive for thousands of years beating out lots of detractors, enemies, and a whole bunch of ugly characters.)

But this is true only when that is the only alternative!  (today you can have the organic certified, non dairy sourced kosher certifed granola AND FORGO the kosher banana split!

granola3

So let’s discard the kosher over health argument. The dilemma is not soul over body.

Rather, its choosing  soul with body!

Kosher (means fit, proper, but generically is usued by the masses to mean “allowed”) is an interesting Mitzvah – command. First and foremost Kosher is a Mitzvah that has no human intelligence behind it. It is a law without reason – a chok in Hebrew. Literally “carved out”,  the relationship between commanded and the commandor, when the mitzvah is a chok, is that it is ingrained. No decision process needed. No “agreement”  contact at this table. Rather, it is emblazoned and carved in to the core of your being i.

But  to eat kosher and make yourself sick sumltaneously or overeat to the point of internal abuse (soul as well as body), reminds me of the following story:

A man came home from Friday evening Sabbath  services, feeling the enveloping peace that the Shabbos brings. As he sits down at the table to recite the Kiddush (blessing over wine) he notices that the Challah is not covered, as is traditional. (at the beginning of the Shabbat meal, we recite the Kiddush  prayer, officially announcing the sanctity of the day and thereby fulfilling a positive Biblical commandment to “remember” the Sabbath. In order to emphasize the significance of this verbal proclamation, ancient rabbinic authorities mandated that these words be recited ceremonially over a cup of wine. However, how can we bless the wine – and make it a center of ceremonial importance no less – when such an archetypical sustenance as bread lies before us on the table?! So we   “remove” the bread by concealing it from view,and placing a cover over the challah before Kiddush. This is explained to be a lesson in “being sensitive” to the feelings of others!)

Seeing that the bread has no cover, the man begins to berate his wife. He screams and rants about the importance of keeping the rules. He snorts in anger over her lack of concious attention in preparing the Sabbath. He yells: don’t you know that you must learn to be sensitive to the challah! His wife is left in tears!

In the same way, is the kosher food that slowly eats away at your health and energy. Technically correct. Stupidly applied.

So paradign shift number 1: Choose the best possible way to enhance the Mitzvah of your kosher food. Eat healthy. Eat Organic. Eat with sensitivity. Eat for your health (as the RaMBam writes quoted below. Enhance (hiddur Mitzvah) the kosher table by eating for a higher purpose other than filling your hungry needs.

There is no sense in being a kosher pig!

Learn On! Light On!

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