Following are some excerpts from the essay “Growing Pains“, which I strongly recommend you read, it’s a must. This essay is written by Rabbi Nosson Weisz, of AISH.com, who writes in his section Mayanot, Wellsprings.
We Jews subscribe to the belief that the world is run by Divine Providence. God obligated Himself under the terms of the Covenant that He signed with us, the Jewish people, at Mt. Sinai, to treat us as the most beloved treasure of all peoples (Exodus 19:5). The very undertaking to provide Jews with special treatment assumes a world subject to Divine direction. Since it is quite unthinkable to suspect God of deliberately violating His agreements, we are forced to conclude that the events of Jewish history constitute an exact demonstration of God’s interpretation of this obligation to treat us as His most beloved treasure. Needless to say, in light of the horrors that the Jewish people have endured over the centuries, especially the most recent horror of the Holocaust, the perception of our ‘treasured’ status is problematic to say the least.
With an eye to discharging this Jewish civic obligation, this essay focuses on the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We are totally demoralized by daily acts of senseless terror perpetrated by people who enthusiastically sacrifice their lives to create havoc and murder against innocent civilians. No matter what solution we attempt, we seem quite helpless to stop the carnage. To add to our national frustration, a large part of the ‘civilized’ world regards us Jews as the perpetrators of the very violence of which we are the victims. Why is this happening to us? Why can’t we reach a peaceful accommodation with our Palestinian neighbors no matter what concessions we offer?
I requested Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths, to allow me place this video of HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita, where HaRav Arush, shlita, makes a special request of the world. Hebrew w/English subtitles.
It’s a blessing to hear HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita, in hitbodedut (personal prayer).
This video, placed with the kind permission of Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths.
Due the last news, which are quite disturbing, I requested Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths, to allow me place this video of HaRav Shalom Arush, shlita, where he gives a powerful example of hitbodedut (personal prayer), showing how to express one’s emunah (faith) in the Creator of the world. Rabbi Arush, shlita, is the author of The Garden of Emunah and the Rosh Yeshiva of Chut Shel Chesed in Jerusalem.
This video, placed with the kind permission of Reb Akiva of Mystical Paths.
By Rabbi Shalom Arush
Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody
The Tale of the Lost Princess
Part 22 from The Garden of Yearning
Rabbi Zev “Velvel” Cheshin of blessed memory, one of the prominent Breslover Chassidim of the previous generation, would say in the name of the Zohar that the Yetzer Hara is not allowed to enter a person except through the eyes. In our tale, we see this principle clearly. Had the viceroy guarded his eyes – and that means closing them, especially to temptation – he wouldn’t have suffered a setback and he’d have rescued the princess then and there.
The very first sin in the world – Adam’s – began with the eyes, for it is written (see Bereishit, chapter 3), “And the woman saw that the tree is good for eating, for it was irresistible in her eyes and pleasingly enlightening so she took from its fruit and gave it also to her man with her and he ate.”
All the blemishes imaginable – lust for women, lust for food, lust for money, coveting, jealousy, and many more – all begin with the eyes. Rashi teaches us (see his commentary of Parshat Shlach), that “what the eye sees, the heart covets.”
Read complete Essay.
A baal teshuva tells his story
by Avraham Green
As a secular Jewish American teenager, I looked down with pity on the poor adults who would waste their lives working at routine jobs. They worked so that they could buy food to eat. They ate so that they could have energy for work. “What a pathetic waste of life!”, I thought. Not me. No way, am I going to waste my life like this.
I wanted to taste life. There was a whole exciting world out there beckoning me to go and discover it. Life is a great gift, I thought, how can someone waste it in a routine meaningless life?
I would go out with friends on wild, teenage escapades. Sometimes it would be driving a jeep through dirt roads at night exploring the wilderness. Other times, we would go on wild, thrilling drunken sprees in the night clubs eventually dancing and singing wildly in the streets. Other times we would go out on “damage patrols”. This meant going out and destroying things. A friend of mine once built a bomb from pool chemicals and blew up an abandoned barn. My personal favorite was driving at night close to parked cars and smashing the side mirrors with a baseball bat. For some time, I was a bit of a cleptomaniac. I would go into stores and steal things. I didn’t really need these things, but there was some strange, thrilling feeling to go out and do illegal things. Maybe it was the risk of getting caught by the police or the owners. Living dangerously provided the great thrill of feeling alive.
I didn’t understand why, but for some reason, I had this deep yearning. Deep feeling. Spiritual yearning. Somehow, living dangerously appeased this yearning. Maybe trying to live life excitingly, live life in a thrilling way, somehow it gave a feeling of living life fully. Experiencing life instead of wasting it in dull, routine experiences. When you live dangerously, somehow you feel really alive.
As I got older, my yearning shifted to a desire for understanding the world. I felt a deep, existential loneliness. I would look up at the starlit sky and peer into this vast universe. This vast mystery that just seemed so beyond comprehension- an infinite wisdom. Who could ever understand it? The world was one impossible riddle that I would never understand. So I turned to studying philosophies that turned towards this direction. Especially eastern philosophy, hindu philosophy, which has a perspective which tries to address the infinite puzzle of life. Somehow in letting go, in accepting the infinite structure of the world, it would make sense. A kind of paradox. By accepting that it’s not understandable, you come to understand it. Intuitively I thought the answer must be in this direction. The world seemed so deep that I felt it was impossible to directly understand it.
Judaism was in my mind, the last place to look. One time I heard that they had put a string around Jerusalem for religious reasons (an eruv). Here I was trying to probe the secrets of the cosmos, and the Jews were attributing religious significance to putting a string around a city. I thought to myself, “these people must be totally insane”.
So, it seemed logical that the only way to understand life and the infinite wisdom in the world is to accept that it’s not understandable.
So I accepted that and I also went on to study physics and astronomy. The world was just so fascinating, so infinitely deep. I stood in wondrous awe at the probing of the atom or in exploring the limits of the cosmos. I could not stop. I was drawn like a magnet to science and to the vast wisdom in nature that it probed.
After graduation, I came to Israel for a 3 week vacation. I was supposed to go on to my PhD program in physics, and decided to give some pleasure to my mother by learning about Judaism. To my great surprise there was something there. After learning about judaism, questioning, studying, investigating, I was shocked to see a different, yet self-consistent system of looking at the world which has an answer to virtually all questions my scientific and philosophical mind could dish out. So, I decided to take a year off and investigate further. Hopefully, I could disprove the system and go back to my endless contemplations. Well, guess what. Ten years later, I’m still in Israel – thank G-d.
Spiritual Yearning and the Purpose of Death
The Torah teaches the deepest desire in man is to be like G-d. To be immortal, to be invulnerable.
This desire manifests itself in various ways. Some people want to be famous, that there name should live on, or they want children so that at least their children will live on. Others look for power or honor – a sense of immortality. Most deep desires in man, have their root in the desire for eternity, immortality – to be like G-d. Man hates being vulnerable, and yet, the ultimate vulnerability is death.
What is the source of this desire?
We see it started in the deep, enigmatic story of Adam and Eve. G-d created man as an immortal being and placed him in paradise. He gave man one commandment not to eat from the “Tree of Knowlege” on penalty of becoming mortal.
The serpent which represents evil thoughts, (the hebrew word for snake – nachash is related to the hebrew word for thought – machashva) tempted man. Now, the source of all evil will use the most powerful of all arguments. What is the argument he uses? The serpent says: “Eat the fruit and you will be like G-d.” (Genesis 3:5) That’s what he uses. Why? Because this is the deepest desire in man. Man’s soul comes from G-d Himself, and therefore yearns to spiritual perfection like his Creator.
Man really lost it all after that, because after he ate from the fruit, as G-d decreed he became vulnerable to death.
Why did God decree death? The Sages teach that everything G-d does is always for the good. So what’s the purpose of death? Why is it good?
The answer is man is created in a way that he yearns for the ultimate immortality – the spiritual immortality. Man wants no less than to be like G-d. Physical immortality is not enough. He wants the real immortality which is the spiritual immortality.
That’s why even in his physically immortal state in paradise he still yearned to be like G-d. So what did G-d do? He broke him completely by making him vulnerable to death. He decreed death on man and destroyed all hope for escape from death. It says in Genesis: G-d says (after Adam’s sin) “wait, I don’t want man to eat from the tree of life and become immortal.” It says G-d put angels to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Unusual angels. There are many names in the Torah for angels. There it says a very specific name – ‘Cherubin’. Interestingly enough, there’s only one other place where we find the ‘Cherubin’ in the Torah. On the Holy Ark. And what was in the ark? The Torah. And what is the Torah called? Etz Chaim (tree of life)!! (Every time we lift the Torah in the synagogue we say the verse in mishlei/proverbs 3:18 which refers to the Torah – “Etz Chaim hi” (it is a tree of life). The Torah is called a tree of life.
You hear this?! There’s an Etz Chaim in Eden which G-d does not want you to eat. And there’s an Etz Chaim in the Ark which the same Cherubin guarding it are saying “take”. So what’s going on here? Is Etz Chaim good or Etz Chaim bad?!?! The answer is you have to understand what Etz Chaim means. What is ‘chaim’ (life)? There are two types of life. There’s physical life, physical immortality, and the secret certainly exists in nature. But the Cherubin guarding the Tree of Life in Eden represents symbolically that man will never find the solution to physical immortality through science or whatever other method. Why did He do this? Because G-d wants you to find a substitute, the other Etz Chaim – the spiritual Etz Chaim, the Torah. Through the Torah, man finds spiritual immortality, eternity. That’s what it is. So the purpose of death, is to take this desire you have, the deepest desire in man, the desire for eternity, and channel it towards the real eternity, the spiritual eternity – to be like G-d. This is what man really wants, because even when he was physically immortal in Paradise, he still was seduced by the serpent with the argument that “eat it and you will be like G-d.” Even in his immortal state he yearned for the ultimate immortality, the spiritual immortality of being like G-d.
So death is actually a kindness. It is there to force you to search for the spiritual immortality, because otherwise, in the fallen state of man where evil has entered and confused him, if he were physically immortal he would not have the incentive to search for the real immortality – the spiritual immortality.
Kind Courtesy of Daf Yomi Review
Commentary of Tiferes Yisrael on Pirkei Avos 2:12
“Rabbi Elazar said:’Be eager to study the Torah. Know what to respond to a heretic. Know before Whom you toil and faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.'” (Pirkei Avos 2:12)
Tiferes Yisrael: Three things are necessary for success in learning.
- Eagerness and Diligence.
If he’s not diligent to review everyday what he learned the previous day, he will lose before he gains. And the subjects will not be firmly grasped in his mind. Therefore ‘Be eager to study the Torah’
- Thoughtfulness and depth in the subjects learned.
One should not move away from anything he learns (!!) until he can answer 7 questions. (see the hebrew for details). When you can answer the 7 questions, all difficulties will be clarified for you. Also, you’ll understand the background well, and if there’s a contradiction to what you already know. You’ll also ask yourself if there are any extra words, and if yes, why this word was written. This way things will become clear like a new shirt (??). Therefore ‘know what to respond to a heretic’. i.e. It’s not enough to know reasons clearly enough to answer a kosher Jew. Rather, contemplate things so thoroughly that you can even answer a heretic who does not buy into the Torah system and uses only his human logic/common sense.
- Removal of worries and all other thoughts when learning. Therefore ‘Know before Whom you toil and who is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.’
1. Know before Whom you toil. Means, be embarassed to think other thoughts while busy doing your Employer’s work.
2. faithful is your Employer etc.. Means due to your efforts in Torah study, you will not need big efforts to obtain your livelihood. (since success in livelihood is also in His hands)
see the original Hebrew for more details.
Comment on 2nd point:Learning a piece of talmud is like going through a labyrinth (maze) at night with a small flashlight. One must focus and keep track of everything as he moves along otherwise he will lose his train of thought and become confused. This requires total concentration and a “nefesh rechava” (a wide mind).
One who trains himself to learn with a “nefesh rechava” will reach clarity of understanding in torah, which brings the greatest joy.
The student did not learn with a “nefesh rechava”. He did not learn to put the pieces together and therefore instead of having a nice complete building in the end, he wound up with a big pile of bricks.
Courtesy of Daf Yomi Review
Each one of us has to see to it that we become assimilated into the root of who we are, to return and be assimilated into the oneness of G_d, Who is the One Reality.
This can be achieved only when we make ourselves totally stop, when we cease our being.
And we can only come to this cessation through hisbodedus. When we are in seclusion with G_d, we can cause all desires and bad traits to cease.
We can cling to G_d and be drawn into the root of who we are.
Likutei Moharan 52