Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Insight of the Week: My Soul Like Dust?

At the conclusion of the daily Amidah prayer, we say: “My G-d! Guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceitfully… Let my soul be as dust before all. Open my heart to Your Torah…”

Is this really what we desire for ourselves and our loved ones—that they see themselves as dust of the earth, allowing everyone to step on them? Do we want to become doormats?

To the contrary. What we are asking of G-d is that we discover an inner core of confidence that does not require validation from others, or even from ourselves; that we experience our innermost beings as having absolute, non-negotiable dignity. When you have that in your life, then even when someone steps—or tries to step—on you, it does not injure you, because your value comes from your own being. G-d loves you unconditionally; you may love yourself unconditionally, which in turn will allow you to love others unconditionally.      

Tosefot (in commentary to Talmud Berachos 17a) offers this explanation to explain this prayer: Just as earth is not subject to destruction, so ask G-d that our descendants should never be destroyed. The ideas correlate. When your existence is rooted in ultimate Being, it can’t be destroyed.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Insight of the Week: G-d’s Wrath

Each day we say in the Shema, that if we follow alien gods, “G-d’s wrath will burn against you and He will stop the heavens, so there will not be rain…”

Statements like these in the Torah can easily be misunderstood. G-d can be perceived as a Lord of wrath who waits to punish us for every wrongdoing.

G-d is love. G-d loves you unconditionally. Nothing you do or don’t do can destroy or even dampen that love. The core of your being is pure, holy, good, perfect, one with the essence of all existence. Your Being is cherished and loved by G-d, because it is part of G-d. G-d never “punishes” you because He hates you, or because He wants revenge, or because He wants to “show you” whose boss, or because He is upset that you disobeyed Him; rather, He challenges you in order to bring out the best in you, to help you discover your essence, and to achieve your mission in life.

If you read the words of the Shema in the original Hebrew it actually says, “G-d’s intense passion will burn in you.” This means that G-d craves that you see yourself as He does. All of our mistakes come from the fact that we do not appreciate who we really are and what we are capable of. He wants His intense passion to burn in our hearts that we experience ourselves and the world around us from His perspective, so that you would be permeated with His passion for what it means to live.       

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Insight of the Week: The Secret of the Shamash

A moving insight by the Lubavitcher rebbe written up by Rabbi Yanki Tauber

Insight of the Week: The Secret of the Shamash

It’s the first night of Chanukah, and a single flame is glowing the night away at the right-hand side of the menorah.

One flame? Aren’t there two?
Two? Oh, you mean the shammash. He doesn’t count.
Night after night, the shammash dutifully goes about his task of kindling lights. Each evening, he welcomes the newcomer and settles him into his rightful place in the growing row: two flames, three flames, four flames.... The shammash coaxes them to life and then stands watch over them, lest one falter and require a fresh boost of light.
Still the shammash doesn’t count. An imparter of light to others, he never attains the status of a Chanukah light in his own right.
Despite—indeed because—of this, the shammash towers above all the other lights of the menorah. To forgo one’s own luminary potential in order to awaken a flame in others—there is no greater virtue.