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Archive for the ‘Teshuvah’ Category

G-d, Intentions and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 14, 2007


sanctification.jpg

What really struck a cord with me at that time was the analogy of Homer Simpson. Homer, like us, despite his failings and evident flaws as a human being tried his best to do what was good. He may have failed miserably but he tried his best. And THAT, in my opinion, makes Homer a good person. Why, I asked myself, would a just God punish Homer?

This ties in with what I sent out as a New Years Greeting the other day:

“The world was created on the 25th of Elul… Thus we find that Primal Adam was created on the first of Tishrei…at the 10th hour he disobeyed God’s command, at the 11th he was judged…. The Holy One said to him: Adam, you are a precedent for your progeny. Just as you came before me for judgment and I absolved you, so shall your progeny come before Me for judgment and I will absolve them. When? On Rosh Hashanah, ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month.'”

Somehow we have to approach the Days of Awe with hope, with confidence that G-d will forgive us and write us a New Year. He will, Tradition says, but we have to want it. Teshuvah is more about willingness to change and taking the possible steps towards such change, that it is about actually succeeding in making those changes. G-d forgives. G-d meets us on the road, however far away we are. All we have to do is take one step at a time towards Him in willingness.

G-d really is that simple-minded. Life isn’t about being good or bad, saint or sinner life is about walking with G-d in what ever manner we are capable of, and trust that when the last Neila Prayer is said and the last Shofar has been blown for us, we will be exactly where we are supposed to be, because until then we try our best to get closer to G-d on a personal level, and that is all Life is about.

He will absolve us if we let Him.

Amen

Posted in G-d, Hope, Intentions, Neila Prayer, Rosh Hashanah, Teshuvah, The Days of Awe | Leave a Comment »

Nitzavim-Vayelech – Teshuvah – A New Beginning

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2007


Torah Portion: Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 31:30 Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8

I have decided to try an weave two of my most precious life-lines together – Torah and the 12 Step Program of Recovery – there really is no better place to start that challenge than on the second Last Shabbat before Roshashana and Yom Kippur.

So this weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated to my friends in Recovery – you all know just who you are 🙂

Focal Point Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:6-14

Then the L-rd your G-d will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. The Lord your G-d will inflict all those curses upon the enemies and foes who persecuted you. You, however, will again heed the L-rd and obey all His commandments that I enjoin upon you this day. And the L-rd your G-d will grant you abounding prosperity in all your undertakings, in the issue of your womb, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For the L-rd will again delight in your well-being, as He did in that of your fathers, since you will be heeding the L-rd your G-d and keeping His commandments and laws that are recorded in this book of the Teaching — once you return to the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and soul.

Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it. impart it to us, that we may observe it?”

  1. We admitted we were powerless over [insert your drug, process of choice here], that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of G-d as we understand G-d.

Did you know that in the original “order” of the 12 Steps [which were actually 6], steps 1, 2 and 3 were baked into one?

Why was that? Because realizing that we are powerless and that our lives have become unmanageable can be very overwhelming, and more often than not there are behaviors we need to stop right away if we are to save our very lives, so we need to move from powerless and unmanageable without anywhere to go, to powerless and unmanageable with not only hope of a place to go, but to a place where we can actually be restored to some resemblance of sanity – and that my friends happens in step 3.

See, step 1 won’t tell you anything but that your are powerless and unmanageable, step 2 will only tell you that sanity is possible – but neither of them will actually provide sanity so being confronted with steps 1 and 2 is rather harsh – that’s why, originally, people were asked to take the 3 first steps as one, because step 3 will restore sanity on a daily basis, because step 3 is where we give up trying to control ourselves and the world around us and let G-d (as we understand G-d)take control of us one day at a time.

“But I don’t believe G-d loves me, that He cares about me or that He even exists!”.

One of my sponsors once told me that it doesn’t matter what I believe – it matters what I do. So my beliefs is immaterial, because if I tell G-d every morning that I turn my life over to Him (whoever or what ever He is) He will do the work as long as I do my footwork – go to meetings and check in with my sponsor. Did I believe it would work? No. But I did it because it was my last way out of a life that had brought me to the abyss where I was seriously staring suicide in the eyes. I was in so much pain that I would probably have done acrobatics if my sponsor had told me it would work.

But the simple wisdoms “Act as if” and “Fake it till you make it!” is actually in Torah: “And he took the Book of the Covenant and read it within the hearing of the people, and they said, “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot/Exodus 24:7)

Children learn through mimicking what adults do – they do before they understand what they are doing. Torah tells us that, in regards to a functional life (because that is what living according to Torah leads to) this is the attitude we need to take – learning/understanding through doing what we need to learn/understand.

So, I can work Step 3 even if I don’t believe it, just because I need to, and eventually it will be something I believe, something I do with faith and hope and trust that G-d as I understand Him, is restoring me to sanity on day at a time.

So how is this all connected to Torah and being Jewish?

Well, for one working step 1 is a natural part of the Jewish Path – every year, with the start of Elul, Jews all over the World begin a process of self-reflection, self- examination that will eventually lead them to identification of areas in their lives where they are out of control and need to do Teshuvah (return to Torah and G-d). Hope is also built into the Jewish Path – that G-d will restore that which was broken and bring sanity, because when the Gate closes on Yom Kippur all of Israel has been forgiven and a new beginning is declared.

“In all their troubles He was troubled, And the angel of His Presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, Raised them, and exalted them All the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9)

Step 3 is just a natural sequel to all of this in Judaism – Teshuvah – Forgiveness – Renewed Observance. All in the manner that fit each of us and our recovery.

Here’s a Jewish Prayer that fit perfectly to say at the end of any 12 Step Meeting:

Adon Olam

The Lord of the Universe who reigned
before anything was created.
When all was made by his will
He was acknowledged as King.

And when all shall end
He still all alone shall reign.
He was, He is,
and He shall be in glory.

And He is one, and there’s no other,
to compare or join Him.
Without beginning, without end
and to Him belongs dominion and power.

And He is my G-d, my living G-d.
to Him I flee in time of grief,
and He is my miracle and my refuge,
who answers the day I shall call.

To Him I commit my spirit,
in the time of sleep and awakening,
even if my spirit leaves,
G-d is with me, I shall not fear.

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in 12 Step Program, Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30, Faith, Haftarah, Hope, Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9 Isaiah 55:6 - 56:8, Parasha Nitzavim-Vayelech, Recovery, Seeking G-d, Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Teshuvah, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Leave a Comment »

Talking Torah in Lieu of Politics – Daniel Sieradski

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 7, 2007


I grabbed an excellent Blog by Daniel Sieradski this morning, after reading it with increasing joy and dread I decided that I liked it, and that in general I agree with what he has to say, and wish I could have said it just as well.

“I began by saying that you’re never going successfully appeal to the sympathies of the American Jewish community on behalf of Palestinians. Why should we care about people whom, by and large, we believe are trying to kill us? Rather than focusing on the conflict as a Palestinian rights or even human rights issue, when speaking with other Jews, we should focus on the occupation as a Jewish issue. How is the occupation bad for the Jews? How is it bad for Israel? What are the sacrifices we’re making, in terms of lives and resources, in order to hold onto the Territories?”

This is a novel idea to me. For the longest time I have been discussing with Pro-Palestinian Antisemites on-line, always on THEIR terms which naturally leaves much constructive discourse to be wished for, and I realized that much time have been spent explaining WHAT I DO NOT BELIEVE, in response to their violent and hysterical allegations both against me, as a Jew, and the basic ideas THEY believe I stand for. This idea of discussing what is going on in Israel from a Jewish perspective, in terms of what is the cost in resources, but also – I think – in credibility. As one of the more moderate debaters in a Group expressed it, quoting one of my Torah Blogs:

“The fact that others do not live this way, does not free Israel from her Holy Obligation of pursuing Justice nor does it give Israel a mandate to disregard the plight of others, when there is a need or when there is an opportunity to practice Torah. ‘How can Israel be a Light to the Nations if she does not Shine?’

How indeed?!!

This idea too was echoed by Daniel Sieradski, and though I might not agree with him totally on the solution (there are after all other ways of practicing Judaism and Being Jewish, than Orthodoxy) I think it’s achievable if presented solely as a matter of Being Jewish:

“But more importantly: What is it that we’re fighting to preserve by having a Jewish state? What is it that we stand for as a people? And what is the value of having a state if, in the process of establishing and defending it, we sacrifice that which we represent in the world (or otherwise alter that representation to be something no longer consistent with our tradition)? I went on to say that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for the Jewish people to do teshuvah: To turn back to G-d and embrace the Torah.”

The question this raises with me, is exactly WHAT is “our Tradition”? If it means that we all have to become haredi and eat glatt kosher, I think it will be both counter-productive in terms of the long tradition of tolerance that Judaism emcompass, and impossible to implement – there simply are too many secular humanist Jews that value their critical thinking and independent understanding of what it is to be Jewish.

“We’re all the children of Adam. Love your brother as yourself. We’re all created in the image of G-d. These are the values we stand for: The unity of being. The oneness of G-d. The fellowship of humanity.”

Do I hear an echo of Dr Ellis Rivkin here? I like this – I loved his book “The Shaping of Jewish History“.

This, I hope, means that Daniel Sieradski realizes the predicament of the Stranger, as out-lined in Written Torah in terms of the right to practice Torah and embrace G-d without the distortion of what some consider to be the only “acceptable Tradition“. After all, the Stranger has always been part of Jewish Life and Tradition.

“…whether we’re committing a chilul Hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name, via the desecration of our legacy as a righteous nation) or a kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the name, via embodying the highest principles and aspirations of our tradition). Thus, it’s a more effective strategy for addressing the issues surrounding Israel and the occupation.”

I have noticed that many Settlers are not aware that they are being sold land that is not Israel’s to sell. Organizations aimed at facilitating aliyah for European and American Jews deliberately lie about the legality of land deeds, and actively encourage Jews to Settle in the Territories. One example is Elkana:

“Elkana or Elqana is a Jewish settlement in the Samaria region of the West Bank. It was founded in 1977 and as of 2002 it had a population of 4,000. It was established as one the earliest settlements after 64 Knesset members signed a bill to allow the use of state land in the area for construction.

Elkana is sited just to the east of the Green Line, and is adjacent to the city of Rosh HaAyin. From Wikipedia

From Tehilla Web-site:

“Where else but Elkana can you have such a variety of davining closeby? We have nine synagogues and umpteen minyanim. We’re heavily into Torah learning — daily adult Kollel (men and women), huge Bnei Akiva, non-stop shiurim, and many Daf Yomi groups. Where else but Elkana can your children attend school close by all the way through college? Elkana has pre-schools, a mamlachti dati elementary school, Yeshiva and Ulpana from 7th-12th grades, and Orot College for girls. Where else but Elkana can you enjoy a wealth of cultural activities? We have an active Community Center with chugim for children and adults, and we’re only 35 minutes from Tel Aviv. Elkana has the warmth of a yishuv, together with the opportunities of a large community. And, as a local council, where many of our leaders are second generation Elkana-ites, we decide everything for ourselves.”

Chilul Hashem, indeed.

And painful to know, because it means that dismantling those Settlements will mean heartbreak and grief for people who worked hard to make a life for themselves.

Posted in Chilul Hashem, Teshuvah | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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