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Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Parasha’

Parasha Lech-Lecha – Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 19, 2007


Torah Portion: Genesis 12:1 – 17:27 Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16

Focal Point: Bereshit 12:1-3, 7-8

1 The Lord said to Abram, Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.

2 I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you
And curse him that curses you;
And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you.”

7 The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will assign this land to your heirs.” And he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and he built there an altar to the Lord and invoked the Lord by name.

 I am going to be lazy this week.

On the surface this is the very start of the Jewish People – The Call of Avraham. Let’s leave that as it is and narrow this to a personal level. Our personal evolution as humans.

It basically all starts when we become adults – we move out and we set up a place for ourselves. That’s the easy part. What is not at all easy, is moving out of our family values and unwritten rules and create our own set of rules and create an adult relationship with our parents, ourselves and with G-d.

What?! Aren’t we to stay with the Torah our father and mother taught us? No. You have to re-examine those values, and make them your own – your way. It’s called growing up. Until you have done this you haven’t left home for real.

The values and unwritten rules you inherited from your parents may be just fine – but for you to have an adult relationship with your parents and with G-d, you have to re-examine them. You also have to re-examine the rules that G-d has given, and determine how YOU are to respond to them.

Tradition teaches us that Avraham questioned his father’s polytheism, and built a personal relationship with ONE G-d. We have to do the same – question our parents’ relationship with G-d, and create our own personal relationship with G-d. This doesn’t mean that we throw Torah out the window or that we distance ourselves from the Community, but we HAVE to start relating to G-d and the community from our own point of view, from our understanding of Who G-d is and what our place in the community really is.

So: Lech-Lecha – Go, Go!

Shabbat Shalom!

Posted in Genesis 12:1 - 17:27, Parasha Lech-Lecha | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – What’s bothering Kayin?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 3, 2007


onthewingsoflove.jpg

Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point: Bereshit 4:1-5, 10-16 – What’s Bothering Kayin

“And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of HaShem.’And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto HaShem. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And HaShem had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell….[…]And He said: ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. Then thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.’ And Cain said unto the L-RD: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.’ And the L-RD said unto him: ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the L-RD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain went out from the presence of the L-RD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. “

It’s pretty understandable, Kayin’s anger and depression. Who wouldn’t be angry and depressed if one’s best effort at showing appreciation and gratitude, was spurned? Kayin’s problem isn’t with G-d or with Hevel. Kayin’s problem is that instead of taking responsible for his own feelings and turn to G-s with a simple question: “Why, what’s wrong?” he looks down and inward, at his own anger, depression, feelings of rejection and fear of inadequacy, away from G-d. Because he feels rejected and inadequate, he feels lonely – to alleviate that loneliness he seeks out his brother. But instead of alleviating his pain, the sight of Hevel flips Kayin’s mind, and Hevel becomes the reason why he feels rejected by G-d. It’s more than he can bear and in his anger and fear, he murders his brother. Was Kayin’s anger and fear wrong? Or his offering? No. But the way he dealt with the situation was. Kayin went first – offering to G-d the best he had from his crop. Then Hevel did the same – only with a twist – to me the ‘he also’ implies that Hevel offered grain, fruit and such, just as Kayin, but then Hevel added to the offering of grain and fruit some of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. Seeing Hevel’s offering, so much more abundant than his own, Kayin is suddenly struck by fear that G-d won’t accept his offering – this is the “but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect” – it’s all in Kayin’s mind!

To G-d Kayin’s offering was fine, just as fine as his brother’s, which to me is implied in the events that follow the murder. When Kayin realizes what he has done, he exiles himself from G-d “Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid”. There was never any need for that, G-d never said that – He said that Kayin would be exiled from farming the earth, not from G-d’s presence. On the contrary, when Kayin adds to his punishment that he will be outlawed and that every man will be against him, G-d says ‘Not so, I will make sure that no one kills you for this!’ So in the eyes of G-d Kayin’s offering was ok, Kayin was OK. But to Kayin it wasn’t good enough. What he had to offer wasn’t good enough compared to Hevel’s offering, and the price Kayin paid for his low self-esteem was even more fear, the loss of his brother and the self-inflicted loss of his G-d.

Poor Kayin! Fearful and shame-ridden, he turns away from the only source that could have saved him and his brother – G-d – Had he turned towards G-d with his feelings of shame, fear, inadequacy, envy, anger and rejection, he would have found a G-d ready to say: ‘Not so, you are my child just as much as Hevel’.

The other side of the Story is that of Hevel – and the lesson of not shaming a fellow in public. By adding to his offering what was not inherently his to offer (the fruit of the earth) he shows off, and creates the implication that what he offers G-d is better than that of Kayin. The price he pays is steep, but on the other hand they say that shame is the killer of the soul – something that becomes quite clear through the re-actions of Kayin.

Did Hevel draw death upon himself? No, but he wasn’t an innocent victim either – his need to show-off, to be better, to best his brother, became his own downfall.

So where does this leave us?

From Kayin we learn that it’s better to look outward and upward when we feel downcast and doubtful, than inward and downward, we risk missing the loving and caring words and help from our Father and those friends around us. We are never so bad off that G-d doesn’t want us, that is just our stinking thinking that speaks. We are so much better of sharing with others what is on our minds than holding it in.

From Hevel we learn that showing off and besting others at their expense is just another expression of pride that goes before downfall. We also learn that using others to shine causes them shame, and shame is the #1 soul killer, and we might just end up in deep shit as a result. If we share our good fortune, try and make others part of our success, we will in the end be richer than before.

Amen

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – In The Beginning – Bereshit 1:1-6:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 1, 2007


creation.jpg

Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Points: 1:1-5 – Creation that continues

1 When God began to create heaven and earth —

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.

2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water —

Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.

3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.

4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.

5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

Vayikra Elohim la-or yom velachoshech kara laylah vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom echad.

—-

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating…” that’s what the very first line of Torah says. Literally. This to us indicate two things:

Creation is an ongoing process and G-d didn’t create out of nothing.

G-d creates out of that which is already in existence. This is good news to us – this means that G-d can use whatever chaos and deformity we are at the moment to make something great out of, and that we don’t have to despair at being slow to learn or taking our time to “get it” – G-d’s creative work is an on-going process, so we don’t have to worry about a timetable.

“…with darkness over the surface…”

G-d starts out His creating in darkness and then He decides to make a counterpart to Darkness – Light.

This is important for us – because for most of us life up till now has been much on the Dark Side, we too started out in darkness. We need Light to counterpoint the Darkness of our unmanageable lives. So G-d creates Light, makes distinct lines between Light and Darkness to separate them from each other.

Notice that He doesn’t remove Darkness, He makes a special room for it – “Night”. Now, if He is G-d, then why on earth didn’t He just get rid of Darkness and go completely with Light? Perhaps because without each other Light and Darkness would be meaningless. Creation needs both to function, and so do we.

Darkness in our lives works much like Night in nature – it provides dew, moisture that feeds/waters nature, inspires it to grow. If nature never experienced Night/Darkness, it would very quickly be scourged to dry dust by the Light/Day. That same way we need to soak up “moisture” from Darkness in our lives in order to grow during the times of light. We too would be scourged to dry dust if all we ever experienced was light.

And G-d saw that it was good…

On the other hand – the Light that explodes onto the scenery in v.3 is a Light that leaves no shadows. To that Light we are totally transparent. That is good, because it means that G-d knows exactly what He has to work with, so that in the end we become exactly what we are supposed to be – not what we might have been if the Light had been just any other light.

So the to-and-fro between Light and Darkness has another function – every now and then we need to be completely transparent in order to find the areas in ourselves that needs working on. At those times, Darkness is the Sweet Shadow in which we can rest between turns at digging in ourselves.

Whether we are in Light or Darkness – we are exactly where we are supposed to be, in the middle of G-d’s Continued Creating

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

 

Posted in Parasha Bereshit, Torah, Weekly Parasha | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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!

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Weekly Parasha: Shoftim, Devarim 16:18-21:9

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 17, 2007


Weekly Parasha (Torah Reading) Shoftim Devarim 16:18-21:9Haftarah Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12

Focal Point Devarim 17:14-20

14. When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live therein, and you say, “I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me,”
15. you shall set a king over you, one whom the Lord, your God, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother.
16. Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, “You shall not return that way any more.”
17. And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.
18. And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.
19. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,
20.
so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel.

This text is about Leadership – the Leadership of Israel, and what G-d expects of it. Earlier in this Parasha we find Dev 16:20 “Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” which clearly envisions what is the basis for the existence of the inheritance. Justice.

To get a king is not formulated as a command – it’s a prediction – there will come a time when the People of Israel will say I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me…” when the People will want what the rest of the world wants, and that is a rejection of G-d.

1 Samuel 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel: ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them.

The People is supposed to be ruled by G-d, through Elders/Judges who expound on Torah and apply it to every day life. That’s the IDEAL.

In reality it is quite different. G-d takes into account that the People will want a King, and then states what this King is to be like. Those statements are commands:

He may not be a foreigner, he may not acquire means to bring the People back into slavery, he may not have many wives or hoard riches, and above all, he must write a Torah scroll and read it every day of his life, so he can keep it.

I have been scourging the State of Israel in my Divrei Torot lately, and I suppose this isn’t going to be any different.

Civil Government is not ideal for the People of Israel – in fact it’s supposed to be governed by G-d and Torah, not by elected officials. Elected Officials will always pose a risk and a possibility for corruption, but G-d has made provision for this eventuality in Torah. Commands that very clearly stipulates under what conditions those elected officials are to rule. Above all they need to keep Torah. They need to be so well acquainted with Torah that they have in fact written an entire scroll for themselves, so that they can keep it with them at all times.

I doubt the current Leaders of Israel have done that, or are anywhere near such close proximity of Torah. In fact, one only has to look at the recent additions to the Legislation of the State of Israel to realize that they are in fact very far from what G-d states is the obligation of a Just Leadership:

A Racist Jewish State

On a more local level – how do we exercise Leadership? Do we accept Community Leaders that do not know Torah, that discriminate against converts, bnai teshuvah, that honor the rich and the “powerful” for aliyah? How about Leaders that accept and encourage prejudice and violence against those that do not belong to their specific Community? Does your community hide rabbis that abuse their position to violate children sexually, beat their wives. Are your Leaders on the forefront when it comes to safe-guarding civil and human rights in Society?

If they are – congratulations! If they are not, you need to do something about it.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Second Take on Parasha Re’eh Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007


Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8

8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.

I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.

“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”

A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!

To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.

“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”

Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)

 

“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”

They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.

Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.

“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.

For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”

For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.

Shabbat Shalom!

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