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daily contemplation: Searching

B”H

February 26,2020

“Seek ye the L-RD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.”

– Isaiah 55:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

In my life, sometimes there is a lull of excitement – six days each week, excluding the Sabbath. Perhaps, excitement is not the correct word. There is actually nothing in my life that other people would consider exciting; after all, I am an introvert. And, I am content with the pace, quality, and level of exhilaration of my life.

Yet, at times, there is an undercurrent of ennui that may surface. These are the times to reflect even more, than my usual nature requires. These are the moments, times, and seasons to reach out to G-d. Judaism teaches that He is both immanent and transcendent (within and without). So, sometimes, reaching out towards G-d, begins with a quiet meditation on the inner stirrings of my soul.

Torah Insight: Harmony

B”H

30 Shevat 5780

February 25, 2020

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be made of hammered work.”

– Exodus 25:31 , JPS 1985 Tanach

The golden menorah (seven-candled lampstand) was placed directly outside of the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant rested, behind the paroches (curtain). The menorah was hammered out of one large ingot of gold. This connotes the spiritual understanding, that the light of G-d should permeate all areas of our life.

The propensity to compartmentalize different aspects of ourselves, by keeping different areas of our lives separate, may bring disharmony to the soul. We can not be whole, unless our values encompass every part of our existence, inclusive of all the activities that we engage in, as well as every moment of our day.

daily contemplation: Feeding the Soul

B”H

February 24, 2020

Closer to the truth than yesterday. A little more knowledgeable than the day before. Yet, what is acquired may lose significance over time unless maintained. Life lessons should lead to character improvement. For the soul is not nurtured by information in and of itself; rather, we are shaped by our life experience, as well as our response to life.

In the evening of my life, it will not be about the acquisition of knowledge as facts, information, or trivia. Most of what is absorbed on the internet on a daily basis, whether in the political, entertainment, news realm, passes by like the pixels that are constantly rearranging on the screen. Yet, there is a source of everlasting knowledge:

“Teach me good discernment and knowledge; for I have believed in Thy commandments.” – Psalm 119:66

“The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of knowledge”

– Proverbs 1:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

A reappraisal of the above mentioned verse yields greater understanding, when considering the Hebrew word, yiras, translated above as “fear.” Perhaps, a more helpful rendering would include the words, awe, reverance, and respect.

It is yiras H’Shem (fear of the L-RD) that may bring the soul into alignment with G-d’s wisdom, and His ratzon (will) for each individual. For, our lives belong to Him. “In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10).

Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to detach ourselves from the myriad of pixels that form our opinions, influence our speech (parroting), and (dis)color our world, if we seek a true expression of the soul, in all its potential, unbound by the influx of ideas that permeate the Internet and our minds.

daily contemplation: Acknowledgment

B”H

February 23, 2020

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”

– Psalm 103:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

The derech (path) I tread is imperfect, when I walk in fear, doubt, or lack of emunah (faith). Yet, this acknowledgment in and of itself, may very well be an honest assertion, capable of rendering a sense of truth about myself. Although my transgressions may be atoned for on a daily basis, this only clears the way for greater clarity, in regard to who I am as a human being. This does not make me perfect; rather, wiping the slate clean, permits me to see more clearly my imperfections.

Everyday, we must maintain the necessity of cleaning the window of the soul. There may be many smudge marks; however, every morning brings a new opportunity to gaze into the looking glass, in a new light. Each day, it is our responsibility to work on improving our character; if not, we may fall by the wayside.

A journey, from east to west, from morning to evening; and, at nighttime, we are reminded of our personal exile, the challenges we face, as we make our way closer to the person who G-d wants us to be. “The path of the righteous is as the light of the dawn, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18, JPS 1917 Tanach).

daily contemplation: Silence

B”H

February 21, 2020

“Be still, and know that I am G-d.”

– Psalm 46:10

When we allow ourselves to rest in the silence, our minds may resist; we may become restless. Yet, persistence in the art of silent prayer, by setting aside a few minutes or more every day, will give way to a rich interior life.

Within that silence, there is an opportunity to rest, not only from our daily concerns, rather, also to rest from the compulsion to be active. This takes practice as well as patience; a helpful method might be to focus on a particular verse from scripture. Not as a mantra; rather, let the words sink into your bones. And, permit the meaning to flow into your mind and heart.

note: this is a repost of my answer to the question,

“Is G-d okay with us praying in silence?” at quora. com

daily contemplation: Equanimity

B”H

February 20, 2020

The depths of pain, the heights of joy; yet, there is an equanimity to be found somewhere within the presence of G-d. “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in the nether-world, behold, Thou art there” (Psalm 139:7–8, JPS 1917 Tanach). “Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even weaned as a child” (Psalm 131:2, JPS 1917 Tanach).

A child weaned denotes an equanimity, wherein a person is content in this world with whatever G-d brings his way. The soul grows accustomed to whatever sustenance that G-d provides for spiritual growth. Suffering will often compel a person to reach out towards G-d; and, joy will draw out words of praise to Him. How much more so, when G-d has lifted a struggling soul, high above its personal pains and sufferings, will there indeed be reason to rejoice?

note – this is reposted from my answer to the question:

“Why is suffering just as important as joy?”

(see my profile, Tzvi Fievel at quora.com)

daily contemplation: Still Waters

B”H

February 19, 2020

Where can we find the “still waters” of our life? In our busyness, there is little room for reflection. “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2). Our recompense for turning to G-d at times of disquietude is that we will eventually be shown a place within time to settle down, and reflect on what is important.

These opportunities are a necessary ingredient of a life focused on G-d. Perhaps, even moreso, for those who are not as focused on G-d in their lives, finding a quiet time to reflect is even more important. What is the rationale behind this statement? My point is only that without the nurturing presence of G-d in our lives, there is more turmoil. I speak from experience.

By neglecting to spend time with G-d during the day, we are deprived of the corresponding solace that only He can provide. For someone who has not made a sincere effort in his life to turn towards G-d, the need for solace will be greater, because of the tumult, stress, and hectic pace of a life where G-d is not part of the equation. Therefore, it is important to turn our hearts to G-d often enough to receive His invitation to immerse ourselves “beside the still waters,” lest we find ourselves swept away by the secular currents of the modern world.

daily contemplation: Fanning the Flames

B”H

February 18, 2020

“He that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.” – Exodus 22:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Torah instructs that if a fire, lit by a person burning off his own field, gets out of control, and consumes grain in storage, stalks of corn, or a neighbors field, the person who is responsible for tending the fire is held accountable. He must make restitution for the damage incurred to his neighbor’s property.

How much more so for the individual, who is not able to keep his anger in check? We need to make amends for harsh words spoken in times of disquietude. How so? One recommendation is to stop fanning the flames of discontent. Instead of permitting ourselves to get worked up over something, we should douse the flames of anger with understanding and compassion.

“Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.”

– Exodus 35:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

It is forbidden to kindle a fire on Shabbos. According to Abraham Heschel, this would include “the fire of righteous indignation” (Heschel, The Sabbath). On the Sabbath, there is a sense of acceptance of the provision of G-d. This is symbolized by the two portions of manna, that B’nei Yisrael received on Friday mornings, while in the desert for forty years. There is no room for being upset about perceived personal injustices, insults, or displeasures, on the day that symbolizes wholeness, completion, and rest.

daily contemplation: Chasing Shadows

“Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him.”

– Psalm 85:9, JPS 1917 Tanach

Looking forward in time, I have a vision for the near future. Yet, there is a certain derech (path), for me to arrive at the destination. There is a specific manner, that outlines how to get there. The road whereon I may accomplish my goals, step by step, in an incremental manner, is fraught with hazards. Even so, this has been provided for, that I may reach the heights of spiritual growth in my life in due time.

Only when I begin to consider sheker (falsity) as real, do I compromise the effort being made: chasing the shadows of my past, instead of following the dreams of my future, I may falter on the way. Wherein lies the reconciliation of my previous footsteps, along the road to freedom with my present-day life? Shall I let the sands of time drift, and cover over my footsteps? Or shall I retrace my steps, in order to analyze, learn, and grow through my introspection?

The ever-present risk is the potential to get sidetracked; yet, I can not move forward without knowing where I came from. If I do not recover my past, in a manner that gives me a foundation for the future, then the future that I envision for myself will crumble. My heritage, family roots, and future of my people, all play a role, that forms a necessary part of the overall equation. With G-d at the helm of the ship, so to speak, keeping everything on course, shall I falter?