Omer: Day 27 Foundational Truths

Yesod shebbe Netzach: Foundation of Endurance

How well am I able to maintain an active participation in the foundational truths of my life? Do I only have an intellectual understanding of those truths? Or, am I able to ground those truths within the framework of my everyday life? Moreover, when faced with challenges, within and without, how well will that foundation prove to support the overall structure of my belief and practice? The stronger my foundation, the greater my ability to endure the storms of life. If my foundation is like a house built upon a rock, then it would be more secure than a foundation built upon sand.

A sure foundation is one that will withstand the changing seasons, because the underlying principles are founded upon timeless truths, such as those found in the Bible. Yet, a foundation built upon the shifting sands of societal norms will not last. This should be clear to anyone who reviews the values in American society, from the 1950’s until today. There has been a substantial shift away from traditional values to liberal ones, even going beyond all that was considered decent yesterday. And, where will this trajectory of descent lead?

Yet, I do not intend to moralize here, except to point out that what is considered normative in society changes over time. Especially, when there is an attempt to influence the societal norm in favor of an agenda that is secular, it seems that traditional godly values fall by the wayside. This is something to consider for both those who identify with traditional values, and those who do not. Where will the proverbial “line in the sand” be drawn?

Without building blocks that will provide a sure foundation, a structure built upon empty truths will not be established. The measure of strength of a foundation may very well be its resistance to change; therefore, only time tested truths will ultimately prevail. And, the establishment of any foundation that is not in accord with those truths will ultimately fail to provide the shelter that only G-d can provide, under the wings of the Shechinah.

Rosh Chodesh Adar 5781


Rosh Chodesh Adar 5781

On Shabbos Mevarchim for Rosh Chodesh Adar 5781, this past Shabbat, I reflected on the blessing for the new month, traditionally recited on the Sabbath before Rosh Chodesh:

I noticed how this Adar will bring the globe, as well as, Jewish communities around the world full circle; inasmuch, that it will have been about a year since the proliferation of the coronavirus. May H’Shem have mercy on us; may He bless our lives, family, friends, and communities. May He preserve us during the days that will follow. Amein.

For myself, I have been sheltering in place, virtually twenty four – seven. I have much opportunity for reflection, writing, and kavanah (intention). Yet, the days are somewhat bittersweet, since my thoughts turn pensive, akin to the required seriousness necessary for the sake of heshbon hanefesh (literally, an accounting of the soul). To examine one’s conscience in this manner, will only lead to joy down the road, after rooting out unhealthy maladaptive behaviors, negative character traits, and making an effort to do better. Additionally, I count the hours of each and every day, until evening, when I hope to have fulfilled the day’s tasks, that are expected of me from Above. May we all be productive in divinely inspired ways. Amein,

Focusing on what is essential, as the restrictions let up, I wonder how often will newly found essentials continue to be important in my life, and the lives of others down the road. To revert back to former ways would only prove to be detrimental, if what has been learned at this slowed down pace of life, simply gives sway to momentum, approaching the previous standards of the often frenetic pace of society. Yet, positive societal change should be the result of individuals focusing on retaining the lessons learned during these challenging times. May we all continue to grow in our understanding of what is important in life. Amein.

The Hebrew month of Adar is traditionally associated with joy (Taanis 29a).

May our joys in life increase, despite the challenges ahead. Amein.

Reflections: Lighten Up


Do things differently today. Certainly, there is plenty of opportunity to pay heed to this recommendation. This is a proposal that I intend to take to heart. These were the first words that formed in my mind this morning, while I was still half a sleep. Probably, because I was vaguely thinking at the time, that having overslept, my day was already lost. Then, I began to analyse myself, and my previous day, to get to the heart of the matter, by asking myself questions as if I was my own personal life coach. Why did I oversleep? Am I feeling depressed this morning? What reason could possibly warrant my being depressed? I began to review the nature of some recent interactions with others, prompted by something that troubled me yesterday. Perhaps, I have some ongoing concerns, that I was reminded of by this negative occurence; or, other issues that arose for me later, based on this; things that I have never resolved for myself. How do I break out of any negative patterns that might have already formed below the level of my awareness, and, no pun intended, may have been plaguing me for months?

Then the thought struck me, bypassing all of my concerns, as if to answer everything that was disconcerting to me, by sidestepping those obstacles in one precise move, “do things differently today.” Words of wisdom from the depths of my own soul? Hmm. Regardless of where the idea formed, I am beginning to have some insight about this seemingly simple endeavor. The directive does not mean, to do something different today. Rather, to do what I would normally do under stay at home orders, differently. I.e., a catalyst towards changing my attitude, perspective, and any maladaptive coping styles. An effort already in progress, as I pay attention to relaxing my shoulders, and the tension in my body, as I sit here at my desk, writing this blog. And, take a deep, refreshing, cleansing breathe.

I recall, years ago, being occasionally told by others, to “lighten up.” Even before the adage became familiar to me through its commonplace usage, in an effort for others to compel me to make an attitude adjustment, I can also recount, prior to this, when I would be told every now and then to relax my shoulders. However, I could do neither through sheer willpower alone. Moreover, I only now realised that most of the people, who told me to “lighten up,” over the years, were not doing so out of genuine concern, rather, out of a sense of their own discomfort with my serious attitude. Furthermore, those who told me, “relax your shoulders” may not have realised that physiological patterns of stress can not be instantly changed.

So, here I am, now, with my own sense of directive, and inner locus of control, a phrase borrowed from Steven Hassan, a mental health specialist, trying to listen to my inner voice, go at my own pace, and melt away the negativity that would otherwise result from holding patterns in my mind, body, and spirit. With a little help from Above, I feel assured of a gradual shift, with G-d’s continuous prompting, that will effectively lead me into a new realm of awareness: less stressful, less hurried, and more alert to the potential of the everchanging moments, that constitute my life, like building blocks for a strong foundation. I hope that my personal account of this challenge, along with its accompanying insight along the way, may inspire others. As I do not often write within the framework of my own personal narrative, revealing my own struggles in life, perhaps, this is permissible, according to my own conscience, if by way of using myself as an example, others will benefit.

Meditation: Periphery


March 18, 2020

In the small corner of the world where I live, Corona virus has not yet hit the city, nor the county. Yet, initially, I had been taking the immanent threat more seriously than others in the community. Now, others should feel more compelled to do so, because of new restrictions being implemented within the city.

Coincidentally, I have arrived full circle within the framework of my belief and practice. Having been through many defining moments on my derech (path), I am at the footstep of the door of new beginnings in the midst of uncertainty. A place where opportunity prevails, and creativity coexists with an acceptance of the way life is at any given moment in time, including national crises.

For myself, I foresee that the traditions of my religion will play an even more important role during these troubling times of “hunkering down.” For amidst the chaos, these will continue to bring a sense of structure to my life. I will avail myself of them.

Additionally, I am learning that when nisyonos (trials) increase, I feel more drawn to G-d, replete with a compelling inclination to seek that place of tiferes (harmony) within myself, having been created in G-d’s image, as all mankind is. Yet, the responsibility to adhere closely to godliness is ours.

So, while I may remain on the periphery, as all of us may experience, within the confines of our solitude, I reach out to Shomayim (Heaven). And, I remain confident in my bitachon (trust) in H’Shem (the L-RD), that all will proceed according to His ratzon (will).

“Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct thee.”

– Deuteronomy 4:36, JPS 1917 Tanach

daily contemplation: Shifting Values


February 16, 2020

“I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”

– Exodus 6:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

There is a saying, concerning the departure from Egypt, that B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) had a much more challenging task ahead of them: removing Egypt from their hearts. They were brought out through the strength of G-d, Who redeemed them “with an out stretched arm.” Yet, the greater effort on their part, was incumbent upon themselves to make the changes in their new approach to life, effectively, leaving their past ways behind.

Although help from Above, through G-d’s intervention, may serve as a catalyst to change, our response is required, with the upmost discipline, to heed the call to freedom on a daily basis. Although B’nei Yisrael was freed from slavery, they became servants of G-d through matan Torah (the giving of the Commandments). True freedom is embracing the yoke of Heaven, so that we may be free from the burden of chet (sin).