A Unique Being in the Circle of Holiness

In this week’s Parsha (Verse 52) we read:  “the Jews should camp, each man by his camp, each by his flag, according to their divisions.”  Sardines in a can is not the style of Judaism.  No headless, interchangeable beings.  Individuality within Torah parameters is what we are to do.  Each shevet [tribe] was supposed to have its own customs and its own identity.  Each person should remember that within Torah, there is a huge amount that allows for individuality, for expressing your own unique self.  After all, you do have a unique mission.  G-d created you because you are uniquely needed.

The Ohel Moed [Tabernacle] had to rest in the center of all the camps – directly in the middle.  The Chofetz Chaim explains that is to show that Torah is accessible to everyone equally.  That is why we place the Bimah in the synagogue in the center of the synagogue.   You have as equal a shot as me.  That, by the way, is also why circle dances are a big thing by us Jews.  Because in a circle dance, no one is in front and no one in back.  No one is on the side.  Every person is equally spaced, a unique being part of a greater whole.

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The Pully Mishap (and not fighting)

 [This account, surprisingly, is true, as told by a lawyer who saw the deposition of the brilliant worker who did this.]

 Figgerin’ a bucket of rocks and cement can be used as ballast

I tied the other end of rope to me and held fast

But too many rocks I put right inside

So upwards I went sailing topwise

Whilst the overfull bucket went zooming down

To crash with a bang upon the ground

Whereby the bucket overturned and out things spilled

So now the bucket was no longer filled

Making my weight at this point be way more

So up went the bucket, and down I slammed into the floor

And when I finally with broken bones came to rest

That bucket plopped down right upon my chest

The moral of this tale I’m sure you’ll agree

is quite obvious for all to see

When picking a fight, make sure you and your opponent are evenly weighted

Or for some cracked ribs you are definitely slated.


My father always told us another Klal (generalization) about tiffs.  He said, if someone starts up with you, lower yourself, even perhaps stoop down.  For your enemy will come to trip over you, if you do so.

But on a real serious note, in a world that is filled with Machlokes, I just saw this amazing insight by Rabbi Elazar (Chulin Daf Pay-Tes).  He teaches about the line that says:  Toleh Aretz Al Be’leemah [translation: G-d hangs the world in space]  that you can actually translate this differently and say the world is suspended [in existence] “Bishvil Mee She’bolaym Es Atzmoh B’Shaas HaMachlokes” for the sake of those who hold back during a fight.”  You know, those who swallow and don’t asnwer back, those amazing folks…their the reason for a world to continue spinning in existence.  Can you swallow your pride and try not to engage in a fight even when provoked?  For the world gets hung just right when that happens.

My father also said another amazing thing –  he said, “it takes only one person to decide to have Shalom, because if one person decides not to fight, no matter what, there is no fight.”

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A LITTLE CLOUD PASSED RIGHT BY – A Lesson in Determination

Aloft within a cage of steel

suspended motion by machination

Arms clutching armrests in unrest

my soul, it wants to fly.

Flip slip-winds whistle news of doom

You what?  You why?  You inconsequential!

My head bows, missions left unmet

futile it seems to try.

As I look out at the vast blue sky

a little cloud passes right by

No cumulative heavy thundercloud

no weight of evaporated masses

Actually just a mere wisp of a cloud

barely streaking the blue

Making no statement with loud thunderclap

just set on things he must do.

Tumbling onwards, headlong in the sky

swiftly his mist whispers by

Off to life’s task, the cloud bundles his form

onward, racing with time as it passes.

Gauzy reason, webbed with mist

belies a crystal clear declaration

supplying answers on how to have aim

simply continue to do.

Heavens abound, the space is set

vast horizons stretch full of expectations

since there is so much for me to attain

I must surge forward, too!

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Ki Yetzer Ha’adam – The Evil Inclination Wants Us to View Ourselves as Bad (don’t!!)

Kee Yetzer Ha’adam Rah Minoorav

There is a verse that says, “the inclination of man is bad from his youth.”  This verse has many explanations and expounding details.  One is that a child is born with willfulness, the “me, me, me” unrealistic expectations and desires.  Only after Bar or Bas Mitzvah does the child get the maturity to have a “good inclination” a desire to do the morally right thing.

The Gemorah discusses this verse and then discusses how to deal with this bad inclination, this desire pull that drags us down.  We are told to drag our desires into the Bais Medrash, into the study hall as Torah study wears it down, that bad inclination.  We are also told to pray, as prayer also smashes and bashes and pushes away that evil inclination.

Yet, there is something I’ve noted.  Read that verse again, but put a pause there.  Read it this way.  Kee Yetzer Ha’adam, the evil inclination of man, “Rah minoorav” is to value himself as bad from when he was little.

The Yetzer Hara starts off with you’re a bad person.  That is the first sin as a youngster, to have that feeling of failure before you even start off in life.

Not allowed, my friend.  We can never allow ourselves to think of ourselves as bad.  Nor should we ever call our children bad.  They might mess up.  We might mess up.  But calling ourselves Rah is just the Yetzer getting the better of us.  How do we know we are not all bad, even when our inside voice likes to tell us that we are bad?  Because we have the ability to go into that study hall and learn the exalted Torah.  We have the ability to talk to G-d through prayer.  Surely, if we can do that, there is no way we are bad.  We are good, just with some slips and errors in our past.

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Tzama Nafshi – Sating a Thirsting Soul

During one of her pregnancies, someone craved ice chips in a major sort of way.  She would sit in front of her non-frost-free freezer some nights, having finished her ice cubes in record time, and chip away any ice she could from the buildup.

There are children who will eat things like paint and sand and even feces.  Like the ice-craving pregnant woman, their body is calling out for weird foods.  Excuse me, while I go chew on that wall for a while.

Now we can chuckle about it, but it is no laughing matter.  Pica[1], the name of the disorder, often stems from a lack of iron or zinc in the body.  The body is calling out for something, but somewhere in the brain there is a lack of clarity about what the body needs.  Therefore, the person is stuck craving inadequate substitutes that have traces of what the body lacks.  Iron pills would have cleared up the ice chip craving quickly and that woman could have spared herself sleepless nights in front of a freezer.

Within each of us is a spark of Divine, something called our soul.  And the soul, too, has cravings.  It wants to forge a deep relationship with its Creator, wants to connect with Eternity and Spirituality.

Ever note how everyone wants to name drop and show you how they know someone famous?  See there, that’s my photo of me with Hillary, as if we’re on a first-name-basis, Hil-and-I go way back when, or other such nonsense.  What causes folks to do that?

It is our soul chewing ice chips.  We want to connect with G-d, greater than all of us, but we don’t realize it and try to rub shoulders with rich, famous or other folks we might view as “great” in their own way.

Much of what we do, unfortunately, feeds us the same way.  We try for happiness and spirituality in ways that are inadequate because our soul is so thirsty we try to sate it, this way and that, and none really stilling that urge that tells us more, more and more.

When dealing with physical Pica disorders, medical practitioners are instructed to do a blood panel to try to see what the body might be missing.  Then, when a deficiency is noted, it is easy to prescribe the diet or supplements that would stop the disorder.

Spiritually, we ought to do a panel of our innards every now and then, see how close we feel to truth and see how much we adhere to a healthy spiritual diet.  For then, we might avoid eating sand and turd.  We might avoid spiritual scams.

[1] For more information about PICA, you can read here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002505/

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 “You cannot find peace anywhere except for inside your own self.

When a man has made peace within himself,

he is able to make peace with the whole world.”

– Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshicha

 G-d loves giving. He gives us countless gifts each day.  It is our job to recognize all those gifts so we can begin to understand the depth of His love.  Count your gifts.  Include the sights, the sounds, the beautiful world you encounter.

 For some reason, sad beyond words, most in our generation have no clue they are loved.  No other generation had people hate themselves so much they resorted to self-destructing behavior.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk informed us that depression brings one away from G-d.  Therefore, the Hebrew word for depression “Atzav” is closely related to Atzabayhem,- idols.

Heartbreak and depression are two different things.  Heartbreak is, Hashem, I need help.  Depression is, I give up.  The first is beneficial.  The latter, destroys lives.

At the first meeting between the Baal Shem Tov and the Toldos Yaakov Yosef found the Baal Shem Tov admonishing the other Rav not to fast and not to resort to self-inflicted pain, even in a quest for greater spiritual heights.  Rather, he instructed, we must find joy in serving Hashem.

Some folks hate themselves because of circumstances they’ve undergone, because of having being mistreated or abused.  You have to know, if this is you I’m describing, that abuse is what happened TO you, not BY you.  It’s an outside event you experienced, not a description of who you are.  If you have gone through trauma, find the help to cope with the after-effects.  Yet, keep reminding yourself the trauma does not define you.  It was an outside event unrelated to who you are as a person.  You are defined by your choices, not the events through which you’ve suffered.

Some people are self-loathing due to mistakes they’ve made.  You’re a child of Hashem.  He knows you’ll mess up at times.  Each mess up can be made up.  Just apologize.  You’re still loved.  You’re still precious.  Will you throw out your kid for spilling milk?  I think not.  Then, know, Hashem is not ready to discard you, even when you slip and fall.

When we feel alone and think Hashem is not there, remember how you learned to walk.  Your parents stood you up and moved slightly away.  It was up to you to take those first few steps into their waiting, embracing arms.  At times, to get us to take the steps we need to learn to take, Hashem, so to speak, moves a little out of our reach.  Not because He is leaving us alone.  He is waiting there, a few steps out of reach, waiting for us to learn to take the steps necessary to get to His waiting embrace.

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The Good Struggle — keep running the race

Olympics.  Able bodies, arms, legs, moving like well-oiled pistons.  Strength and muscle exhibited as the runner gains mile after mile until – finally – exultation – a cross of the finish line.

Special Olympics.  A test more grueling, almost ugly to watch in the clenched determination to make it to the finish line despite obstacles and pain.  A cripple with only one leg hobbles past, compensating with implements.  Another one, on two crutches, teeters along determinedly.  One mile, he gains.  Then, wham – a screw gives on one crutch and he lands flat out.  You cheer him on as he gets up and keeps going, now with only one crutch.  He’s got only a few more yards left when, bam, he’s down on the ground again.  You hold your breath.  Will he give up now?  Grimacing, yet happy in an odd way to persevere, he begins to crawl.  Inch by torturous inch he pulls himself until – finally –exultation – he makes it, barely, but he makes it, across the finish line.

We Jews, we’re running the Special Olympics in history right now.  Used to be our forefathers ran forward, ably.  Yaakov wrestled that angel with force and might.  He held that evil force down until dawn wiped away the danger.  We, however, we teeter about trying to compensate for our vast emotional and spiritual disabilities.  One day, then another.  Pushing through life, we must live true to our mission no matter how torturous the strain on our soul might feel.  Every muscle aches with the effort.  Push on, past the Holocaust.  Stumble on past the hypocritical leaders who were exposed as shams.  Keep running the course despite the confusion.  Teeter, wobble, get up again  or even crawl.  It is just a few short yards now to the finish line.  The final epoch is soon unfolding.

C’mon, onwards, because soon, for those who continued running the good race, it will soon be time for exultation.  If we teeter onwards, we’ll make it across that finish line!  Hold steady until “alos haShachar” until dawn wipes away the pain.


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