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Count the Omer and Grow Spiritually with Rabbi Rudin!

04/05/2021 02:16:37 PM

Apr5

 

The Mishna tells us that Torah study develops 48 spiritual superpowers!  Check out the daily quote about the Middah (virtue) of the day and focus on developing that trait in your own journey!

Days 13, 14, 15

Scripture, Mishna, Wisdom

As an educator, I learned that every curriculum was divided into two great sections: Content and Skills: learning "what" and learning "how to".  

The Torah's classic advice is the same:  Learn Content: the scriptures, the stories, the ancient narratives, the laws.  Learn Skills: the give and take of debate, reflection, argument, analysis.  The result?  Wisdom.

This is not a difficult or lofty goal.  Online, you can read the weekly Torah portion easily; even dividing it up into bite-size daily pieces.  The easiest to access is our friends at Chabad.org.  Simply go to the "learning and values" tab and click on weekly Torah portion.  Always read with Rashi, the classic 11th century commentary.  Sometimes the text seems difficult or hard to access- but stick with it!  With time comes clarity.

The second part, analysis and debate is more difficult.  Classes are the best for this: maybe even our Unlocking the Torah class online at Adath Shalom!  But second best is to explore the profound and yet very accessible teachings of Rabbi David Fohrman at AlephBeta.org.  There are many fabulous scholars and teachers in today's Torah world- but Rabbi Fohrman, one of the translators of the Artscroll Talmud, is unique.  Divided into five-minute mini-lessons as well as longer courses, AlephBeta is really introducing new depth into study.

Torah study is a lofty spiritual practice that comes down to a commitment to setting aside time: only 10 minutes a day to start- to learn.  I pray that you find it to be, as I have, an endless spring of spiritual joy, light and inspiration.   

 

Days 10, 11, 12

Purity, Service to the Wise, Loyalty to Friends

What does it mean to be pure of heart?  To never have doubts and inconsistencies?  To never falter or slip up or backslide or give way to one's faults?  Of course not.  Growth is never straight up, nor is progress steady. 

Today's quote: 

כי שבע יפול הצדיק וקם

For the righteous falls seven times but gets up each time.

-Mishlei/Proverbs 16

Service to Wisdom means a commitment to moral principles: it means having a code.  Loyalty means being true not "true to yourself"- for "being yourself" is really no more than going after your desires and appetites.  The point is not to "listen to your heart" as in your needs, desires, urges and imaginations but to be true to your vision of what you truly are in the highest sense.  In this age of moral relativism and not taking responsibility for our choices, it seems anachronistic to have a standard by which one lives and by which one measures one's own behavior.  But there can be no progress forward without a path and there is no path without looking beyond who you are right now and striving to be more.  Looking at the top of the mountain and expecting to attain it without effort, climbing and stumbling and always sticking to that path is folly.  

Visualize who you truly are in the highest, most moral, most integrity-infused sense.  Set times to evaluate yourself as you evolve into that vision.  Confront failures and falls without self-loathing but also without excuses and re-affirm your mission: to continue to climb in service to wisdom, in loyalty to your vision.  

 

Day 9

שמחה

Joy

Rabbi Nachman would say: A person must be always in a state of joy.  This is the central Mitzvah of the Torah.

-Likutei Mohoran

There is an ongoing debate in Torah study circles.   Where was Rabbi Nachman's source for saying that joy is the most important Mitzvah upon which everything else is based?  There are clear texts that command joy: Serve HaShem with joy (Psalms) and, Because you did not serve HaShem with joy, all of these evils will come upon you. (Deuteronomy), but how can joy be commanded?  How can any emotion be commanded?  

Maybe the situation is more nuanced.  The Talmud says, "G-d's presence only rests on someone who is filled with the joy of performing the mitzvot."  In other words, the mitzvah of joy is more a prescription than a demand.  So the real mitzvah is: do actions that will bring about joy.  

Is this the solution?  Find things that bring you joy and fill your life with those things.  The two parts to this spiritual super power: identifying the causes of joy in your life and nurturing those things are both supremely difficult.  But imagine a joy-infused life: what blessings we are capable of bringing to the world can only be accomplished if we are in a state of joy- never forget, says Rabbi Nachman, that we are always at the very beginning... 

Days 6, 7, 8

אימה, יראה, ענווה

Reverence, Awe and Humility

Awe and reverence are emotions associated with the ability to experience a sense of wonder.  Like gratitude and empathy, it is a quality that is difficult if not impossible to teach but which seems associated with the power to overcome self-obsession.  When we can pierce the membrane of ego, a whole world appears.  The Baal Shem Tov said: just as the tip of your pinky finger held over the eye can block you from seeing the most majestic vista, so can selfishness prevent you from experiencing G-d's presence.

Humility is reverence put into practice.  Realizing that the smallest matter that comes your way is worthy of your attention and care is the essence of humility.  When an opportunity appears to perform a Mitzvah: say a kind word, make a quick call, give tzedaka, join a minyan, fix, connect, know that the Creator of the Universe is sending you an invitation to make a tikkun, a redemptive act.  Who benefits from a tiny, anonymous act of kindness?  Everyone and everything.  Humility is acting on this truth.

הלל אומר: במקום שאין אנשים, השתדל להיות איש

Hillel says: In a place where there are no upstanders, be the upstander.

-Pirkei Avot, 2

Day 5

Sichlut HaLev: Nothing hides from the heart

One of the greatest spiritual superpowers is the power of empathy.  Years ago, I happened upon an obscure book of Hasidic meditation that changed my life.  The book prescribed a set of visualizations: when you read a text or even hear about something that happened to someone else try this for even one minute:  Close your eyes and place yourself in that person's consciousness.  How is it to be that person?  What is their perspective?  How are they feeling and seeing the world? Be relentless for just a minute in really trying to enter that person's soul.  Practice will give you the ability to not only empathize more powerfully but will help put you in touch with your own inner world and enable you to connect with the inner world of others. 

Quote:

אַל תָּדִין אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ עַד שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לִמְקוֹמוֹ

Hillel says: do not judge another until you have stood in their place. (Avot 2:4)

Commentary (Hasidic Masters): When you hear about another person's experience, it is a message that you should try to find the same thing, issue, problem, fault or struggle in yourself.  Only when you can fix yourself in that same area can you try to advise or guide another.

Days 3 and 4

Arichat Sfatayim: The Gift of Gab

Shammay said: הוה מקבל כל אדם בסבר פנים יפות. Greet and receive every person you encounter with a warm greeting and pleasant countenance.  The Torah teaches that no meeting, even passing someone on the street, is random: each is an opportunity to learn, connect, create holiness.  Develop the ability to make "small talk" conversation with everyone.  It's a skill not easy to acquire but infinitely rewarding. 

Binat HaLev: The power of intuition

We all know stories of people who suddenly get a sense and just know that something needs to be done or has happened.  This power of intuition is essential in developing spiritualy. How do we acquire it?  No need: it lives in you already.  To activate it, you need one thing: time to connect with it, to listen to your heart. Today's teaching:

שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר, כָּל יָמַי גָּדַלְתִּי בֵין הַחֲכָמִים, וְלֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב אֶלָּא שְׁתִיקָה.

Shimon, son of Rabban Gamliel says, "I grew up with the sages all my life and have always found the best thing for health is: silence."

Find some quiet time each day, each hour, and go within yourself to listen, take stock, find out how you're really feeling and why. This is listening to your heart.  When you do this, then intuition will awaken within you and you will know the things that you need to know.

Day 2: Shemiat Ozen: Mindfulness- focus on being truly present.

שמע ישראל, ה׳ אלוקינו, א׳ אחד:  say Shema when you rise and when you retire; focus on hearing G-d's voice speaking to you through the events of your day.

Day I: Talmud- Make a concrete goal of learning something meaningful every day.

איזהו חכם? הלומד מכל אדם

Who is wise?  The one who learns every person they meet.

-Ben Zoma, Mishna Avot

 

3/29/21

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781