I am struggling with a lot of things in life really. Work, dating, you know the drill. Sometimes I get really depressed due to my shortcomings. They say everyone has something they're good at doing but I'm still trying to find out what mine is. It's tough when you don't view yourself in a very positive light. Everyone I know is super-successful, and I still can't get anything off the ground. You are born with certain abilities and those abilities will strongly dictate where you will end up in life. I sometimes think I am just a big failure. Sorry for the rant but I just wanted to get it off my chest and would love to hear your response if there's anything to even respond to...
You make me think of a story. A rabbi was called to a hospital to see a Jewish teenager who was suicidal. He had attempted to take his own life, feeling that he was a good for nothing who could not get anything right. Even his suicide attempt had failed. The hospital staff, seeing he was Jewish, called a local rabbi to come and try to lift the boy's dejected spirits.
So the rabbi arrived at the hospital not knowing what to expect. He found the boy lying in bed watching TV, a face of utter misery, black clouds of despair hanging over his head. The boy hardly looked up to the rabbi, and before he could even say hello the boy said, "If you are here to tell me what the priest just told me, you can leave now."
Slightly taken aback, the rabbi asked, "What did the priest say?"
"He told me that G-d loves me. That is a load of garbage. Why would G-d love me?"
It was a good point. This kid could see nothing about himself that was worthy of love. He had achieved nothing in his life, he had no redeeming features, nothing that was beautiful or respectable or lovable. So why would G-d love him?
The rabbi needed to touch this boy without patronising him. He had to say something real. But what do you say to someone who sees themselves as worthless?
"You may be right," said the rabbi. "Maybe G-d doesn't love you."
This got the boy's attention. He wasn't expecting that from a rabbi.
"Maybe G-d doesn't love you. But one thing's for sure. He needs you."
This surprised the boy. He hadn't heard that before. The very fact that you were born means that G-d needs you. He had plenty of people before you, He added you to the world population because there is something you can do that no one else can do. And if you haven't done it yet, that makes it more important to live and do and give to the world a gift that only you can.
To say G-d loves you means you can look at yourself and be satisfied, feel good. But to say G-d needs you means you can't be satisfied, because you have work to do, you have a mission, G-d has put you here for a reason.
If I can look at all my achievements and be proud, I can believe G-d loves me. What if I haven't achieved anything? What if I don't have any accomplishments under my belt to be proud of?
Well, stop looking at yourself and look around you. Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking of others. You are here because G-d needs you, he needs you to do something.
My friend, you and I know that happiness does not come from earning a big salary. Happiness comes from serving others, from living life with meaning. I am convinced that all you need to do is focus outward, not inward, not on what you need but what you are needed for, and in finding what you can do for others, you will find yourself.
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Question of the Week:
Ever since the death of my brother seven years ago, I have been grappling with the concept of the soul. I wish I could believe in it. I am the type that needs rational arguments to convince me, and it seems the soul is too abstract for my mind. I know these things can't be scientifically proven, but do I have to resort to blind faith to believe in the soul?
The pain of losing a loved one is so deep because it is so final. You can never replace a person whom you have lost.
But what if you could?
Imagine it were possible to clone your late brother. A genetically identical replica could be created who talks, thinks, looks and smells precisely the same as the person you grew up with. Furthermore, what if science developed a way to preserve and replicate memory. They could take your late brother's memories and insert them into his clone. You could sit with your newly recreated brother and reminisce about childhood experiences, laugh at the good old days, and share a bond that only brothers can.
Would you opt for this? Would you be satisfied with an exact copy of your brother? Would his death be reversed when you met his clone? Would it end your pain?
I can't imagine the answer could be yes. I can't imagine anyone would truly believe that a clone could replace a brother or sister, son or daughter, parent or spouse or best friend.
But why not? Why would a refurbished model be any different from the original?
Because something is missing. This is not your brother. He may have your brother's voice and your brother's expressions, your brother's manner and mind and memory, but he doesn't have your brother's soul. It just isn't him.
That's what soul is. It is what makes you you. It is the fragment of G-d that makes each one of us unique. Above your body, beyond your personality, transcending genetics and even deeper than memory is the core of your being, the ineffable essence that is you. We call this your soul. It is soul that makes each person irreplaceable. And it is your brother's soul that you miss.
You don't need scientific proof of the soul, neither do you need blind faith. You know it to exist just as you know your own existence. You can choose to ignore it or to live deeper with it. Sometimes you can even feel it. And at those moments when you feel your soul, you will feel your brother's soul too.
YIZKOR THIS SHABBOS - please email me names if you want them mentioned
Question of the Week:
Why did the Israelites have to pass through the Red Sea? On my map of the Middle East, the route from Egypt to Israel is directly through the desert. The sea is totally out of the way. G-d led them on a detour, trapping them between the sea and the chasing Egyptians, and then split the sea. Does G-d have no sense of direction?
The Israelites passing through the Red Sea was not a geographical necessity, but a spiritual one. At the Red Sea, we were shown the power of the human soul.
The earth is comprised of oceans and continents, sea and dry land. The difference between the two is that on dry land, all is open and visible. The trees, animals, mountains and people that occupy it are all easily recognisable. The sea on the other hand is a big blue expanse of mystery. Though the sea is teeming with life, when you look at it you can identify nothing, all is hidden beneath the surface.
So it is with a person. Our personality has two layers: our sea, and our land. What we know of ourselves, our visible strengths, our tested talents and our known abilities, the elements of our character that we are aware of, these comprise the dry land of our personality. But below the surface of our character lies a vast sea of latent talents, inner strengths and untapped abilities that we never knew we had. In the depth of our soul lies a reserve of dormant energy waiting to be discovered. This is our sea, and even we ourselves are unaware of what lies there.
How can we access this reservoir of potential? How can our sea become dry land? There is only one way. And we know it from the encounter at the Red Sea.
The Israelites had their back to the wall: Egyptians closing in on one side, a raging sea threatening on the other. They had only two options, despair or faith. Logic and reason demanded that they give in. There was no possible way out of their predicament. But faith demanded that they keep marching to the Promised Land. Sea or no sea, this is the path that G-d has led us, so we have to have faith and march on. And so they did.
It was at that moment, when hopelessness was countered by faith, that the impossible happened, and the sea opened up to become dry land. The most formidable obstacle dissolved into nothingness, without a struggle, just with faith. The people became empowered exactly when they acknowledged G-d as the only true power. By surrendering themselves to a higher force, they discovered the force within them. They split their own sea.
The Jewish people are no strangers to times of challenge. At the very birth of our nation, we needed to learn how to face these challenges. So G-d took us on a detour to the sea and opened it up for us. He was telling every Jew for all times:
Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey, they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.
Why do we respond so harshly to the wicked son in the Haggadah? He may be a rebel, but why should we "loosen his teeth"? Does he really deserve a punch in the face?
The Haggadah is one of the most profound texts of Judaism. Nothing in it should be taken lightly. Here too, the Haggadah has a powerful message on how to view wicked children, young or old.
Every person has a soul, and that soul is pure. Sadly, that pure soul can sometimes accumulate layers of baggage that conceal its goodness, through years of neglect, or bad experiences, or wrong education, or negative influences. It can even reach a point where the soul's fire seems all but extinguished.
But no soul is never a lost case. Every Jew is a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the holy patriarchs. This chain cannot be broken. No matter how far a Jew has strayed from Judaism, no matter how many layers of cynicism or ignorance covers a Jewish soul, they are still a part of the family. Scratch away the surface and the Jewishness shines through.
This is the secret behind the Haggadah's response to the wicked child. The name for a wicked person in Hebrew is רשע, spelled with the three Hebrew letters Reish, Shin and Ayin. The outer letters, Reish and Ayin, together spell רע, which means evil. For wickedness is no more than an outer shell, an external layer that is peripheral to our true inner being.
The middle letter, Shin, represents the deepest core of the wicked son's personality. The letter Shin, ש, is made up of three lines, representing the three patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. At his core, even the wicked son is connected to the Jewish family. In the depths of his soul, he just wants to come home to his people. His Shin is intact.
When the Haggadah says "loosen his teeth," it really means "bring out his Jewish soul." The Hebrew term "his teeth" שניוcan be translated "his letter Shin." Loosen the Shin from the Reish and Ayin. When we meet such a rebellious child, when we come across a Jew who is antagonistic to his Judaism, remember that it is no more than a façade. The evil is a front. Inside is a wholesome and sacred Shin.
His connection to the Jewish people is unbreakable. All you need to do is tease out the inner soul, allow its light to break through the evil shell that covers it, loosen his Shin and you will see in front of you not a wicked cynic but a glowing and bright soul.
Good Shabbos and Good Yomtov, a happy and kosher Pesach,