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Question of the Week:
I love Pesach. I hate Pesach cleaning. We spend two weeks working like a slave so we can spend one week celebrating freedom from slavery. Am I missing smoehting? Is there meaning in the cleaning?
My wife finds a new spiritual lesson from the Pesach cleaning every year. Here is her latest insight.
Do you know which parts of the house are the hardest to clean? Which areas accumulate the most junk? You would think it's the busy areas, the rooms that get the most traffic and the sections that get the most use.
But it's not the case. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The messiest parts of the house are those you don't live in. A spare room, an unused cupboard, a neglected garage, these are the most cluttered, dusty and disorganized corners of the house. The more deserted and empty an area is, the more mess it will accumulate. If you don't fill a room with useful things, it will become the dumping ground for those tchachkes that belong nowhere. Empty space does not remain empty for long. It gathers dust, and much more.
Your life works in exactly the same way. The enemy of virtue is emptiness. A mind that is left idle is fertile ground for needless worries and fears. It is when we have nothing to think about that we start feeling down and sorry for ourselves. The most dangerous people are bored people. When you have nothing better to do, you get up to no good.
On the other hand, when we are busy, we are less likely to get up to the wrong thing. As one great Chassidic master said, "I don't expect my disciples not to sin because they are too righteous to sin, I expect them not to sin because they are too busy."
So as you clean out the house for Pesach, ponder those messy corners of nothingness, and marvel at how emptiness can be so full of junk. Let it inspire you to fill your mind with wisdom, and your schedule with goodness.
Want to find some meaning in life? Mind your own busy-ness.
A friend and I have been going back and forth in regards to dating. She is in no rush to get married, but feels pressured to "get out there" lest she miss out on her soulmate. I say what will be will be, and if it is meant to happen then it will. Can one's soulmate be "stolen" if they don't act in haste?
It is most certainly possible to miss out on your soulmate.
The Talmud discusses certain times of the year when Jewish law does not allow weddings to take place. One of them is during a festival, like Pesach, as we do not want to mix celebrations together. However the Talmud says that while you can't perform a wedding during a festival, you can make shidduch - a match between prospective mates with a view to get married. The reasoning the Talmud gives is that while a wedding can wait until after the festival, if you delay making a match someone else may beat you to your soulmate.
But how can one person take a soulmate destined for someone else?
Through raising your soul to a higher level.
If you work on yourself, improve your character and refine yourself to a new spiritual plane, then your soulmate changes. A new improved soul gets a new improved soulmate.
And who will be that new improved soulmate? Someone whose original soulmate has either fallen to a lower spiritual level and doesn't deserve them anymore, or is dithering around, wondering if they are ready to get married...
This teaches us an amazing principle in soulmate searching. The two things that can cause you to lose your soulmate are spiritual decline, or lack of real effort. And the two things that will most help you find your soulmate are self-improvement, and determined effort.
Sit around and nothing will happen. But as long as you are out there, and as long as you are working on yourself, you will find him.
Dov Silverton is a much loved member of our Shul who has special needs.
Many of you interact with Dov and have welcomed him wonderfully into our community. I have recently been working with some of his supporters as I want to find ways of helping him participate further in the community.
Our first step is to learn more about Dov as a person and also to understand the impact of his learning difficulties. Through understanding we can work through any concerns we may have and get a better sense of what we can offer Dov. I have learned a lot so far just by talking with his supporters.
I have invited Libby Ellis, a social worker who helps Dov, to come address the community this Shabbos day during the Kiddush.
So please come along and hear more about Dov and how we might be able to understand him better and engage him more.
My operation was successful. I just survived a pretty close shave with my own mortality, so I should be thankful. But I am finding it hard to appreciate when the life I woke up to is so miserable. I need a job. I am all alone. I am alive but sometimes question if my life is worth anything. Any words of inspiration for a sad survivor?
Your question is right on time. What you need is Purim.
The Purim story is a strange one. Like most festivals, it celebrates how G-d intervened in history to save the Jewish people from a mortal enemy. But it seems like He didn't finish the job.
It happened in the time when the Jews were under Persian rule, after the destruction of the first Temple. A decree to slaughter every Jewish man, woman and child was miraculously averted. That's something. But the situation for the Jews was no better at the end of the story than at the beginning. They were still under foreign rule. The temple had not been rebuilt. And Esther was still stuck with a buffoon of a king for a husband.
You'd think if G-d is doing miracles already, He would do it all the way. Don't just save the Jews from annihilation, get rid of all tyrants, free the oppressed, and end world poverty while you're at it.
Well, we can't second guess G-d. He does things His way. Purim teaches us to appreciate each miracle as it comes. What we can celebrate, we do. We survived, and even if times weren't so good, life itself is the greatest cause for celebration.
When going through life's difficulties, we are often advised to look at the big picture. But sometimes the big picture doesn't look all that good. Sometimes, we have to look at the little picture. Forget about the forest, appreciate the trees. You are alive, celebrate it. G-d has given you a blessing, savour that moment.
On Purim, make sure you drink Lechaim - to life. A tough life? Maybe. But life!
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Question of the Week:
I would love to embrace Judaism again, but there is something I can't get over. I was observant as a child, keeping Shabbos and kosher and all the laws. But then once, when I was a teenager, a neighbour offered me a meat sandwich. It wasn't kosher, and I knew it. But I was hungry. In a weak moment, I ate the sandwich. And then.... nothing happened. I was not struck down by lightning, I didn't get sick or collapse, the sky didn't fall. I realised that these laws actually mean nothing. So I stopped keeping Shabbos, and from there it was a matter of time before I lost any guilt and dropped religion entirely. That was twenty years ago. Doesn't my experience prove that the Torah isn't true?
On the contrary, your experience proves just how true the Torah is. The consequence for breaking the Torah's rules is not the sky falling or being struck down by lightning. The consequence of sin is indifference. When you do bad and feel nothing, that is the greatest punishment there can be.
What happened to you is exactly what the Talmud says: "One sin leads to another." When you do something wrong, a layer of ice forms over your soul. You become less spiritually sensitive, less in touch with G-d, you become cold and apathetic. The feeling of indifference just makes the next transgression easier, which leads to a cycle of spiritual degeneration and disconnect.
This is the deeper meaning of the biblical death penalty for sins. The death is an internal one, your soul loses its life force, your spirit is cut off, your heart goes stone cold. When you eat non-kosher or break Shabbos, something changes inside you. The fact you feel nothing is the proof of how deep it is. Your soul is numb.
But your soul can always be revived. For the Talmud teaches, just as one sin leads to another, so one mitzvah leads to another. If one sandwich can freeze your spirit, one good deed can bring your soul back to life, by melting the ice of indifference and allowing you to feel again. The first step is hard, but the next one is easier.
You have proven the numbing power of breaking the Torah's rules. Now prove the reviving power of keeping them, and do just one mitzvah.