MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL/HIGH HOLIDAYS SEATS TO OPEN NEXT WEEK
Question of the Week
Is it normal to have doubts during an engagement? My friends tell me I should be 100% certain that I have made the right decision, but I would be lying if I said I had no doubts. Is it a bad sign if I am just not sure?
There are two types of doubting. One is an alarm bell that should not be ignored. The other is a sign that you have made the right choice.
The great Kabbalist Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneersohn wrote a letter to his recently engaged son, explaining that engagement and doubt go hand in hand. The union of soulmates is such a lofty and super-rational event that the mind cannot possibly grasp it. Something is at work that is beyond our understanding and therefore there is always an element of doubt.
This doubt is not an indication that you have done something stupid. On the contrary, it means that you have touched a level that lies beyond the confines of the human mind. Finding your soulmate is such a miracle, our logic cannot process that it is really possible, that it is really true, that I have found the one for me. This wonder is a kind of positive uncertainty - Is this for real? I don't believe this is happening to me!
So the fact that you feel unsure may be a good sign, indicating that you have been touched by the hand of G-d, and are left in wonder that it could really be so good.
However this only applies when the doubts are vague and general, doubts that anyone could have. Will I be happy in twenty years from now? How can I know for sure? Maybe there's someone else better suited to me? What if we change? These questions are normal. They would be there no matter who you were engaged to, and so there's no reason to be alarmed. In time these doubts will disappear in a puff of smoke.
But if your doubts have strong base to them, like you are questioning your partner's good character, or you suspect that your feelings have not developed to the extent that they should have, then you need to seek advice whether you are doing the right thing.
Here's a good way of testing whether the doubts are cause for concern or not. Are the doubts stronger when you are with your fiancé or when you are apart? Normal doubts come when you are lying awake late at night or when you are alone and your mind is churning. Ignore them. But doubts that arise from actual interactions and real conversations need to be closely examined.
Engagement can be an emotional roller coaster. And when we are emotional, we are rarely able to see clearly. Seek the advice of a wise and experienced outsider, who will be able to tell you whether your doubts have foundation to them, or you are experiencing the humble disbelief of finding your true soulmate.
I have been pondering some random philosophical questions, and would love to hear your take: If we lose our memory are we still ourselves? Am I still myself if I lose my mind? And how do I know that I didn't wake up this morning in this body with this memory, but yesterday I was someone else with their memory?
Assuming you are still you when you receive this, I will attempt to answer your question. Let's approach this theoretical topic by first looking at a very real story.
My brother-in-law Rabbi Zalman Sandhaus did something heroic this week. He donated a kidney to save the life of a stranger. A man who suffered from kidney disease for 24 years now has a new lease on life. And my brother-in-law is recovering from the surgery that removed one kidney, leaving him with only one now. He doesn't see himself as a hero. In his words, "How can I not give it if a guy's life is on the line?" But to give a kidney takes guts.
So here's an interesting question. When you donate an organ, is the recipient partly you now? And is a kidney donor any less of a person with only one kidney? Having lost a part of themselves, is their identity minimized in any way?
The answer to all of the above is a clear no. Because you haven't given away a part of yourself, you have given a part of your body. And your body is not you. Your soul is. You are a soul, and that soul has a body.
So then let's ramp up the question a notch. Brain transplants are not yet possible. Although the way some people behave, it seems as if they have already become donors. But the theoretical possibility of brain transplants really boggles the mind. Am I still me if I have someone else's brain? Maybe your kidney can become my kidney, and we both still remain the same people. But if someone's brain becomes someone else's, who is who?
Well, the answer remains the same. You are not your brain, you are your soul. Your mind, your memories, your personality and your identity are all stored in the soul, not the brain. Receiving someone else's brain would be like buying a used smartphone. You just transfer your old information from the cloud to the new device, and life goes on.
So there is your answer. You are not a body, you are a soul. In the short time the soul inhabits the body, thank G-d for every healthy limb and organ you have, and for the opportunity to use them for good.
Followed by Kiddush sponsored by the family and friends of Paul Schaffer A"H in honour of his 1st yortzheit; and by David and Julian Cappe in honour of the yortzheit of their father, Peter Cappe - Long Life.
I am just back from my big trip to Israel. I thought I'd never get there. I think it's the first Jewish thing I've done since my bar mitzvah (which wasn't so Jewish either).
But here's the weird part. I went to the Wall in Jerusalem, and you know me, I'm the last person to have a "spiritual experience". But as I approached the Wall I started to cry uncontrollably. I felt this strange magnetism towards the Wall, almost as if G-d was pulling me. What do you think? Not bad for an agnostic, huh?
You have a powerful Jewish soul, and you caught a glimpse of its power at the Wall.
The Wall is the last remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. While ransacking Jerusalem 2000 years ago, the Romans burnt the Temple, and knocked down its stone walls. But one wall refused to budge, the Western Wall. The sages predicted long ago that the Western Wall will never be destroyed. It represents a holiness that no foreign power can ever touch. They can destroy the Temple, but there is something that is beyond their reach, a divine presence that never leaves Jerusalem.
The Kabbalists teach that man is a microcosm. Whatever exists in the world, can be found within ourselves. If there is a Wall that is so holy that it can never be destroyed, then within us must also be a spark of holiness that can never be lost. This is our spark of Jewishness, the essence of the Jewish soul. Our soul may be surrounded by foreign invaders - skepticism, ignorance, scars from negative Jewish experiences - but it nevertheless remains intact. Nothing can extinguish the Jewish spark, it is always there waiting to be ignited.
Even an agnostic Jew who has been dislocated from his spiritual heritage for generations, is Jewish at the deepest level of his being. Nothing can take that away. Eventually, if he allows it, that innate Jewishness will surface.
Everyone has a different catalyst that ignites this spark. In your case, the microcosm met the macrocosm. Your Jewish spark, the indestructible presence of G-d within you, was awakened at the Wall, the indestructible presence of G-d in the world. I guess it's not surprising that many have had that experience.
Now it's up to you. You have been given a gift. You have come face to face with your soul. These experiences don't happen often. But once you have discovered the Holy Wall within yourself, you can start to rebuild your inner Temple around it, so that sense of holiness will never be lost again. That's the secret of faith. You don't get it from the outside, you discover it within yourself.
You may be an agnostic. You may even be an atheist. But your Holy Wall is always there.