GENESIS – A Bird’s Eye View

GENESIS – In the Beginning

More and more people are beginning to understand the value of the regular study of the weekly Torah portion. Many older folk have said to me “Isn’t it too late for me to begin now?” My response is: “Better late than never!” That, also, is my response to learning Hebrew and exploring the Hebraic heritage. Why? In each case every effort you invest is rewarded many times over. 

In ‘A Bird’s Eye View,’ we examine an overview of each book as a whole, in order to lay a foundation for the study of the weekly portion. We will examine important themes and highlight  topics and aspects to look out for as you go through the book. It helps to see the bigger picture!

My hope, too, is that we approach the study of God’s Word with love, as a form of worship of Him. It’s how we read it that causes it to become a Torah of love. When we read it with an expectancy, with an ear to hear, we begin to identify God’s voice speaking to us as a loving Father longing to make His love and will known. We realize how relevant and applicable His Word is to what is happening in the world and in our personal lives.

So, let’s begin at the beginning, with the amazing book of GENESIS.

The Hebrew name of the book  of Genesis is the first word of the Bible – Breisheet, which means 

In the beginning…

The first seven chapters of the book are devoted to God’s creation of the universe. This includes the earth with all its vegetation, fish, birds and animals, which He declared to be good. All this was  crowned with the creation of man and woman in His image, to whom, unlike the animals, He gave the freedom of choice and moral responsibility. We then find the account of their fall from the Garden of Eden, and the first generation. Chapters 8 and 9 describe how God made a covenant with Noah and all mankind; chapters 10 and 11 contain the infamous story of the Tower of Babel and the genealogies of the sons of Noah.

The remainder of the book, from chapter 12, where God calls Abraham, to chapter 50, that tells of  the death of Joseph in Egypt, is the story of a family chosen by God to be His kingdom of priests and holy nation.  They would become the people through whom He would bring about the Redemption of all mankind.

The remaining 4 books of the Torah, from Exodus to Deuteronomy are about the further revelation of God, the proclamation of His Kingdom, and the revelation of His plan for this Redemption of the fallen world. 

Looking at the big picture of Genesis, it is clear that the account of the Creation of the natural world is not the main issue. It is rather an expansion of the concept of covenant and of sanctified and loving relationships.

We know that God is the God of all mankind, so what is so special about the patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel and their descendants, the twelve tribes of Israel? They did not perform great miracles like Moses; they did not deliver great prophecies like Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other biblical prophets. They did not rule in Israel like David and Solomon. What we can derive from the text is the central reality of the eternal covenants God established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

  1. They would have many descendants. )15:5; 17:1-8( 
  1. They would inherit the land of Canaan, the land God chose for Himself, to place His Name there, and promised to them as an eternal inheritance. As God promises Jacob, “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your descendants after you.”  (35:12)

The vital connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel is set and confirmed three times in this the foundation of His Word.

 FAITH AND LIFE

Is there anything else of importance we can learn from the family of God in Genesis?

Yes! There are significant lessons of faith and life we can learn from the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their families. For example, the great themes of sibling rivalry, of God’s direction and provision, of faith and prayer, justice and morality.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in his commentary on the parashah, Vayashev, in Covenant & Conversation, 5777, points out that we also discover a continuing theme of the comparison between the people of the Abrahamic covenant and their pagan neighbors. It is not primarily about idolatry, but rather about adultery, promiscuity, rape, and sexually motivated violence. 

This factor, he says, gives us an entirely new way of thinking about the Abrahamic faith. Emunah, the Hebrew word generally translated as faith, does not have the same meaning as the English word faith. ‘Faith’ usually carries the meanings of belief, a set of principles, or a body of dogma. Rather, as illustrated in the lives of the patriarchs in Genesis, the Hebrew word emunah is mainly associated with faithfulness and relationship. It includes loyalty, commitment, trust, and acting with integrity. 

The central element highlighted in Genesis is marriage, and the holiness of sex in the context of marriage. Rabbi Sacks explains how it is marriage that:

 “…comes closest to the deep resonances of the biblical idea of covenant. A covenant is a mutual act of commitment in which two persons, honoring their differences, each respecting the dignity of the other, come together in a bond of love to join their destinies and chart a future together. When the prophets want to speak of a covenantal relationship between God and His people, they constantly use the metaphor of marriage.” 

As I see it, the major difference between the God of Abraham and other worldly gods – whether they be the Greek gods, Allah, the pantheon of Hindu gods, or the secular god of Self, is that He is a God of truth, love and faithfulness. He does not impose His will upon us by force or violence, but gently pursues us and draws us to Himself. He woos us by His Spirit of holiness. Why? because His heart desires a relationship of love and trust; not one of fear, domination, and subservience. 

For those in relationship with the God of Israel, our Father in Heaven, idolatry – the “putting first” or worship of anything other than God Himself – is a form of adultery, a breaking of the covenant of love and commitment. When the foundational truths of the Covenant revealed in His Word are disregarded, so is moral self restraint. Man’s physical and intellectual strength and power are worshipped instead, which always results in excesses, violence and abuse. This can apply in the context of a family or community, or on a wider national and international scale.

Genesis reminds us that faithfulness to God, and faithfulness to one another, means love, loyalty, and commitment to His revelation and vision as presented to us in His Word and demonstrated to us by Messiah Yeshua. This faithfulness then results, as we see in the lives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in our participation with God in His unfolding plan of Redemption for all mankind. 

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

EXODUS / SHEMOT  – A Bird’s Eye View

Let us take a quick look back – the book of GENESIS described the beginning of Creation, the account of Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden of Eden and the Presence of God. The biblical narrative then followed the generations, through until Noah. Then, from Abraham and Sarah, the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs were predominant. Genesis records God’s dealings with individuals and a family. Now, in EXODUS, a larger shift takes place and we read about God’s dealings  with a people; a nation. 

The book begins with the description of the slavery of the people of Israel.  The family of Jacob has multiplied exceedingly during their exile in Egypt and have grown to be a people. We realize that this, in fact,  is the reason they were enslaved. A new Pharaoh, who had not known Joseph and Jacob, pronounced, “Behold, the people of Israel are too numerous and strong for us!” (1:9)  He feared their growth and strength and the oppression and subjugation began. 

The account then proceeds with God’s intervention in effecting their salvation from the bitter bondage through His mighty outstretched arm and great miracles.

The one who now steps into the spotlight of this great biblical narrative is Moses; whom God calls to lead His people out of Egypt. 

What is the ultimate purpose of the Exodus? Is it simply to set the slaves free to go their own way and do as they please? No, we are told in chapter 4, verse 22:

Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”

And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (4: 31)

“I WILL”

In chapter 6, verses 6-8, we find seven “I wills”  promised by God. The number seven in Scripture always carries the meaning of completion and perfection. God says:

 I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, 

and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 

I will take you to be My people, 

and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 

I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 

I will give it to you for a possession. 

I am the Lord.’”

 

WHY THE DELIVERANCE?

What is the reason we may deduce for the deliverance of HIs people?

The purpose is Relationship on two levels. One between a King-Redeemer and His people and the other between a Loving Father and His children.

The slaves, who only knew a Ruler as a cruel tyrant, now needed to learn the reality of God as a just, faithful King. Even further, to know Him as a Father and come to understand and to experience His  love. In this spacious and generous love they would come to find peace, healing, and rest; and, in addition, the truth that His children do not need to struggle to earn His love, nor fear to lose it, for nothing can separate us from His love. 

Our hearts were created for love, to receive it and to give it; to respond to His abundant and unconditional love with hearts filled with love, and worship. Worship is simply loving Him back – as totally and completely as we can! It’s from hearts of gratitude and love for Him that all true acts of goodness flow. 

Verse 3, in chapter 19, tells us: “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”

God doesn’t only set us free from whatever bondage we were in, He wants us to soar like eagles – to reach spiritual heights far above the level of the world and not to stay waddling around on the ground like turkeys! That’s one of the reasons that He tells us, in effect, 

“Always remember Yetziat Mitzraim – the Exodus from Egypt, that once you were slaves and weighed down in bondage but now you are set free to soar like an eagle!”

THE WILDERNESS AND MORE MIRACLES

 With God’s great miracles, the Israelites are redeemed and the long journey through the wilderness begins. In a deeper spiritual sense, it is a search for Truth and the way back from the universal exile to the Garden and God’s Presence. It is a return to the place of intimate relationship where one can walk and talk with Him again – and also to learn and grow into the fulness of who He created each one to be.

The physical contrast between the wilderness and the Garden of Eden is stark.

The Garden of Eden was a beautiful setting for [man] this beloved creation of God. It was a place traversed by flowing, sparkling waters and filled with lush foliage and flora of dazzling color – pleasing to all the senses. …Man and beast lived in tranquil unity and the Spirit of God permeated the entire expanse. It was ideal. It was paradise.

The desert wilderness…appears as the very antithesis of the Garden of Eden. All its elements seem in opposition to man.It is desolate, seemingly empty and barren of life.  The desert in which the Israelites find themselves is described as , “a great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where there was no water. (Deuteronomy 8:15)

~ A Taste of Torah, Keren Hannah Pryor, 165

And yet, the wilderness is the place of Revelation where God chooses to give the revelation of Himself and His Kingdom; and there, too, He presents His gift to them of His Word – His Torah, or the teachings of how to live in His Kingdom.

We saw in Genesis how God met with Adam and Eve – a couple, two individuals, in the Garden; then how He met and spoke with individuals, for example: Cain, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Rebecca, Jacob. Now, for the first time, He is coming down to meet with a whole people – the people He has chosen to be a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  It is another new beginning; stemming from the lowest place a person can sink – a slave with no recognized personal identity and no right to speak and act for oneself. The precious gift of “free will,” specifically given by God to human beings, had been removed by man. 

Now, the Israelites have been set free but we learn that the transition and transformation from an oppressed and enslaved people to a holy, kingdom of priests serving a loving God is not instantaneous, nor is it smooth – there is a lot of murmuring and complaining! However, with God’s help, it is sure and progressive, which is a great encouragement to each of us on our own spiritual journey.

The two major themes found in Exodus:  REDEMPTION and REVELATION.

REDEMPTION

By His great salvation and redemption of the Israelites out of Egypt, God proved He was the Master of the world and could accomplish anything, even outside HIs own established, natural order. The people of Israel were too weak and helpless to stand up and fight for themselves. Pharaoh, in similar manner to the great Caesars and dictatorial rulers throughout history, exalted himself as a god. To stand against the pride and arrogance of Pharaoh, God chose Moses, who is described as “…the most humble man who ever lived.”

It was a battle of wills between Pharaoh and God, and God demonstrated His power to effect salvation through the supernatural miracles of the plagues and the parting of the Reed Sea. However, in the continuing story of the Exodus, God wanted to convey to His people that true Redemption is not about what He can do. Miracles don’t last! For example, consider the manna in the wilderness. This was an amazing miracle – bread falling from the sky to feed you every day. As time went on, however, it was taken for granted and some people even complained that it was boring! 

God offers Salvation as a free and miraculous gift but, as the Israelites needed to learn, full Redemption is not passive. It requires our participation and effort – our working with God in the context of a personal and intimate relationship with Him. And, even if the situation is not resolved immediately, you know you are progressing towards it and, with His help, you can persevere and keep going. We can apply this concept on a personal level, and even on a national level, but God’s Full and Final Redemption will happen on a universal level. The overarching idea to grasp and understand is that our loving relationship with Him, and our partnering with God in the work He is doing, are both needed for the unfolding of His plan of Redemption.

God did not miraculously clear the promised land of the enemies and then supernaturally transport the people of Israel from Egypt to the Land and plant them there. No! They had to learn of Him, grow in His ways, outgrow their slave mentality and, in faith and faithfulness, press on towards the goal themselves. That’s how full Redemption comes. We do our part with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and then God does His part. Even in Egypt, the Israelites needed to act in obedience to God’s instructions through Moses. They had to choose a lamb, slaughter it, and dab its blood on their doorposts. Then, on a specific night, they had to cook and eat it and be prepared to travel. They didn’t understand why, or know how God was going to do it, but they acted and then, in accord, He acted.

The world is in chaos right now. People are being enslaved by hatred and terrorism. And also by worldly excess on one hand, and extreme poverty on the other. God’s people should be crying and interceding – crying out in prayer to God for Israel and for His purposes and plan of Redemption to go forward. There can be no order and balance and true harmony without God’s peace and Presence. Baruch HaShem – Bless His Name, we still see evidence of it where Truth and Love are in operation. We can rejoice in knowing that He loves us and strengthens us to keep caring and growing and building and allowing the light of His Truth – of His Word and Mashiach, Messiah, to shine and break through where there is darkness in the world.

REVELATION

The important element God was providing HIs people with at Sinai was VISION.

A vision of Himself – not as a hard, unforgiving judge but as a faithful, loving Father.

A vision for themselves – not as slaves, bound, helpless, worthless, but as beloved children, holy partners with God in His Kingdom.

A vision of the Land He promised – that, although now distant and difficult to inhabit, would one day become again the Garden of Eden.

When we receive and understand this vision from God as two-fold – initially for our personal lives and also as a vision for His wider Kingdom and universal purposes – then this vision becomes our spirit’s home and we can grow in every way, spiritually and physically, in peace and joy.

 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps God’s law,
happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)

Without the greater vision of God our spiritual “homes” can become limiting prisons of negative thoughts and frustrated emotions. We end up, as the Israelites often did – losing faith, not trusting God with gratitude, but simply murmuring and complaining.

When faced with the inevitable challenges and disappointments of life, we can ask ourselves the tough questions, for example “Why is it so hard?” “Why am I not there yet?” “Why don’t I understand God’s ways?” We can find an answer at Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush! 

God says to him: “FIRST remove your sandals (na’alaim in Hebrew) from your feet (reglaiim).”
The Hebrew words can also be read: First remove the na’alim (locks) from your regalim (habits).

Unlock yourself from the negative habits that chain you down and limit you. Then you can walk in My ways and worship me more fully.

Our Abba Father tells us: “You were created to be beautiful, in a beautiful setting, enjoying great beauty!” But, because this is a broken world that needs tikkun – repair, we are not seeing the fullness of that yet. Thankfully, by His grace, we do get tastes and glimpses of that beauty; however, we need to keep the central vision alive in our souls and know that the full and final Redemption will come to pass at its appointed time. Messiah will return to Jerusalem as Mashiach ben David to establish and rule as King over His Father’s Kingdom.

We need to keep the eternal perspective, the bird’s eye view, of Redemption and hold onto the vision of the World to Come – Olam HaBa. At the same time, however, to quote Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest:

“We look for visions and …the thunder of God’s power, and all the time He is in the commonplace things and people around us!” 

It is our “hands on” task on this earth, to participate in tikkun olam – the healing of the world, in every little thing that our Father gives into our hands to do. The whole world is in exile from the Garden of God and our constant aim and effort must be working with Him towards the full and final Redemption. The way to do that is always in the everyday little things done in love for His glory.

~ Keren Hannah

Artwork: Yoram Raanan, Israel

Keep Climbing! LIVE – TEVET (10th Hebrew Month)

TEVET

JUDGMENT  AND  DARKNESS

Verse:

For the commandment [mitzvah] is a lamp and the teaching [Torah] a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.

~  Proverbs 6:23

Quote:

There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness or we can light a light.   

~ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The wisdom of Proverbs 6:23 is connected with the well known verse of Psalm 119:105, “Your Word [Torah – teaching] is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”The context of the verse from Proverbs is a warning against the seductive, tempting call of the ‘adulteress’ that will attempt to lure the unsuspecting into her web of darkness. The Sages of Israel compare this to the call of the nations of the world, enticing Israel to turn away from their God and His path and to join with their belief systems and cultures.
God spoke through the words of Balaam, the prophet from the nations who instead of cursing Israel as he intended spoke blessing:
“Behold [Israel] is a people that dwells alone; and shall not reckon itself among the nations.”  (Numbers 23:9)

This truth is greatly highlighted in the Festival of Hanukkah. Words that share the same root as Hanukkah are ‘dedication,’ as in chanukat bayit – the dedication of a house to the presence of God, and chinuch – education or learning. At the time of the Maccabees – the small band of Jewish hero-priests that overcame the then greatest army on earth, that of the Greek empire – Israel was facing the great temptation of Hellenism. After the occupation of Israel, the emperor, Antiochus Epiphanes, had defiled the Temple in Jerusalem and set up a giant statue of Zeus in the Holy Place. Antiochus also ruled that any obedience to the central commandments of God’s Word, such as circumcision, the observance of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh, and the teaching of Torah, was forbidden on pain of death. The alternative message of Hellenism was the beauty and strength of the physical body, the capriciousness of the distant gods, and the grandeur of man’s philosophical thought. 

Many Jews succumbed to the seduction, but the call of the Maccabees was two-fold: 1.  Mi l’HaShem alai!” which echoed the cry of Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf – “Whoever is for HaShem, the God of Israel, come and stand with me.” And 2 – the acrostic for the name Maccabee, Mi Camocha B’elim Adonai? “Who is like Thee among the gods, YHVH, O Lord?” (Exodus 15:11). Those who would resist the temptation of the “gold” of the world and would exalt and cleave to the God of Israel would together become a force that would miraculously overcome the impossible natural odds and enable the victory of light over darkness. 

MIRACLES

One of the blessings we recite when lighting the Hanukkah candles is:
“Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who wrought miracles for our forefathers in those days at this season.” 

The hidden and obvious miracles and wonders of God are always at work. Passover reveals how the supernatural and public miracles of God brought redemption and deliverance for His people. With the miracles of Hanukkah, He remains ‘hidden’ and  requires the participation of those whose unwavering faith was in Him and who were determined to fight against the enemies of God and Israel. 

Even while the Maccabees, a family of priests, rose up against the impossible odds of the world’s strongest army they knew that victory could only come through the help and power of God on their behalf. They saw that where they were weak He was strong. They refused to see the negatives stacked up against them and persevered in faith, for Kiddush HaShem – the sanctification of the Name of God.  Just as the poet-warrior, King David, when he was victorious over his enemies, proclaimed: “YOU have girded me with strength for the battle; You have subdued my adversaries beneath me” (Psalm 18:40).

While recognzing the miracle of the military victory, the main focus of Hanukkah is the miracle of the oil, which occurred in the hidden-from-public sanctuary of the Holy Place and was witnessed  by the faithful warrior-priests themselves.

LIGHT AND DARKNESS

It is interesting to note that Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the start of this the darkest of months,  always falls during the final days of Hanukkah. The name Tevet shares a root with ha’Tavat ha’Nerot – the preparation of the candles, and with the word tov – good!  The commentary Sfat Emet (The Language of Truth) says: “HaShem prepared the cure before the illness, so that the kindling of the Hanukkah lights will illuminate not only the eight days of Hanukkah but also all the darker days of Tevet.” The meaning of the Hanukkah candles lies in our “seeing” their light.

Another important “seeing” occurred in Tevet. During times when the world seems to be submerged in a flood of darkness and evil, the story of Noah reminds us that it was “…in the the tenth month, on the first day of the month (Rosh Chodesh Tevet), the tops of the mountains became visible” (Genesis 8:5). Hope was restored. Together with God’s covenant promise in the shining colors of the rainbow, a brighter future was in sight. Darkness and lies must give way to the power of light and truth. The lights of Hanukkah convey the message of the eternal glory of God, the victory of redemption, the remembrance of Olam HaBa, the eternal World to Come, and the heights of joy.  Today we have the assurance of the promise that God is “watching over His word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12). We can keep our eyes on the “mountain top” and keep climbing!

GOOD AND EVIL – TOV VE’RAH

Other pairs of opposites that correspond to light and darkness are Ayin haTov ve’Ayin ha’Rah – the good eye and the evil eye, and Yetzer ha’Tov ve’Yetzer Ha’Rah – the good and evil inclinations. These concepts also tie in with our focus of the month on Judgment. How we see and perceive something will affect the judgment we make in connection with it. We can view it with an ayin tovah, a good and positive eye, or with an ayin rah, a bad and negative eye. Two people can interpret a situation in totally opposite ways. 

“Two men looked through prison bars. One saw mud, the other stars.”

The hope inherent in the month, however, is that transformation can take place. In the light and power of God, blind eyes can be opened, prisoners can be set free, and hearts of stone can become hearts of flesh.  Negative vision can be healed and transformed. Good can triumph over evil. Another Torah commentary, Ohr Yitzchak, The Light of Isaac, points out that the only body parts that can be adversely affected by a grain of sand are the eyes. The eyes are the windows of the soul. Our God-breathed soul is so pure and holy that, unless it has been totally numbed, it suffers pain and distress from the slightest interference of evil from the material world.

This understanding affects how we see and judge ourselves and others. How we see things and the judgments we make as a result, are influenced by our Good and Evil inclinations. We all have these and a constant tug-of-war goes on in our minds between the two. The yetzer ha’rah, evil inclination, can be summed up in one word – Ego – or selfishness. The yetzer ha’tov, good inclination, is expressed in “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The sage Hillel captures the nuances of this well in his teaching: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself what am I?” (Pirkei Avot). Our good intentions towards others must be based on a healthy self-esteem, which does not result in pride, but is acquired only through genuine humility. 

JUDGMENT 

JUDGMENT  IN  BALANCE

         Lack of compassion <————  Judgment —————>   Excess of sentiment

              No mercy                                Fairness                                 No wisdom

               Cruelty                                      Love                                     Foolishness

The large or small decisions we make every day are based on our judgment and analysis of each situation we face. Humans are the only created beings that can, to some extent, anticipate the results of our actions and foresee possible consequences. Therefore we are responsible for the consequences of our actions; whether voluntary or involuntary, deliberate or inadvertent. We are called to be responsible, as far as is possible, for what we do now that will affect what will happen later. An important factor involved is our grasp of the reality of Olam Ha’Zeh, this world, and Olam HaBa, the world to come. 

Do we understand that our actions here, in this physical, material world, based on our thoughts and inclinations, affect what happens in the spiritual, eternal World to Come?

Central to this understanding is our relationship with, and judgment of, other people. Everything taught to us in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, as Yeshua clarified, has the basic premise of, firstly, to love our Father in Heaven and then to love those He places in our path. The latter is not in an abstract sense but in every day practical ways. Our personal, spiritual growth takes place in the context of how we relate to those close to us or with whom we are in some way connected. We should always be asking questions such as: How do I act so as not to cause harm to another? How can I fix things if I do cause damage? Do I always consider the other person’s point of view? 

Of course the question arises, “What if the other has deliberately done me harm?” 

It is very difficult to try and understand the perspective of an enemy, and to forgive any harm done. Interestingly, in line with the mercy and compassion of God, Mussar teacher Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler comments:

No one is held accountable for the evil to which he is accustomed to from birth and as a result of his environment, never having learned any better. In this respect he is: “A child taken captive and brought up among idolaters.” He will be held responsible only for that which he could have and should have learnt.

In our judgment of others, how are we able to discern that? Only God knows the heart and is the only one to make judgment on any person. In any relationship situation we can remember the first brothers. In the first sin against “loving your neighbor,” Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Rather than confessing and repenting of his sin of jealousy and murder, he was condemned to suffer the punishment he incurred. 

COMPETITION

Cain’s problem lay in viewing the sacrifices he and Abel made to God as a competition. Abel won and he lost. The dictionary describes competition as :
1. The act of competing, rivalry.
2. A contest in which a winner is selected from any two or more entrants. 

There is only one winner; one “first place.” Good parents or coaches may assure us: “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” This carries some truth and can generate a sense of healthy and enjoyable competition. We soon discover, however, that in the material world that is rarely the case. The general worldly aim in the fields of sports, school, business, whatever, is to vanquish one’s rivals and come out “top of the heap!” This culturally inbred attitude of unhealthy competition can have a direct bearing on our judgment, both of ourselves and of others.

The lights of Hanukkah carry a different and precious truth. Jewish author, Shimon Apisdorf, describes it well:

To be a star, a brilliant source of light, you don’t have to be brighter than the other stars. To be good does not mean that you have to be better than anyone else. To be wise does not mean that you have to be the wisest of all people. To be kind does not mean that you have to be the kindest person anyone has ever met, and to be holy – to soar spiritually, does not mean that you have to be the holiest person of all.

Our Father sees each of His children as a beloved source of light. We need not evaluate our worth in term of anyone else’s light but our own. Happily, the more we learn to value ourselves the more we will value others.  As Apisdorf concludes: “In the realm of spirituality and true human accomplishment, there is no room for competition, yet there is room for a world full of winners.”

This is a world sparkling with a myriad shining little flames. Let us make it our business this Tevet to recognise and encourage the other precious lights around us.

~ Keren Hannah

Keep Climbing! LIVE – KISLEV (9th Hebrew Month)

 

KISLEV

UNITY  AND  VISION

Verse:   

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 

           …For there the Lord has commanded the blessing; life forevermore.”        

~  Psalm 133:1; 3

Quote: 

“If one pursues honor it will elude him., but if one flees from honor, it will pursue him.” 

    ~ Talmud, Eruvin 13b

As a reminder, the focus of this Rosh Chodesh series “Keep Climbing!” Is the practice of Mussar. The word mussar in modern Hebrew is simply translated as ‘ethics.’ However, current Mussar teacher, Alan Morinis, in his book Everyday Holiness, describes it more fully as “…a way of life. It shines light on the causes of suffering and shows us how to realize our highest potential, including an everyday experience infused with happiness, trust, and love.”  The practice of Mussar is basically an introspective one, undertaken by an individual seeking for more meaning, depth and vision in life. However, an early master of the revival of Mussar during the 1800’s, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, perceived that it could in fact be a very unifying practice among the Jewish communities in Europe who were being torn apart physically, mentally, and spiritually by the conflicting social tensions at the time. For example, the oppression of the Czar, the attraction of communism and socialism, the materialistic thrust of the ‘Enlightenment,’ etc. Morinis explains how Salanter taught that what could reconnect the fabric of the people that was being ripped asunder was to learn, through Mussar, how to “…strengthen the final and most important bulwark for the defense of spiritual life: the solitary human heart [and soul].” 

The basis for the strengthening and reinforcing of true unity and one-ness is the need for a “pure heart” and a soul that is growing ever brighter in the expression of its inherent holiness. This awareness and strengthening of the heart and soul are just as important in our confusing and fractured world today! External circumstances and pressures may have changed but our essential, deepest beings remain the same.

UNITY – ECHAD – ONE-NESS

The base of unity, and achieving of one-ness, is the giving of honor and respect to the other. This respect is based on the recognition of the key factor that each of us, every person, is given life by the Source of Life –  our Creator and Father in Heaven. In fact, respecting one’s fellow man, and especially those with whom our lives are bound up with one way or another, is considered such a central Biblical ethic that the Sages say that when the twelve thousand pairs of students of Rabbi Akiva started dying in a plague, during the thirty-two days between Passover and Shavuot, it was because they did not show respect toward each other! (Yevamot 62b)

Lack of respect undermines and destroys the potential unity, and the peace and harmony, in every form of relationship. A chief cause of not showing respect or honor to another is a critical and judgmental spirit. I would hate to think I was guilty of this, but recently a clear case arose when I misjudged someone simply by their appearance. It was nothing more than a slight remark that he looked “a bit  odd.” Later I discovered he was, although admittedly ‘colorful’, the owner of a unique and successful business, with a wonderful family, and was extremely gifted and creative. What a lesson I learnt! Even a  seemingly light, passing remark, is in fact making a negative judgment and not showing respect for the other.

This negative, judgmental attitude is called in Hebrew ayin ra’ah, an evil eye. One with a ‘good eye’ – ayin tovah, is one who sees others kindly and is quick to give the benefit of the doubt. We will be exploring this trait more deeply next month, but I would like to point out, in this context, that a major component in harboring a critical spirit is the Ego! An unhealthy ego constantly craves honour and attention for itself. It therefore resents any honor given to another under the mistaken impression that it is detracting from the honor due to itself. It thus operates with a critical mindset and can resort to shaming others in order to elevate itself. 

To the contrary, the sage Ben Zoma, to the question, “Who is worthy of honor? answers, “The one who treats others with honor.” (Pirkei Avot – Ethics of the Fathers 4:1)

UNITY  IN  BALANCE

                    Division      <——————— Unity ———————>       Forced conformity 

                 Lack of respect           Harmony in relationships                   Stifling of self

                   Strife                                  One-ness                                Superficiality

 

SELF RESPECT

Last month we learned that we need to develop self-compassion before we can extend true, healthy compassion to others. Similarly, in the pursuit of unity, we need to develop a healthy self-respect before we truly can respect others. We need to know and believe that we each are: “A radiant soul deserving of honor!” Not because we have no imperfections, and are perfect saints. No! But because we are, each one, an amazingly unique being, lovingly created in the image of God, and we have, at our very essence, a soul of incomparable beauty and majesty. When we truly grasp that truth, and pursue the means of allowing that soul to more and more reflect the light and holiness of its Creator, then we gradually attain the one-ness of Echad,  not only with our Source, but also with the other beautiful souls He has placed in our lives. 

BUILDING UNITY

Building unity is both a state of awareness and of action. There are many, almost uncountable, ways we can show honor and respect to others. Alan Morinis stresses that unity is built “…when we look beneath the surface differences to see the shared ground upon which all beings stand.” Also, “…honoring others requires that we make an effort to elevate people in our eyes.” We can always begin with the smaller, seemingly insignificant actions such as greeting others with a friendly smile. In Pirkei Avot, the sages urge us to “…take the initiative  in greeting every person you meet” (4:20). 

In reality, extending honor and respect to others is a form of  chessed – loving-kindness. When Yeshua was asked which was the greatest commandment in the Torah, he quoted Leviticus 19:18, and said, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31). Our attitude and actions towards others are a reflection of our attitude and actions towards God. 

The fundamental, essential bond of unity is the relationship between a person and God – to discover the ‘one-ness’ we can share with Him as our loving Father in Heaven. Next, is the unity within ourselves – to bring a wholeness and harmony between the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of our being; which is the aim of Mussar and is a daily, life-long endeavor. As the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said: “Everything we do must be directed toward discovering the underlying unity within.” 

Finally, then, comes the unity with others and all of Creation.

UNITY AND VISION

Lack of unity brings chaos and confusion, which often results in pain and suffering. There is a natural inclination and longing within a person for unity – for connection, order, and meaning. Everything is created by the one God and when we seek we can find His fingerprints, as it were, in every person, creature, and object.

Unity, or the lack of it, is seen most clearly in human relationships but it is reflected in other areas as well. Simon Jacobson makes a great observation:

 “Life itself is really a search for unity. A scientist searches to discover the unifying laws that govern the seemingly diverse forces of nature. A psychologist tries to trace the myriad elements of external human behavior back to a few underlying needs in the human psyche. An engineer combines thousands of individual parts to form one machine. But all these forms of searching for unity are actually a means to a higher end: the search for G-d and the ultimate unity.”

Once we receive the vision and awareness that all of life is comprised of innumerable threads that can be woven into one beautiful tapestry that is a reflection of the Source of Life, we can understand how our every day, and every thought and action, is deeply meaningful. Gaining this perspective provides the motivation to deepen our awareness and to strengthen our faith – to aim higher, and to keep climbing!  To quote Simon Jacobson again: “Leading a unified life means leading a life of harmony; a life in which we have brought God into our every moment.”

Unity is not sameness. We may think that if everyone looked the same, and thought and acted the same, that would result in unity and harmony. Wrong! That error was proven by the Communist ideology, when outward sameness was enforced. Rather, true unity is the harmony within diversity. We see this reflected, for example, in a marriage. First you have the independent, single person. Then, two people meet – two distinctly different entities, a man and a woman – and form a duality. Next, a third dimension is created that joins and combines the two, which, while recognizing and enjoying the unique qualities of each, produces a strong and dynamic whole that is greater than the individual parts. 

QUESTION?

The question we are left with, as finite and limited beings, is how do we actually become united with an infinite, transcendent and almighty God? Our Creator is not a dictator or tyrant that subjugates His people and demands unity. He is a loving Father that longs for us to love Him in return and to become intimately united with Him. Our souls, our spirits, also constantly yearn for this union and are the means whereby we can see His light and gain a vision of who He is and who we are, and how the formation of the third dimension of relationship between us is possible. 

We may make the comparison of God as a teacher: “Behold, God is exalted in his power; who is a teacher like him?”  and see ourselves as His students. The teacher has a far greater intellect and understanding than the students. He, or she, therefore, simplifies the concepts in his, or her, mind and communicates them in a language that the students will comprehend. Such is the Word God gave us. It has a simple, surface meaning, but as we learn He guides us and teaches us the more profound and esoteric meanings of its multi-dimensional layers. Gradually, we receive deeper understanding and a clearer perspective of God Himself and we can draw closer and closer to Him. Similarly, when two people take the time and make the effort to get to know each other more intimately, so their love and unity will grow and deepen. 

As we grow in our relationship and unity with our Father in Heaven we realize that our purpose, as His beloved children, is to emulate Him and to reflect His light into the world. We are to love, be gracious and kind, as He is loving and gracious and kind. Our minds and words can share His wisdom and truth. All we do to “our neighbor” is a means to reveal His light and truth. We cannot afford to be cynical and selfish, and complacent in our own little world. Our thoughts and actions really matter, and other people really matter! Every life is vital and important in the eyes of God.  With that vision in mind we can discover true unity between body and soul, between one person and anther, and between ourselves and our Creator God. 

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Keep Climbing! LIVE – CHESHVAN (8th Hebrew month)

CHESHVAN

COMPASSION AND  FLEXIBILITY

Verse:   “When he cries out to Me, I will hear for I am compassionate.” ~ Exodus 22:26

Quote:  

“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging we separate.  Through understanding we grow.”

 ~ Doe Zantamata

The greatness and goodness of God are made evident in that He hears even the unheard cries and responds in compassion – rachamim. This is illustrated in how He heard the cry of the Israelite slaves in Egypt, which resulted in their deliverance. Also, in Genesis 21:17, we read how Hagar and Ishmael had been driven out into the wilderness. They had run out of water and the boy, Ishmael, cried as he was dying of thirst. Suddenly an angel messenger appeared and told Hagar, ‘Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying” and he then revealed a well of water to her.

In his commentary on this passage, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that hearing is the basis of both justice and compassion. When King Solomon was asked regarding the gift he would like to receive from God he answered: “Grant Your servant a listening heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:19).

Rabbi Sacks quotes a Hassidic leader of the 1800’s, Rabbi Jacob Leiner, who wrote: “Hearing has a greater power than seeing. Sight discloses the external aspect of things, but hearing reveals their inwardness.” 

On my first visit to Israel, in a group of five women friends, I remember our meeting with a woman in Jerusalem who was blind from birth. As we spent time with her, I was astounded at how she was able to discern inner aspects of each of us without any of us actually sharing any personal information! I understood that she didn’t need to work through the facade of the external layers of personality we all have. She could “see” straight into the inner person, simply by being able to discern so much more of the subtleties in what she heard.

The central prayer in Judaism is the Shema. We are told in Deuteronomy 27:9, “Be silent, Israel, and listen!” We traditionally cover our eyes when we say the Shema to restrict the sense of sight in order to Shema – hear more intently. In the West we gain “insight” and usually say, “I see!” to denote understanding. In Hebrew we say, “Ani shome’a!”  – “I hear you!”

Rabbi Sacks also points out that the word Shema occurs 92 times in the book of Deuteronomy alone and how there is no word in Hebrew for ‘obey.’ God is not a tyrant over His people but rather a loving Father and teacher of those who respond to His will because they love Him. The people of God are simply enjoined to “Shema” – to listen intently, to understand, to internalize, and to respond to His Word and will in thought, word, and deed. God does not want “blind” fear-based obedience but rather our voluntary love-based partnership and cooperation. In love we are called to imitate Him – to reflect His light of truth, love, and compassion into the world, as did our Master and Messiah Yeshua.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Messiah —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

COMPASSION IN BALANCE

         Disinterest   <——————— Compassion ———————>      Sentimentality

          Injustice                         Healthy benevolence                            Unwise tolerance

          Cruelty                          Chessed / loving-kindness                          Suffering

    As we see, healthy compassion brings more fairness and flexibility to justice.

JONAH – An Illustration of Justice and Compassion

In her book Return – Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe, Erica Brown highlights how the true struggle in the book of Jonah, which is read on Yom Kippur, is “the battle between justice and compassion.” Jonah clearly depicts the one who has turned away from God’s command and is running from the calling on his life. In the Hebrew text the word yored – to ‘descend,’ is used repeatedly as Jonah sinks lower and lower in his attempt to run from God. First he leaves his home in the hills around Nazareth and goes down to the coastal port of Jaffa. There he boards a ship and descends to the lowest area where he falls into a deep sleep. A raging storm arises and even this does not wake the sleeping prophet. The captain wakes him and in amazement asks: “How can you be sleeping so soundly?” This sleep reflects the spiritual state of one who is far from God; one whom the blasts of the shofar during Elul and Rosh HaShana attempt to awaken.

As we know Jonah’s next descent is into the billows of the sea when he suggest the sailors throw him overboard and they reluctantly comply. Immediately the storm subsides and Erica Brown points out: “The sailors then offered sacrifices to Jonah’s God, fearing Him in a way that Jonah [absorbed in his self-pity] did not!”  Only now, facing the certainty of death as he sinks to the depths of the sea, does Jonah cry out to God, “Will I never gaze again upon Your Holy Temple?” (2:5). God exhibits His mercy and compassion and Jonah is swallowed by a “big fish” that spits him up on the shore in the vicinity of Nineveh! Jonah finally understands, albeit with great reluctance, that he must complete his mission and be the first prophet to prophesy outside of Israel, and to a nation that historically was and would be an enemy to Israel.

On hearing Jonah’s message of the impending destruction of Nineveh, the king expresses a hope in the compassion of God and declares a city-wide fast saying: “Who knows but that God may turn and relent?” (3:9). Jonah, on the other and, remains trapped in a black-and-white mindset of strict justice. He hopes that justice will prevail and that destruction will come! He sets ups a booth outside the city where he waits and watches. God causes a kikayon plant to spring up next to the booth that provides welcome shade for Jonah. For the first time he expresses happiness! To him it’s a sign of God’s care and provision for him. When it suddenly dies he is so distraught he wants to die. God, however, is wanting to teach him a vital lesson. 

And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (4:10-11)

Erica Brown concludes: “Jonah wanted pity, mercy, nurturing and protection – all aspects of the love and care we receive from others. Yet he could not extend that gift of mercy to others.” God wanted to show Jonah that true authority lies in balancing justice and compassion. The ideal prophet – one who speaks for the Lord, wants to care for and encourage  people more than to criticize them. 

The book ends with a question and we are left to surmise whether Jonah would learn and repent, or not. The question challenges us too!
Do we doubt God’s call on our lives and hesitate to do what we know we should?
* Do we judge and criticize others when we should be extending care and compassion?
* Are we filled with self-pity when facing tough challenges?
Jonah shows how there is no room for repentance – teshuvah – turning back to God, and to experience constructive, pro-active change, when we feel sorry for ourselves. 

As we press forward on our spiritual climb, and in an attempt to imitate our faithful and loving Father God and to reflect His image in the world, we need to have a deep well of compassion in our hearts. The Torah constantly emphasizes the importance of being compassionate to the poor, to widows and orphans, and to others in need. The Sages of Israel consider compassion for others as so vital that they say that anyone who is not compassionate is certainly not a descendant of our father Abraham!

FLEXIBILITY

Another lesson we can learn from Jonah is that compassion helps one remain flexible and adaptable. Healthy adaptability is the ability to accept change and unpredictability, while also knowing when to remain constant. It requires finding the balance between being unstable and too changeable, what Alan Mornings calls a “dizzy chameleon” and being rigid, unbending and frustrated. A healthy balance will help us deal with any situation requiring change positively and will lead to success. 

Five steps that help provide adaptability:

  1. Be flexible and realize that “My way is not the only way!”
  2. Focus on the big picture. Don’t get bogged down in the details.
  3. Keep a positive attitude.
  4. Pray for strength and wisdom. “Abba, please either lighten the load or strengthen my shoulders.”
  5. Ask for help! Don’t feel you need to “go it alone” if there are those who are in a position to give assistance.

ACTS OF COMPASSION

Exodus 34:6- lists the attributes of God, “The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness – rav chessed – ‘abundant in lovingkindness’ and truth.” In our desire to imitate His goodness, we can learn from this that God generously showers goodness on all, even those who may not deserve it. We need to aim to extend compassion and kindness even if we know we will receive nothing in return. 

Alan Morinis, in Everyday Holiness, describes true acts of compassionate kindness.

 * Don’t worry about loving the poor; your job is to feed and clothe them.

 * If people you know are ailing in any way, don’t only think about them or pray for   them – take your time to go and visit them [if possible. Or send them a tangible token of your care].

* Offer your comfort to the bereaved in a house of mourning.

He also points out that burying the dead is the greatest example of true chessed as a corpse is unable to do anything for itself and cannot reciprocate the kindness.

The best acts of kindness and compassion are done when we expect nothing in return. 

********************************

MAY WE…                        BE the person who cares
                                        BE the person who makes an effort,
                                        who loves without hesitation
                                        BE the person who makes others feel seen and heard.

              There is nothing stronger than someone who continues to stay soft
                                        in a hard and uncaring world.
 

Keep Climbing! LIVE – TISHREI (7th Hebrew Month)

TISHREI

ENTHUSIASM AND  CONFIDENCE

Verse:

“I hurried – did not delay – to keep your commandments.” 

~ King David, Psalm 119:60

Quote:

The fact that one is not lazy does not mean that he has acquired enthusiasm. 

          ~ Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky (1911 – 2000)

A characteristic of the trait of enthusiasm is energy – in Ezekiel’s vision the angels “darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning” (1:14) so quick were they to do the will of God. This is echoed in Psalm 103:20, “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do His word, obeying the voice of His word!” Other characteristics are: positive action, a sense of urgency, zealousness, motivation, a passion fuelled by inspiration.  It can be described as an inspired zeal to take positive action for the purposes of doing the will of our Father in Heaven. 

In studying the lives of those who have been an inspiration in my life, mostly authors and artists, I have come across a consistent factor woven like a sparkling thread in the accounts of their lives. The common denominator is how their confidence, motivation, and enthusiasm to pursue their goals, was fuelled by encouragement. Whether it was from parents, teachers, peers, or a significant mentor, all express the influence that words of encouragement played in building their confidence and pressing them to persevere and make progress in their particular field and purpose. For example, prolific Jewish author and teacher, Chana Weisberg, expresses in the Acknowledgements of her great book on women, Tending the Garden: 

 “To the readers of my columns…to my students, and the participants at my lectures – for all your feedback, encouragement, questions, and challenges, which undoubtedly helped me to clarify these ideas and insights.  To my beloved father…for your constant encouragement through all of life’s ups and downs.”

This does not mean one must depend on this encouragement from others. Indeed, many artists faced much rejection from their audiences. We can think of the renowned Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh, who struggled with acceptance by the public all his life. Yet his brother stood with him and never failed to give encouragement and support. Even one voice of sincere and well-intentioned encouragement helps fan the flame of enthusiasm and can boost one’s confidence to keep persevering.

ENTHUSIASTIC POSITIVE ACTION

The Hebrew word for enthusiasm, zerizut, usually is translated in the Scriptures as “alacrity.” The prime example of this is our forefather Abraham. We read how even when he faced his most difficult test of faith, when God told him to take his beloved son, Isaac, to “one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” and to offer him there as a sacrifice, Abraham, as always, hurried to obey – no questions asked. He responded with alacrity to make preparations, and then, “…Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac” (Genesis 22:2-3).  Abraham knew God had spoken and his faith in His character enabled him to bypass his natural thoughts and fears and to act with alacrity to obey. After Abraham passed the test, God reaffirms His promise to him: “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (22:18).

This account highlights the fact that one’s enthusiasm does not need to be fuelled by happy, pleasant feelings. At times “enthusiastic action” must be taken even if it’s a challenge and not comfortable to do so. It may entail moving out from one’s “comfort zone”! 

We may consider a further occasion in the story of Abraham. He has sent his servant Eliezer to his family’s home in Haran to find a wife for Isaac. When he stops with his camels at a well on the outskirts of town, Eliezer prays fervently that God will help him in this important task and to show favor and chessed  to Abraham after the death of his wife Sarah. No sooner had he stopped praying than Rebecca appeared with her water jar on her shoulder. But, he had prayed for a sign that she was of the character of Abraham. Sure enough, as he hurries to meet her with a request for water, she is quick to serve. She serves him water and hurries to water the camels too – she quickly lowers the jar, and quickly empties it and runs back to the well. She later offers accommodation and reveals that she is one of Abraham’s family. All Eliezer can do is to “…bow down and worship the Lord” (24:26).

THE DAY IS SHORT…

A well known verse from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) accredited to Rabbi Tarphon, says: “The day is short, the work formidable, the workers lazy, and the Boss impatient” (2:15). Mussar teacher, Alan Morinis, in his book Everyday Holiness, explains that there is a fire deep within us that powers our desire to take action. When the fire [enthusiasm] rages strong, we are productive, confident, bold, even zealous in living. But there are times when the flame can be dampened by confusion, exhaustion, or laziness. When we take time to reflect and and repent and clarify our goals and priorities and dedicate them to good, this will stoke the fire of enthusiasm in our hearts.

A danger however is hinted at in our quote for the month. “The fact that one is not lazy does not mean that he has acquired enthusiasm.”  A person can be very energetic but all his activity can be stirred by negative motivations and he can rush ahead in the wrong direction. Alan Morinis describes the “modern curse of frantic rushing” as a kind of “headless enthusiasm.” Proverbs 21:5 tells us, “The thoughts of the [mindlessly] zealous are superfluous and those who are [unduly] hasty reap only loss.” Frantic busyness and rash actions are just as detrimental to true productive enthusiasm as slothful laziness is. As Morinis sums up, “Proper, positive, balanced enthusiasm is action done with a full throttle once review, consideration, and decision have set you on the right course.”

ENTHUSIASM IN BALANCE

      Laziness <———————- Enthusiasm ———————->  Frantic busyness

      Disinterest                            Healthy Energy                               Recklessness

      Sluggishness                          Passion                                        Unhealthy zeal

      Inertia                                    Godly Motivation                            Heedlessness            

All we do is enhanced when done with awareness, liveliness, and enthusiasm. This applies in all facets of life and particularly in one’s spiritual walk. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe points out that a mitzvah – a good deed done in obedience to God’s commandments – “if delayed or done unenthusiastically is not a mitzvah that might go wrong, but one that has already gone wrong.” Of course we don’t please our Father’s heart by lazily drifting through life with no passion for living, but neither do we please Him by obeying His will and purposes unwillingly or half-heartedly, or by doing something just by rote with an attitude of boredom.

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto in his classic work The Path of the Just agrees that the direct opposite of enthusiasm is laziness. Laziness deflates enthusiasm and keeps us stuck in circumstances like a bud with all its potential remaining frozen on a limb. Laziness makes us “heavy.”  He attributes an inclination to laziness to the fact that if we were pure, spiritual beings, we’d naturally be light and active, but because we live in bodies, we are tied to the physical world and the force of gravity pulls us down. He points out, however, that it is up to us to succumb to heaviness or not, “If you abandon yourself to this ‘heaviness’ you will not succeed in your quest.”

OTHER DANGERS!

Rationalization is a powerful deterrent to positive, enthusiastic action. The Alter Rabbi of Novaradok wrote a list of ambitions a person could have, followed by if only!    

I’d give so much to charity, if only I were wealthy.
I’d study and learn so much, if only I were smarter.
I’d be so helpful to my friends, if only I were stronger.

We can devise brilliant excuses for not accomplishing some task and doing some good! We can always find endless rationales that will prevent us from from making a final decision to take action. Then the opportunity passes by and, due to one’s hesitation and procrastination, the benefits are lost. 

Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto also makes a point that our lives and godly enthusiasm can become “dulled by the world.”  A flood of material goods, comforts and pleasures  is available to one today that could only have been dreamed about in years past. Luzzatto describes the danger: “The relentless, almost addictive, pursuit of nifty things, comfort, and relaxation is a mainstay of our civilisation [and cannot provide] a satisfying spiritual life.” Alan Morinis adds: “The pursuit of comforts and pleasures depletes spiritual energy simply because we have only so much energy in our lives.” 

A final danger listed by Rabbi Luzzatto is Anxiety. Worry and fretting also deplete spiritual energy. He says that, in fact, anxiety is often what underlies other things we do that sap our enthusiasm. There are, of course, certain issues we need to be concerned about, like the conditions in the world, and things we have responsibility for and have control over. Often, however, we can suffer from a generalized state of anxiety that can fill us with apprehension over things that we cannot control. It can be the weather, one’s general health, possible accidents, always asking “what if?” To one with a “worried mind” there is no shortage of real or imagined things to fret over! This way of seeing the world keeps us from the truth and freedom of faith and trust in the higher power of our Creator. 

GRATITUDE!

The answer to a state of anxiety or fear is gratitude! Recognizing God’s loving role in our lives helps us counter any anxiety and enables us to shelter under His Wings of protection and find true Shalom. With faith, and the help of God and the power of the Ruach HaKodesh to strengthen and encourage us in every righteous choice we make, we can be encouraged and filled with holy enthusiasm and go forward in full confidence! 

To conclude: Once again we are encouraged by Rabbi Luzzatto that the one soul trait that will deliver up more energy and fewer hindrances to our enthusiasm and moving in the direction of holiness is “…waking up to the the very many good things that the Holy One, Blessed be He does for you moment by moment” – in other words, to be constantly practicing gratitude.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and HIs lovingkindness endures forever! “
(Psalm 16:34)

~ Keren Hannah

Keep Climbing! LIVE – ELUL (6th Hebrew Month)

ELUL

REPENTANCE AND SILENCE

Verse:

A person’s wisdom makes their face shine, and the hardness of their face is                  changed.  (Ecclesiastes 8:1b)

Quote:

Every sin obstructs the presence of mind required to attain illumination. Teshuvah opens the doorways of understanding, just as teshuvah comes about by means of understanding. 

~ Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook

Elul is a month of teshuvah – commonly translated as ‘repentance’ but the root of the word shuv means ‘return.’ So, I like to think of it as a month of ‘returning’ – a returning of our focus in greater awareness to the truth and promise of the Word of God; a returning of our hearts to a closer relationship with our Father in Heaven; a returning of our minds to the path of our Messiah Yeshua; a returning of our souls to a deeper understanding of our identity and purpose as sons and daughters in the family of God. 

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, as Chief Rabbi, witnessed the birthing of pre-state Israel and understood that the restoration of the Land, and of His people to it, was the work of God in unfolding His plan of Redemption both for Israel and for the whole world. A central theme of Rav Kook’s teaching was that of teshuvah. 

He emphasized that repentance was a major theme in the Torah and in life, and highlighted the paradox that, on one hand, repentance is very easy because, as the Sages say, “Even a fleeting thought of teshuvah is already considered teshuvah.” Even a flicker of genuine desire to repent of a sin or weakness is already a step of teshuvah. A turn in the right direction. On the other hand, repentance is very difficult because “…it is never completely materialized in this world.” No human being can reach the pinnacle of perfection and claim to be one-hundred-per-cent holy while still living in Olam HaZeh – this present and imperfect world. And yet, it is something we must constantly be aspiring towards. We need to be aware of the need and have a true desire to purify our character traits, our thoughts, and our actions.

This should not, however, be undertaken in a negative and self-critical way, but with a sincere longing to please and delight our Creator – our loving Father in Heaven. In fact, the more one understands and practices true teshuvah, the more one’s inner life becomes refined and reflects His light. One’s emunah, faith, becomes strengthened and a deeper level of joy and Shalom – true inner peace, is enjoyed.

As a result, all we do in our work, in creative endeavors, and in our relationships, can be approached, as Rav Kook beautifully describes, “…from one’s pure and powerful soul that is filled with a holy song.”  A song of gratitude and wonder at the splendid glory of God.

TIKKUN NEFESH AND TIKKUN OLAM

“In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:6-8)

All our beliefs and actions lead us to a particular path and destination. God has laid out His holy and pleasant path in His Word. He has given us the directions, the living expression and example in His Son and Messiah, and the constant guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh – the Spirit of Holiness. It is only as we learn, through the the “washing of the Word,” that we gain a clearer and more enlightened understanding of the character fo God Himself and a greater knowledge of His ways. And, thereby, we begin to achieve spiritual purification – clarity of mind, ethical enlightenment, and purity of soul.

This purification of self is called Tikkun Nefesh – healing of the soul, and it is vital in order for us to partner with God in His great purpose of the healing of the world – Tikkun Olam. Full perfection in these areas, both personal and universal, will not be achieved in one’s lifetime or historically, until Messiah returns as King of kings and fully establishes the Father’s Kingdom on earth. This does not mean, however, that we should not be doing our part here and now in working towards the final goal. The essence of both – our selves and the universe, is the great potential of never-ending growth and becoming. If there was no imperfection, there would be no possibility of constant growth and increased blessing. Only the Creator of all Himself is infinite perfection and we and all Creation will need eternity, and the magnificent power of unfolding potential, to become more and more of who He created us to be as His those created in His image.

That is a glorious goal, but how does it affect our “here and now” daily life, while we are on the journey towards the goal? Sometimes we may get frustrated and feel we are not getting anywhere and will try to speed things up! A word of advice from the sages: “A person should not take rushed steps!” (Brachot 59a).”Baby steps” are important, and each and every small step has a profound effect in bringing us to a greater level of holiness and wholeness. 

The journey itself, of Tikkun Nefesh – the healing of our souls, is sacred and should be valued and treasured. With that understanding we can find satisfaction in each step we take. Then, even our physical movements will become relaxed and unrushed as we slowly but surely become a little more of our true self – the one our Abba Father created us to be.

TRUE SELF VS FALSE SELF

Only what is good and holy, on an individual and universal basis, has a connection with one’s soul, one’s inner spiritual being, and the source of true life. The unholy, particularly what is evil and impure, is only propelled by external means that prompt one to react physically or spiritually. The “true self” of the spirit is constantly yearning to connect with its Creator, and to taste the light of Love and Truth. Even immoral actions and bad habits are motivated by this desire. A case of “looking for love in all the wrong places!” When these means do not satisfy the thirst of the soul, it can cause anger and an increase in unhealthy behavior patterns in an attempt to numb the pain in one’s heart. How blessed is the one who, in seeking God, finds the true path and can lay down the heavy load of the “false self” and quench his/her spiritual thirst at the Source of living water!

Because we live in an imperfect world, as long as we’re alive we will endure an ongoing battle between our Good and Evil inclinations – called in Hebrew the Yetzer HaTov and Yetzer HaRa. The Yetzer HaRa attracts the eye to the attractions and distractions of the material world and fills the mind with negative thoughts and responses. For example, even after one turns to God and has a sincere desire to walk in His ways, discouraging thoughts can flood in of how far one has strayed from the path of holiness, causing one to feel ashamed and depressed. Condemnation and depression are not connected to the “true self” of the spirt and are an indication that the “false self” is being motivated to rise up. To counter the evil inclination one must set one’s heart on immersing oneself in the truth of God’s Word and in small actions of improvement. When we are passionate about growing little by little, while setting our face towards greater heights of holiness, the power of the Spirit will ignite a holy courage within – a light that will cause the evil inclination to flee, and will enable us to keep climbing to greater spiritual heights.

The ”ascent” is made surrounded by the Father’s love, following in the footsteps of our Shepherd-Messiah, and being constantly uplifted by the encouragement and enabling of the Ruach HaKodesh. It should be filled with times of quiet rest, allowing one’s soul to grow at its own pace on its sacred inner journey. When we fail and make mistakes we can understand that these are opportunities for learning and greater growth. Even being aware of our mistakes means we are growing. In fact, one can experience great joy in knowing that by doing teshuvah, which brings healing and transformation, one finds value and purpose in one’s mistakes, both present and past.

THE ROLE OF SILENCE

We pray that God may accept our call for help.

But we also pray that God, who knows what is hidden, 

may hear the silent cries of our souls.

~ Rabbi Uri of Strelisk (from In Speech and in Silence, by David J. Wolpe)

The ability to communicate through speech is the great gift that defines humans from animals and which reflects our being created in the image of God, who spoke the universe into being. Words, however, can be used to create and build up or to wound and break down.  David J. Wolpe describes the positive aspect of words:

There are words that soothe hurt, that help us understand loss. 

There are words to stir souls, capture and quicken imagination, 

words that give us wings.

Most words in everyday speech impart information. They can create empathy and closeness and they can also engender misunderstanding and distance. In many cases the wiser option is silence – a restraining of words. While silence cannot replace speech, it is the place from which speech emerges and to which it returns. Silence is the place of pondering and the formation of thoughts and concepts and the formulation of words in which to express them. After we exhaust ourselves with words, the silence abides, waiting for us to return to it; to still the cacophony of speech and sound in order to attune our ears to “the still small voice” of the spirit.

Once we appreciate the power of speech we can understand equally the power of silence. As with everything, the solution is in the balance, the golden paths of silence and of words when joined together in harmony will take us to the place of reflecting God’s Love and Truth in our words and in our silences.

~ Keren Hannah

DEUTERONOMY – A Bird’s Eye View

 

Enjoy an overview of the amazing final book of the Torah – Deuteronomy / Devarim – Words.

DEUTERONOMY – A BIRD’S EYE VIEW

Deuteronomy is the fifth and final book of the Torah. It is a compilation of the last discourses given by Moses to the nation of Israel before his death, when they had reached the border of the Land of Israel.  The original Hebrew name of the book was Mishnei Torah, or Repetition of the Torah. Greek speaking Jews, in the Septuagint, translated it as Deuteronomian (literally meaning The Second Law), which then was adopted in Latin as Deuteronomium and into English as Deuteronomy. 

Later, the Hebrew name of a book, or Torah portion, was taken from words in the opening sentence of the book or parashah. In this case, the book begins, “Eleh ha’devarim”… These are the words.”

Moses’ first discourse summarizes the history of the nation during their 40 year journey through the wilderness on the way from Egypt to the Land G-d had promised their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the following two discourses, Moses predominantly presents the Israelites with guidance and instructions on how to live as the people of G-d after they were settled in the Land. Moshe knew, both rationally and through his wisdom and experience,  the many physical, cultural, and spiritual challenges the Israelites would be faced with while dwelling among the surrounding pagan nations. He also knew, prophetically, that they would be drawn into idolatry and fall away from God and His ways.

We can appreciate Moshe’s wisdom as a teacher. Repetition and revision are important tools in helping us to retain what we have learned. He also emphasizes the fact that the great, multi-dimensional truths of G-d’s Word constantly need to be learned anew, and that they always would yield deeper and richer insights. On closer inspection, while it is very practical and instructional for the daily life of the nation, we find that Devarim is the most prophetic of the 5 books of Torah. Much of Moses’ discourse is a distillation and a review of the previous teachings but 70% is new, because it applies to their future in the Land and highlights the bond between the people and the Land.  Interestingly, Devarim is the book most quoted by Yeshua.

JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS

“First mention” is an important element in exegesis of the biblical text. The first subject Moses reviews is the appointment of judges. He explains the importance of instituting a legal system and the role of judges. He tells them, “And I commanded your judges at that time saying, ‘Hear disputes between your brothers and judge justly between a man and his brother…’ (1:16). The literal meaning of the word ‘justly’ is to make sure that the judgment is fair and honest.

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, entitled Compassion and Justice, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites in Jerusalem, points out an added interpretation of the word is “by compromise.” This added nuance is significant. It reveals that the judges should not base their decisions on absolute strict justice – the letter of the law set in stone, as it were. They should temper the argument, the case being presented, with rachamim – mercy, and attempt to encourage the litigants on both sides to give in a little – to soften their hearts and to compromise their demands.

Interestingly, particularly in the light of Tisha B’Av (9th Av), which is the fast day marking the destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem, the Sages in the Talmud say that: “Jerusalem was destroyed because people there insisted on their rights based on the full letter of the law, and were not willing to be lenient.” (Tractate Baba Metzria, daf 30). Rabbi Rabinowitz highlights the fact that a person should rise above the natural position of demanding what he thinks he deserves. One’s attitude should be softer, more inclusive and compassionate. This trait of mercy is woven through the Word of G-d, because this is the correct way to live – the way that reflects our Father’s character and heart.  Justice is balanced with mercy. Thus we find the great themes of Devarim, just as through the whole Word of G-d, are justice, righteousness, and mercy. This is highlighted in the first haftarah (prophetic portion ) of Devarim. Isaiah 1:27, “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness.”

FINAL DAYS

Moses, at the time of  this delivery of his final series of teachings, was 120 years old. It took 36 days (from 1 Shevat to 6 Adar, the day of his death). The teachings and iteration of the Covenants G-d had made with His people fill the bulk of the book – chapters 1 – 30. The remainder of the book, chapters 31 -33, describe the last days of Moses, and his farewell address to the children of Israel. We are told that Moses’ “eyes were not dim” and his natural natural strength was unabated., but he says, “I am no longer able to go out and to come in” ( 31:32). He could no longer accompany them on their journey and enter the Land of Promise with them; but he encourages them and says; “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear nor be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your G-d who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you!” (31:6).

We hear a beautiful echo of this in the gospel of John (14:7) when Yeshua was addressing his disciples before going to his death, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. … Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” He was preparing them to go out into the gentile, pagan world to share his message of the Kingdom of G-d and the way of repentance and into relationship with the Father of all. He also adds, “I will never leave you nor forsake you but will be with you until the end of the age!” 

FAREWELL SONG OF PRAISE

Finally, in Devarim , the Lord exhorts Moses to write his farewell song and to teach it to the children of Israel. The song would be a testimony to the everlasting Presence and goodness of G-d and, when they went astray, it would remind them of His merciful gift of teshuvah – repentance, . They would always have the opportunity to repent of their ways and to return to their Father,  the G-d of Israel. In the penultimate parashah, Ha’azinu – Give Ear, (Ch. 32), Moses delivers his song to the Israelites on the last day of his life. It is an inspired poem of stirring beauty. His prophetic words describe the future destiny of G-d’s people. We realize that all history is the revelation and expression of our Father G-d’s love and care. The song opens with the appointment of heaven and earth as witnesses and guarantees of G-d’s everlasting covenant with Israel. “Give ear –ha’azinu, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear – tish’mah the word of my mouth.”

Next comes a glorious outburst of praise, describing the true character of G-d and His justice, faithfulness and pure righteousness.

“Ascribe greatness to our G-d the Rock; His work is perfect for all His ways are just. A   G-d of faithfulness, without iniquity; righteous and upright is He.” (32:3-4).

Sadly, the song also proclaims that the people would grow “fat and prosperous” and forsake and even scoff at G-d. They would become spiritually bent and corrupt and forsake the righteous ways of His Word. G-d, however, would remain faithful and the unchanging Rock of their Salvation. If they will return to Him in true repentance, He will always be there to lift them up and to straighten their crooked ways.  This truth of G-d’s unfailing love for His people is echoed by the prophet Hosea (14:1-2): “Return, O Israel, unto the Lord your G-d, for you have been stubborn because of your iniquity. Take with you WORDS (DEVARIM) and return to the Lord.”

Hosea points out that G-d does not want animal sacrifices, but longs to hear words of confession and repentance offered from sincere hearts. The prophet emphasizes the unbreakable 3-cord strand, the indelible connection, between the G-d of Israel and His Word, the children of Israel, and the land of Israel. Hosea confirms that when they turn from the idolatry of the work of their hands, the Lord promises to heal and restore the children of Israel. Then they will flourish in His love, and their Land will be healed. Once again it will produce grain and “blossom as the vine”. And Israel will become convinced that : “The ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them.” (14:9)

MOSES’ BLESSING

After the song, the Torah concludes in Ch. 33 with Moses’ blessing – in the final parashah Ve’zot Ha’bracha, which begins, “And this is the blessing with which Moses, the man of  G-d, blessed the people of Israel before his death.” Moses is about to set out on his final ascent. He goes alone to meet with his G-d, just as he did on Mount Sinai. He passes through the camp as a father taking leave of his children, and he blesses the various tribes. Finally, he raise his hands over the whole multitude for his last general blessing, one of great beauty, encouragement, and comfort. 

“There is none like G-d, O Israel, Who reads through the heavens to your help. The eternal G-d is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

As we conclude the Torah Cycle with the Festival of Simchat Torah, “The Joy of Torah,” we can celebrate Messiah Yeshua’s life as the Torah made flesh. The one who fulfilled all the just requirements of the Torah and was obedient to the Father’s will even unto the cursed death on a tree, so that all peoples of all the nations, through his, could have access to eternal and abundant life as children of the Father in the Kingdom of G-d. In his letter to believers in Rome, the apostle Paul highlights the mission of Yeshua to the world. In Romans 15:8-10, he describes how, Yeshua came as a suffering servant to Israel, those already in the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “To show G-d’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, AND in order that the gentiles might glorify G-d for His mercy.

As it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise You among the gentiles, and sing to Your Name.’ And again as it is said, ‘Rejoice, O gentiles, together with His people!” Amen! 

At the close of every book of Torah we proclaim: 

Chazak, Chazak, veNitchazek!

Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another!   

If you would like to  explore more in-depth commentary of Deuteronomy/Devarim,  you can order a copy of  A TASTE OF TORAH   at http://www.ffoz.org

INTERVIEW: Journey of the Soul – The Significance of the Biblical Calendar

In an interview with Karen Aviah Davis, who is co-founder with her husband Mike and the Chief Learning Officer, of The Centre for Christian Training and Development in California, Keren gives an overview and addresses the importance of getting in sync with the Hebrew-Bibilcal Calendar. 

In this pre-recorded webinar with Keren Hannah Golan – Pryor, you will learn about the Hebrew Biblical Calendar and it’s significance for us today.

https://vimeo.com/349513381

Keep Climbing! LIVE – TAMMUZ (4th Hebrew Month)

FaceBook Live – July 2019

TAMMUZ

PERSPECTIVE AND UNDERSTANDING

Verse:  

“Choose life, that you and your offspring may live,  loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days.”    (Deut. 30:19-20)

Quote:   Choose Life! 

“Choose action, not rest. Choose truth, not fantasy. Choose a smile, not a frown.”
~ Jim Rohn

One constant element in life is change! Change occurs in predictable patterns, e.g., sunrise and sunset, the seasons, birth – childhood – ageing – death. The patterns are there but the variables are different. No day is exactly the same, seasons vary, each life is unique and different. A life pattern is the same, but environments can be radically different and circumstances constantly change. What affects our responses to our life-circumstances  is our perspective and understanding of the circumstances, and even of life itself. The perspective we have of any particular issue or situation affects the choices we make, and our choices determine the outcomes and the results  we will have. Obviously, therefore, it is of vital importance to gain a clear and accurate perspective or view, and have a clear understanding of it, and of life in general! This is not always easy. 

Our initial perspective is shaped by the environment we are born into and the values and beliefs impressed upon us by our family, society, education system, and nation. Imagine a child born into an Ultra-Orthodox religious home, or into a godless Communist system, or a radical terror-based Islamic community, or a materialistic, hedonistic society, etc., etc., etc. That child is deeply affected by the view of life imparted to it. If the general perspective imparted is false, or dangerously distorted, what hope is there for that child? Sadly, humanly speaking, very little. A great lesson we learn from Nature is what we sow, that will we reap. If hatred, falsehood, and violence are sown – that will be reaped. If love, truth, and kindness are sown, that will be reaped. Man has the choice of the seed he will sow. The crops reaped will either be life or death. Our verse this month highlights the exhortation to “Choose Life!”  True life is found in the Giver of Life, our Creator, and He has outlined the way to life in the truth of His unchanging, eternal Word.

IN HIS IMAGE

What is the hope for every child? The one hope is found in its God-breathed soul – or spirit. In the deepest essence that is the true “being” of every person created by God in His image. Only humans have the deep inner capacity of free will and a spirit that yearns to be united with the Source of its existence. It is one’s spirit that cannot be satisfied with any worldly form or perspective of life other than that which its Creator God intended. That is a radiant life of truth, love, and joy in close relationship with Him, and which only can be found in Him!

When one’s spirit ones to be united with its Source, it prompts a person to seek for truth, to find the knowledge and understanding that feeds it and nourishes and refreshes it. God always, in His great love for each one, places ways and means for His truth to be found and grasped. The hungry soul knows and responds when it comes across this truth and can joyfully draw closer to its Father God. 

FAMILIARITY

What happens when we are blessed enough to find and know the One God and discover the good news that His Son and Messiah, Yeshua, has paid the price and made the way to the Father for all?  As we are told:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). And as Yeshua said, emphasizing the importance of the Word and will of God in an astonishing proclamation: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). 

There is an unfortunate, only too human, pattern we can fall into….one of familiarity. We start taking things for granted – including our relationship with Him. It, sadly, can happen in our human relationships too. Without the discipline of remembering the value inherent in the relationship and paying constant, daily, attention to our role in it, we start taking things for granted. We let things slide, we lose our curiosity and interest and stop learning and growing. Instead of choosing life, we let things become stale and slowly the relationship wilts away and can eventually die.  We can suffer the consequences of neglect, self-pity, distorted perceptions and lack of direction or we can allow the potential our Father has placed within each one of us to blossom through self-discipline and clarity of direction. 

What is of great importance, and influences the choices we make, is our perspective of Self. What could we be taking for granted about ourselves? Do we have a clear and true perspective of who we truly are? Often we may realise that we are not fulfilling our greatest potential, or developing our God-given gifts to their fullest extent. I don’t believe, in this lifetime, we are actually capable of doing that…so, that means we should be constantly growing, aiming higher, becoming more of the person God created us to be and reflecting more of His image, and life, and light into the world. We cannot become satisfied that we have “done it all” or, on the other hand, believe that “nothing can be done – this is how I am!” We need to be constantly aware of the great potential our Father has deposited into each of HIs children and be working with Him to realize that potential more and more. 

Why? Because this is in accord with His will and plan. In any area we need to, we can choose to bring positive change and growth. When we make a determined choice, and trust for His help and strength, it will be there and it will happen. We cannot do it in our own strength but understand, as a teacher of mine once said, in effect, that: “The power of the Holy Spirit is behind every righteous choice we make in order to help us perform it!” 

We have to play our part, however, and this requires self-discipline.

STRESS?

Growth is a natural God-ordained process and should, therefore, not be stressful. 

Stress is a huge “fall-out” of our Western, modern, fast-paced lifestyle that places increased focus on working the hardest, being the greatest, aiming to reach unattainable goals – to “crunch” every situation! As a result, American Health records show that:

  • 1 in 5 Americans experience a mental health problem every year.
  • 6.9% of adults suffer major debilitating depression
  • 18.1% have anxiety disorders
  • 64% of adults feel stressed by work and/or money
  • 74% said they had a physical and emotional problem and symptom due to stress in the previous month.
  • 91% !! of Generation Z’ers (ages 15 – 21) said they had experienced symptoms of stress-related problems the previous month!

In fact, across the world the leading cause of disability is depression! 

The more we become aware of the reality of who we are created to be, as a child of God, the more clear our perspective and understanding of life can become and the more we will achieve a balanced sense of well-being. We will be more able to cope with the normal stresses of life. We will begin to realise our potential and fulfilment in work more productively and fruitfully,  in whatever He has called us to do.

And, as a result, we will be more effective and make a greater contribution to Tikkun  Olam – the healing and restoration of the world. When we choose life – His life, we can, with His love and help, shine more of His light of truth and brightness into this beautiful but hurting and hungry world.

~ Keren Hannah

Keep Climbing! LIVE – SIVAN (3rd Hebrew Month)

FaceBook LIVE – 12 June 2019.  

SIVAN – PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE

Shalom dear fellow sojourner!

IF… you enjoy this study of Mussar, which is the practice, with the Lord’s help, of purifying one’s heart and strengthening one’s character in order to glorify God, by allowing more of His light and truth to shine through us in order to effect Tikkun Olam – a bringing of more healing and wholeness to the world…

THEN… you can join our ‘upward climbing’ community and receive more in-depth teachings and sharing in 3 easy steps:

(1) Sign up to receive Notes and Weekly and Monthly Pages directly into your Inbox at:

http://eepurl.com/glW751

 (2) Join our Being Holy Being Whole Group page on Facebook.

 (3)  Check out our page at http://www.patreon.com/beingholybeingwhole  and consider giving your support to our “Keep Climbing!” venture.

Hope you will join us!

With love and humble thanks,

Keren Hannah

 

 

 

 

 

 

PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE

One of the first Hebrew words I needed to put into practice in Israel was savlanut – patience. There is much honking of horns in Israel (in fact whole conversations are engaged in by means of honking!), a trait that exhibits impatience on the roads. Also, boarding a bus can be a battle of elbows, and standing in line becomes a battle of wills, etc., etc! Certainly a good training ground for patience. 

As the saying goes, “Patience is a virtue,” and is one we should aspire to cultivate with all our hearts. Why? Because, it not only benefits those around us but we also reap the rewards of both inner and outer peace. Many frustrating and challenging situations can rise up and confront us day by day. Sometimes it’s in small things, e.g., you’re in a rush to get somewhere and suddenly you realize that your car keys are not in their usual place. Each minute you search for them seems like an hour. All the awful repercussions of not finding them fill your mind in a tsunami of anxiety! Or maybe you have your schedule neatly planned for the day and you find yourself waiting to complete a transaction at the bank, or Post Office, or supermarket, wherever, and you realize there’s a holdup in the long line ahead of you with a picky customer and you are facing an extended delay! 

Then there also are the bigger situations – for example, waiting at an airport to board a plane on your way to an important destination and an unexpected long delay is announced; or, maybe worse, you already are out on the runway and a technical hitch causes the plane to sit there for hours, sometimes with no service or air-conditioning.

When we find ourselves in difficult situations we did not choose and cannot control, our greatest tool for persevering through the challenge is patience. Another word for patience is long-suffering; meaning you are able to suffer the situation for an extended time and remain calm, peaceful, and level-headed. A good practice to remember if/when you find yourself in a testing situation and are forced to wait, is to avoid getting caught in negative reactivity and instead to fill the time with positive activity.  Don’t simply stew over the situation, stop and take a few deep breaths. Sometimes just remembering to slow down and focus on your breathing does wonders. Take the delay time as an opportunity to rest and simply observe the details around you. In the headlong rush through our days we often do not take time to stop and “smell the roses.” You can also take the time to think over something you have been learning; or to just hum a tune!

If we give in to impatience it usually does not resolve the situation any faster or better. On the contrary, extended impatience invariably leads to anger and even rage and, if you cannot control the anger it can spiral out of control and can cause real damage to others as well as to yourself. 

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
(Proverbs 15:18)

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Leffin says: “Woe to the pampered one who has never been trained to be patient. Either today or in the future he/she is destined to sip from the cup of affliction.”  (from Cheshbon ha’Nefesh – Accounting of the Soul)

PATIENCE IN BALANCE

As usual, with every middah, we need to be very aware of balance. We know the negative effects of impatience and acting too hastily, but simply to wait passively and fail to take action can be just as great an obstacle – physically and spiritually. 

Frustration  <—————————Patience———————————>  Apathy

Aggravation                                   Peace                                               Indifference

Anger/rage                                     Calm                                                Passivity

Impatient people rationalize their reactions by blaming external causes. Those who fail to respond or take action call their passivity “patience”!      

True patience is about taking responsibility. Being responsible for our emotions, for our responses to a situation, and for the actions we take. Then we will be able to calmly assess the situation and decide on what action to take.  It always is a good opportunity to pray and to wait on the Lord for a solution. 

I waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)    

We find a great biblical example of patience in the prophets. Consider their plight: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Zechariah, etc., etc., all had clear visions either regarding the present or future. They knew  they would never see their prophecies materialize in their lifetime.  Also, the exhortations they had  to deliver were, more often than not, rejected by the people and the corrupt leaders of the time. And yet they persevered, with long-suffering, knowing that the One who had called and spoken was faithful and true.

Consider other biblical figures – Jacob and Joseph, who could not act upon their visions and dreams but had to “store them in their heart” and not speak of them . Rather they patiently trusted HaShem to bring them to pass in His perfect way and timing. The same applies to Miriam, mother of Yeshua, and also to Joseph, who knew the truth and reality of the birth, calling, and purpose of Yeshua and yet they, too, needed to store the knowledge in their hearts and in faith wait upon God to unfold His eternal purposes.

PATIENCE AND HUMILITY

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:2)

We see here a connection between patience and humility. Impatience and anger are a sign of pride;  A concern that one’s ‘Self’ is not getting what it wants or deserves.The Ego loudly insists: “I” am being delayed!  “My” plan is being interrupted!  “I” don’t need this!  The others concerned are not important. Instead, when all is not going your way, it helps to imagine yourself in the place of the other person – the store clerk, the other driver on the road, etc.. Steady yourself and stay calm, friendly, and encouraging. Persevere with your own burden and attempt to lighten theirs.

THE FRUIT OF GOOD MIDDOT / CHARACTER TRAITS

In the parable of the sower in Luke 8:15, Yeshua makes a connection with truly hearing the Word of God, then storing it in a heart that is honest and good from where, with patience and perseverance, the fruit of the spirit will grow. 

To produce the fruit of good character traits, middot, in our lives is the central aim of Mussar – the aim that spurs us on to Keep Climbing! To constantly be growing and learning and becoming more holy and more whole. For what purpose? In order that slowly but surely, baby step after baby step, we will be removing any blockages that have accumulated (such as bad habits, tendencies and imbalances) and prevent the radiance in our soul from shining forth into the world, in a reflection of our Father’s glory. 

Yeshua emphasised that this glory, this fruit, can only grow in an honest and good heart. A clean and pure heart is one that has been circumcised. 

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn/stiffnecked.” (Deut. 10:16)

‘Heart’ is a word that is central to all Mussar teachings. In his book Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, Henry Morinis describes his Mussar teacher Rabbi Yechiel Perr’s definition of the ‘foreskin of the heart’: “Callousness we would call it today – not allowing feelings to penetrate, not allowing oneself to be soft, to have pity. The lev (heart) represents the deeper feelings where the intellect and emotions blend.”

When our intellect and emotions are in balance they can work and abide together harmoniously in our center – our heart. Hearts can get hardened, or blocked up, by layer after layer of reactions to negative experiences, in order to form a protective shell that surrounds and walls off a heart in order to prevent further hurt and pain. Then, as Morinis explains, the pure light of the soul cannot shine through. People who never succeed in peeling off those layers and opening their hearts “…leave their sweetest [and true] self imprisoned behind that wall.”

The Liminal Space of Gaining Perspective – Raynna Meyers

The Liminal Space of Seeking and Gaining Perspective

What is a day, a moment, a word, a detail, a singular person, thought, action? What if I permitted it weight in my mind, see it for what it is, rather than my own estimation? What if I look at it through another’s eyes, to see it new through my own—another step away in order to come nearer?

When I began this writing it was the 5th of Tevet, 5779, according to the Hebrew calendar, and December 12, 2018 according to the Gregorian calendar. Sometimes I have found I am able to get a better grasp on something when I come to it from an unfamiliar angle. Sometimes I have to walk away and then return to clearly see a thing in front of me.

Photo – Raynna Myers

Some time ago, in hope to hold and redeem days, with the help of teachers, I began to count days in a way that was beyond me – by the lunisolar year of the Biblical calendar. I did the same with the Hebrew Tanakh, more often called the Old Testament. I wanted to hear and see the words not only in English but also in Hebrew. It’s been a slow and long journey learning a new language, but I still can remember the first step. It was meaningful and so I kept taking the next step because it only became more meaningful. Every new step further away, became another step closer.

שיר השירים אשר לשלמה

The above Hebrew verse reads, Shir hashirim asher le Shlomo, “The song of songs, which is Solomon’s,” from Song of Songs 1:1.

It’s a short line and it keeps occurring to me lately how I want to minimize every short or small part of life to be even more minuscule than it already is. To stand in the tension of allowing a thing—a day, a moment, a word, a detail—to be what. it. is. small…but here and now, it can also become large, significant, worthy to be with. Something to be present to, to nurture, to look in the eyes of, to stop for.

In my productive and busy mind, “The song of songs, which is Solomon’s” did not at first seem worthy to be its own verse. Where is the rest of it, I wondered? But when my ears first heard only its beginnings in Hebrew, Shir HaShirim, (pronounced: sheer hasheereem) my attention was captivated. It became lovely in its own right. Then I realized …that is the gift.

We need meaning. Us, the ones quick to move through our days, our precious moments, searching for meaning, while all at the same time missing what stands before us.

What would happen if we started here, simply knowing the small matters? I matter, you matter, this moment matters. What if we released some old darlings we cling to – which we know we could only ever hold with one hand, in order to fully take hold, with two hands, now, the reality that is sweet and good, but that we can only know through the action of letting go?

Holding things with one hand lends the illusion of greater ability, wider reach. But a singular thing treasured, known, seen and recognized with two hands is a truer world at our fingertips. Hold loosely, hold faithfully, for the devotion we hold with imbues much worth.

Photograph – Raynna Myers

Perspective is key. Sometimes I have found I am able to get a better grasp of something when I come to it from an unfamiliar angle. Sometimes I have to walk away to see a thing in front of me. Over four months have passed since I began this writing and let it sit awhile in my drafts folder. What have I learned as I attempted to more gently practice these words rather than simply write them? Love is patient, even though sometimes that looks like a long fight in the same direction. 

May you know the Eternal One’s blessing and keeping, may You know Heaven’s smile upon you, and graciousness toward you.  As you traverse through the liminal space of seeking and gaining perspective, may you know the wholeness imbued upon you by Your Maker the day you were formed.

“For God is not always silent, and man is not always blind. His glory fills the world; His spirit hovers above the waters. There are moments in which, to use a Talmudic phrase, ‘heaven and earth kiss each other’; in which there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a vision of what is eternal in time.” 

-Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, pg. 138

Hello! I’m Raynna, and I’m glad you’re here. Say hello in the comments and tell me something about you? For instance, have you experienced “heaven and earth kissing each other,” the lifting of the veil, birthing new perspective and understanding within you?

Have you minimized small steps (like I have) that feel like you may be going in the opposite direction, but later found brought greater perception?

You can read more of my writings at www.raynnamyers.com

Keep Climbing! Facebook LIVE- IYYAR

 

FACEBOOK LIVE – 9 MAY 2019        IYYAR – ORDER AND HEALING

In our new Hebrew month series, “Keep Climbing!” we are exploring the second Hebrew month of IYYAR.  This is a very significant month as it forms a bridge between the major Biblical Festivals of Pesach/Passover, which is celebrated in the first biblical month of NISSAN, and Shavuot/Pentecost, which always falls on the 50th day after Pesach during the month of SIVAN. This tells us that the whole second month of Iyyar  falls during those vital 49 days between the two. During these 7 weeks we count each day in a special “Counting of the Omer.” Why this counting?

Firstly, it’s to be aware and recognise the importance of these days that are the bridge between the Redemption at Passover and the Revelation at Shavuot. 

Secondly; after God redeemed HIs people from Egypt they were not immediately prepared to receive the great Revelation He had in store for them! They left Egypt as slaves, who need physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. This occurred during the 7 weeks from the Exodus until they stood prepared at Mount Sinai. There the former slaves would become God’s “holy nation” and “kingdom of priests”! 

The Hebrew letters that spell Iyyar are alephyodyodresh, an acronym for: “Ani YHVH Rofecha” – “I am the Lord your Healer!”

This is God’s proclamation when He makes the powerful promise to His children during this month, shortly after the redemption from Egypt:

“If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give heed to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases  upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your  healer”  (Exodus 15:26).

To effect the initial physical healing that would influence the mental, emotional, and spiritual healing, they needed the manna sent by God from heaven, a perfect and nourishing food, and the bitter waters of Marah that became sweet, healing water.

It was during this same month of Iyyar that Messiah Yeshua (as the living Word, a type of Bread of Life from heaven, and a source of Mayim Chaim – Living Water) appeared to his disciples after God had raised him from the dead in a body made perfect and filled with resurrection life. He broke bread, ate, and talked with them, and gave them deeper understanding and revelation of the will and heart of the Father.

To prepare ourselves for whatever revelation the Father wishes to impart to us at Pentecost, we also should be in a mode of preparation and anticipation as we count the days leading up to it. 

We know, only too well, that – just as the Israelite slaves redeemed from Egypt were not immediately perfect and holy after Sinai, it is a life-long process of learning the Word of God and walking it out in accord with His will, which includes receiving healing and restoration – physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

This process basically is a battle of wills! 

To be in the Kingdom of God means to have our will subject to the will of the King. In all we do we can ask: “Am I transgressing and moving out of the will of God, or am I remaining steadfastly in His will?” We know His will is perfect, and flows from the heart of a loving Father. It is in our own best interest to bring our will more and more in alignment with His. However, the wiles of the enemy of our souls are very powerful, enticing, and constant! 

The Hebrew word for transgression is averah (עברה), which means straying over a boundary. A word from the same root is avar (עבר), as in when Avraham heard G-d’s call and avar – physically crossed over, from his idolatrous society on a journey to a Land still to be revealed to him by God. It was a huge step of faith! It also entailed crossing over spiritually into the Kingdom of God. His will was surrendered and in harmony with God’s and he became the father of the family of God – those who would enter His household as children and know His love and serve Him in loving faithfulness, just as Abraham did. 

ORDER and HEALING.

This journey of faith requires constant growing in maturity  – mentally and spiritually. 

In this Being Holy Being Whole “Keep Climbing!” series, we are concentrating on the principle human characteristics and seeing where we need to establish balance or strengthen areas of weakness. The characteristics for IYYAR are ORDER and HEALING.

The characteristic of ‘order’ reflects the balance we are aiming to establish in our lives. Order is necessary to achieve, as Alan Morinis describes in Everyday Holiness, “…the inner alignment that results in filling our days with peace and preparedness.”

Any area of our lives that is in disorder gives rise to chaos. We see in the Word that God is a God of order. He is concerned with the “small” details, which often are crucial. Modern psychology has proven the rather obvious fact that eternal disorder reflects a person’s internal disarray. This reflects the connection between order and healing. How? 

We also need to be aware that the ideal is always in the balance. On the one extreme, too little order leads to chaos, confusion, and disarray and, on the other extreme, too much order leads to a compulsive perfectionism and rigidity. 

Our inner being – that ‘spark’ of God within our neshama (spirit) knows that our spiritual life needs order just as much as our physical life does. To the extent that we are living outside of the will of God (whether intentionally or not) and, as a result are separated from Him, our spirit (neshama ) will correspondingly be in pain and yearning for the separation to be healed and for closeness and intimacy with our Father to be restored. This restoration comes when we are in harmony with His will.

“STILL SMALL VOICE” and SPEECH!

How do we know the will of our Father? We find it in His Word, the foundation of which is the Torah – the blueprint of His will, spoken at Sinai to His redeemed people. There His voice thundered. The sages say it rippled and echoed out to all the world in the languages of the seventy nations. Thereafter it became a “still, small voice” and the noise of the world would need to be hushed in order to hear it. 

Interestingly enough, as we partner with God our most powerful tool in serving and working with Him in tikkun olam  (bringing rectification, order, and healing back into the world) is speech! We need to recognize the power there is in our gift of speech. In the Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) it is noted that ten measure of speech were given to the world and nine of these were allocated to women. We can just imagine the jokes that could spring from that observation! However, it was not meant to be derogatory. It also is noted that ten measures of beauty were given to the world and nine of them were allotted to Jerusalem. 

This highlights the fact that, as women, we face a greater challenge. We have the responsibility to use our words and communication skills in a positive and constructive manner, and not negatively and destructively. The most important way we use our gift of speech is in prayer, song, and blessing!

Both Holy Temples in Jerusalem, that housed the Shechinah Presence of God, were destroyed due to hateful and negative speech. With our words we either build up or break down – create or destroy. They either express God’s will or the enemy’s.The more we can bring our will into alignment and harmony with the will of God our Father’s the more clearly our speech will reflect His Kingship – His light and truth, and help us to more effectively partner with Him in tikkun olam, bringing healing and restoration and establishing His Kingdom on earth.

During this month of Iyyar, and the Counting of the Omer, may we strengthen our connection with God’s Word and grow richly in spirit. May we also trust our faithful Healer for physical health and increasing wholeness and holiness, for ourselves, for all Israel, and for the world!

JUBILEE – 50 – Revelation and Restoration

JUBILEE in Hebrew is YOVEL (יובל).

In biblical times, the special shofar used by shepherds to call the sheep together before they returned home to their sheep-pen was called a yovel. It was made from a gazelle horn and, unlike the curved shofars used for ritual purposes, it is straighter and dark in color.

 A Dorcas gazelle, Israel – Wikipedia

The concept of ‘return’ blends well with a central commandment of God concerning a jubilee year. We see in the book of Leviticus:  

It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan” (25:10) “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.” (25:13)

The reason God gives as to why no one could make a permanent claim to the land of Israel is: “The Land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the Land is Mine.” (25:23) In a Jubilee year things are restored to their original, God-intended place!

In this generation, we celebrate the restoration of the Land of Israel and of her people to their God-intended place.  We also celebrate the Jubilee of the restoration of Jerusalem – the reunified City of God to its rightful place. In 1967, during the Six Day War, when Israel was attacked by the armies of the surrounding Arab nations, a brigade of the Israel Defense Forces broke through the Lion’s Gate of the Old City, which had been held by Jordan since the War of Independence in 1948.  Against impossible odds they were victorious and the city, including the holiest place for the Jewish people – the Temple Mount with the Western Wall, was restored to Israel’s sovereignty. 

Jerusalem is a place to which one returns – a place of connection and meeting. Here, in this city, heaven meets earth; the past and the present meet with the future. This Holy City of God is where we will meet our soon-coming Messiah; a day when this fleeting life will meet eternity. Then God’s purpose for the city, the one envisioned from before the very Beginning, will be fulfilled in radiance —the establishing forever of the eternal Dwelling Place of the Holy One of Israel.

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for lo I come and will dwell in the midst of you,” says the Lord.

(Zechariah 2:10)

The Lord’s Sanctuary will be established with powerful praise and unshakable strength in His city, which is the heart of the universe—the City of the Great King. There, His throne will be set and the light of Zion will shine forth to the nations, bearing the vision of eternity in the spirit of kindness and truth.

A new song will flow forth, a pure haunting melody carrying luminous words of redemption and hope; and this Holy Place will finally become a House of Prayer for all nations.  King Solomon knew God’s purpose for His Dwelling Place on earth and the vision of promise it contained. When he dedicated the first beautiful Temple in Jerusalem – built as designed by his father King David in accord with God’s specific instructions and plan, Solomon proclaimed:

“… that all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name and fear Thee,  as do Thy people Israel, and that they may know that this House which I have built is called by Thy Name”  (I Kings 8:41– 43).

Also, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, the Great Shepherd’s yovel is sounding and he is gathering his flock from the nations and leading them home where they belong, to be one flock with the family of God.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—
these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer;
…for My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” (56:6-9)

May we soon all rejoice together in grateful praise, thanksgiving and joy in the City of the Great King – the eternal, golden, filled-with-His-glory, Jerusalem ~ YERUSHALAIM SHEL ZAHAV.

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Artwork:

  1. Baruch Nachshon, Israel – www.nachshonart.com 
  2. Alex Levin, Jerusalem – https://artlevin.com

BHBW – KEEP CLIMBING! – INTRODUCTION

        INTRODUCTION:           KEEP CLIMBING!          NISSAN 5779 – ADAR 5780

Shalom and Welcome to our exciting and challenging new series. It presents an exhortation and encouragement to keep moving forward and growing – to Keep Climbing toward higher spiritual vistas.

A rabbi in the Old City of Jerusalem once claimed, “There are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who are moving forward and those who are not.” To move forward one needs a path, which, by definition, leads you somewhere. On a dynamic spiritual path you know that you are in the right direction and are “moving forward” if you are not the same person you were a year ago. You have grown in awareness; your view has widened andyour understanding of life has deepened.

A real spiritual path is steep; not a holiday stroll. It takes time, and as we climb the spiritual path, also compared to a ladder, we need to ascend one step or rung at a time. We often discern that our values, actions, and priorities need to undergo a radical shift. This can be challenging and even painful. It’s like shedding some aspect of our familiar selves and requires moving beyond our previous comfort zone. The effort to break habitual, ingrained patterns requires hard work and the desire to be different. To shed a familiar pattern in order to grow spiritually is challenging. However, when we accept the challenge, we discover that it also is exhilarating. The higher we climb the more beautiful and breathtaking the views become and the rewards and blessings are abundant!

 

PERSONAL JOURNAL

If you are wanting and intending to purposefully participate in this next Rosh Chodesh cycle I want to stress the importance and value of maintaining a Personal Journal. You need to invest in a special notebook or a binder and pages to insert. This will be your tool for gaining the maximum benefit from the “Keep Climbing” series.

It is the means whereby you do a daily, focussed ‘accounting of the soul’ – called in Hebrew ‘cheshbon nefesh’ – חשבון נפש. There are significant times in the Biblical Calendar when this exercise is emphasized, for example during the month of Elul and the Ten Days of Awe. We know, however, that the way to grow consistently, and to ‘keep climbing’ with joy and strength, is to be aware and to learn from the lessons Avinu, our Father, presents us with every day. The best time to do your journal entry will be during either a morning or evening ‘quiet time.’ Even five or ten minutes will suffice! I will be supplying a weekly selection of thoughts, prayers, questions, etc., to use as an aid and, hopefully, as an inspiration.

The aims of keeping a Personal Journal are:

1. To achieve mental focus and a clarification of our inner, sometimes hidden, thoughts   and emotions.

2. To develop awareness of our reactions and instinctive behavior in the many situations that arise during any given day.

3. To take time to consider how we can improve and strengthen each positive character trait.

After a year of this practice we will all be strengthened in our walk and growth, and have a clearer awareness of our calling and service in the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth.

With His help, we then will shine His glory more brightly.

Looking forward to sharing the climb! 

For His Names’ sake, in Love,

Keren Hannah

IMPORTANT TO NOTE:

(1) If you are interested in joining us on this adventurous climb please sign up at this Mailchimp link in order to receive the weekly and monthly notes and material.  [If link does not open automatically, please copy and paste in your browser.] Many thanks! 

                                                 https://eepurl.com/glW751  

(2) To gain further in-depth teaching and sharing please consider offering some support and join our Being Holy Being Whole “climbing community” at our site here:

http://www.patreon.com/beingholybeingwhole

 

The CHARACTER TRAITS we will be exploring during the series are: 

1. NISSAN ( 6 April – 5 May )  COURAGE and HUMILITY  

2. IYYAR ( 6 May – 3 June )   ORDER and HEALING    

3. SIVAN ( 4 June – 5 July )   PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE 

4. TAMMUZ ( 4 July – 1 August ) PERCEPTION and FOCUS 

5. AV ( 2 – 31 August )          EQUANIMITY and MODERATION 

6. ELUL ( 1 – 29 September ) REPENTANCE and SILENCE 

7. TISHREI ( 30 Sept. – 29 Oct. ) ENTHUSIASM and CONFIDENCE

8. CHESHVAN ( 30 Oct. – 28 Nov. ) KINDNESS and ADAPTABILITY 

9. KISLEV ( 29 Nov. – 28 Dec. )     UNITY and SILENCE

10. TEVET ( 29 Dec. – 26 Jan. 2020 ) JUDGMENT and CRITICISM

11. SHEVAT ( 27 Jan. – 25 Feb. )    OBEDIENCE and WISDOM 

12. ADAR (26 Feb. – 25 March )    GRATITUDE and GIVING 

(They may be subject to change as we progress.)