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

Keep Climbing! LIVE – AV (5th Hebrew Month)

 

AV

EQUILIBRIUM AND MODERATION

Verse:

Be perfected; be comforted; be of the same mind; live in peace: and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Cor.13:11)

Quote :

“To ignore the paradox is to miss the truth.” 

~ Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israel: An Echo of Eternity 

The three week period of semi-mourning, that began on the 17th of Tammuz, continues into the month of Av. In the Northern hemisphere it poses a paradox as this period of mourning coincides with summer vacations and family fun. Altogether, Av is a month riddled with paradoxical details and illustrates the tension that paradox creates.

This tension seems in contradiction to the trait of the month – equilibrium; which we associate with peace of mind and inner calm. As Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv noted: “A person who has mastered peace of mind has gained everything.” It is easy to stay peaceful when all is going well, but what happens when we are faced with the inevitable frustrations and “downs” of life? We can encounter situations on a daily basis that erode our equilibrium!  Rabbi Menachem Mendel Leffin advises that to keep our hearts and minds on an even keel we must learn to …”rise above events that are inconsequential – both bad and good, for they are not worth disturbing your equanimity over.” In other words our reactions to both the good and bad things that happen should be calm and balanced. 

Achieving equilibrium enables us to act with moderation in all things. Over-reaction to a negative situation can cause one to move from concern to becoming agitated, and even angry, or hysterical and out of control. The opposite, also undesirable, reaction is shutting down and becoming apathetic. Maintaining one’s equilibrium enables one to stay calm and balanced and to react with grace rather than with irritation or anger. In faith, one can view the challenge as a test and trust the Lord for wisdom and strength to deal with it. One can even find a positive aspect to it and focus on that. 

The prophet Isaiah offers a key to achieving calmness of mind and spirit. “You will keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You” (26:3). “Stayed” can be rendered as fixed, anchored, focussed, stuck-like-glue! Let nothing distract our minds off of our Father in Heaven. And, as the apostle Paul exhorts in Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yeshua.

The mind is the battlefield. Keep in mind that every problem is mental and every solution spiritual. Turning our minds and hearts to our Father in prayer and gratitude results in Shalom!

SORROW TO JOY

The name of this fifth Hebrew month literally means ‘father’ – Abba. We see an example in Psalm 103:13, K’rachem av al banim… “As a father is merciful to his children, so has HaShem shown mercy to those who fear Him.” When our minds are stayed on Him we can rest in the knowledge that our lives are in the hands of a loving and faithful Father who has us securely in His care. 

On the other hand, the 9th of Av – Tisha b’Av, a day of deep mourning and fasting, marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples as well as the tragic exile of the majority of G-d’s people from the Land. Tisha b’Av also commemorates the many persecutions and pogroms, Crusades and Inquisitions perpetrated against the Jewish people throughout the centuries that followed. 

 Interestingly, the actual date of death of only one person is recorded in the Torah; that of Aaron, the brother of Moses. We read that forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, G-d called Aaron to Mount Hor and he died there. When? “In the fifth month on the first of the month” (Numbers 33:38) – the first of Av. Aaron, the High Priest, is also known as Rodef Shalom – the Pursuer of Peace. As one who daily was bathed in the presence of G-d’s holy presence in the Tabernacle, he desired to reflect that to others and always sought unity and peace. He was deeply loved by the people and his death was an occasion of deep mourning. The sadness of Aaron’s death in the same month seems fused with the mourning of the destruction of the Dwelling places of G-d

So, here we have the paradox of the Father’s loving care and protection and yet the sadness and destruction faced by His people. Av indeed is a month split in two: the waxing moon is a time of mourning and sorrow and the waning moon is one of comfort, love and joy. Immediately after Tisha B’Av the weekly haftorahs (prophetic portion read together with the Torah portion) become portions of Consolation from the prophet Isaiah. Then, the central day of the month, the fifteenth of Av – Tu b’Av – marks the turning point for joy. 

Tu b’Av was celebrated as a joyous festival hundreds of years before the First Temple was built. It was the celebration of the grape harvest, and the time the white squill blooms all over Israel. The tall tapered stems, covered with small white flowers, stand out brightly against the yellow and brown fields at the end of a long, hot summer. They are a clear season marker, for Tu b’Av signals the summer solstice and there is a subtle change as the days begin to shorten and clouds start to appear in the sky, announcing the approaching rains of winter. The virgin maidens, to reflect the blossoming lace-like white squills, would don white dresses and dance in the vineyards of Shiloh, and wedding matches were made. To this day the fifteenth of Av is celebrated in Israel as “Sweetheart’s Day”!

  In rabbinic literature Tisha b’Av, the day of great mourning, is the date reckoned to be the birth date of the Messiah – the Savior-King who brings new life. We can indeed rejoice in the paradox of “the Lamb in the midst of the throne” who is our Shepherd and who guides us to “springs of living water” that bring mercy, grace, hope and truth (Revelation 7:17) and the King of kings, the Lion of Judah who will reign over all the earth (Revelation 5:5-6).

Thus, the last weeks of Av are marked by harvest and romance and act as a prelude to the month of Elul and to the Fall Feasts which prophetically herald the arrival of the “Lion of Judah” and the “Marriage supper of the Lamb.” Av, therefore, while acknowledging and mourning the sorrow, evil, and hardship to be found in the world, celebrates the constant truth of new life in the One who is the Source of all life.  Our Father G-d is bringing us to full Redemption, when, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, “death will be swallowed up forever and the reproach of His people He will take away from all the earth” (25:8). His Kingdom will be established in the earth and the dwelling of God will rest in Jerusalem and “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

EQUILIBRIUM AND MODERATION

Here and now, what do we do when faced with painful loss, distressing circumstances, or illness? Living in the relative comfort of our modern Western culture we tend to ignore and deny the possibility of suffering as much as possible. We fear that it will undermine our happiness, which can seem so fragile and unstable. As a result, we face the sad fact that when our happiness is marred and our equilibrium is shaken we tend to lose the balance of moderation one way or the other. Western society is plagued by problems of extremes – excess consumerism, over-eating, leading to obesity or under-eating leading to anorexia,

too little exercise or an excessive focus on physical fitness, over-working, constant entertainment seeking, and a myriad other addictions. All in an attempt to drown our fears and avoid suffering. However, Erica Brown, in her book In the Narrow Places, observes: “Ignoring suffering dehumanizes us, while being attuned to suffering makes us more compassionate. We become more grateful and can more deeply appreciate the blessings in our lives.” 

Sherri Mandel, who suffered the agonizing loss of her young teenaged son who was brutally murdered by terrorists, shares in her book The Road to Resilience: 

“Doubt, pain, and brokenness will mould your character so that you are more compassionate and live in an enlarged context. Your process of healing may in fact exalt you and propel you toward a more intimate relationship with G-d, the Infinite and the Eternal.” She adds: “Paradoxically, loss can lead toward greater awareness of the everyday pleasure that surround us… Suffering can highlight the miracles in the mundane.” And finally, “In the face of adversity, the recreation of self may be our most creative act.” 

When we know that our lives are in our Father’s hands, we can understand that whatever experience we are facing is the one He has allowed in order to to enable us to reach a higher level of spiritual awareness and personal maturity. That is a child of G-d’s great hope. In His grace, comfort, and powerful love He gives us the tools and means to “recreate ourselves” – to center ourselves on Him, clear our minds, settle our souls, and regain equilibrium. When, in faith we believe He is able, and turn to Him in prayer for guidance and help, He provides us with the courage and strength to press through any crisis. Even when there seems to be no clear way and “best choice,” His Spirit of Holiness can impart wisdom to enable us to make the decisions we need to make in order to begin moving through and beyond whatever obstruction we are facing. 

Of course, we can’t always feel that we are effortlessly soaring higher or spiralling upward. Often we fail. Sometimes our progress feels like “three steps forward – two steps back,”  Nevertheless, the baby steps are being made. We learn and are strengthened for the next stage of the upward climb! 

The month of Av ultimately represents the balance of elements we deal with constantly on our journey through life – sadness and joy, justice and mercy, anger and grace, discord and unity, what is hidden and what is revealed. Undergirding it all is the knowledge that our Father, in His abundant love and mercy towards us, is in control and He is guiding us and preparing the way before us.

 

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:

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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.”

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!

Keep Climbing! Facebook LIVE- NISSAN

REMEMBER THE EXODUS

The root of the name Nissan is nes – meaning miracle. During this month of Nissan G-d performed open, supernatural  miracles – miracles that transcend nature and the ability of men to comprehend. He sent the ten plagues upon Egypt in order to prove to Pharaoh and the people that their idols were false and powerless.

He then parted the Reed Sea and effected the physical redemption of His people from the slavery in Egypt. We need also to remember the part the Israelites played in the midst of these miracles. And what part do we ourselves need to play as we await the Final Redemption?

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.)