December 7, 2022 -

Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.

Rosh Hashanah – Day 1 (09/26/22)

Rosh Hashanah – Day 1

A couple was touring the capitol building in Washington, and the guide pointed out a tall, benevolent gentleman as the congressional chaplain. The lady asked, “What does the chaplain do? Does he pray for the Senate or House?”

“No,” said the tour guide. “He gets up, looks at both houses of Congress, then prays for the country!”

I think many of us feel that like that chaplain, and our problems are not limited to Congress.

There’s water scarcity throughout the west.

In the south, there’s been extreme flooding.

There are significant concerns about minority voting rights.

We have immigration problems.

School shootings and gun violence don’t seem to stop.

And abortion access has become an issue once more.

The schism and divide in our country, which have probably not been this bad since the Civil War, only exacerbate our ability to deal with these issues.

What can we do to solve some of these problems?

Traditional prayers ask God to resolve our complications:

השיבה שופטינו-Return our Judges as in days of old

על הצדיקים-Protect the righteous

ותן טל ומטר-Send dew and rain for a blessing

ולמלשינים-May the wicked have no hope

שים שלום בעולם-Grant us peace

And despite our fervent prayers, these problems still plague us.

We could continue to rally behind our choice causes and support our favorite candidates.

Butt we’ve been doing these things in the past, and they’ve only brought us to this mess.

We need to think out of the box, to try a radically different approach to solving our issues.

When I was in my mid-twenties, my main goal in life was to get married.

I prayed intensely and fervently, but to no avail.

One Rosh Hashanah I traveled to Uman in Ukraine to pray by the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Before he died, he had promised that he’d beseech God in heaven and accomplish a favor for all who prayed with him on Rosh Hashanah. Jewish tradition has it that the righteous are even more powerful after their death than in their lifetime. So I flew out on Air Ukraine and joined 4000 other hopefuls for the holiday. That year, though, turned out to be one of the most disappointing and painful years of my whole life.

Desperate to marry, I drove everywhere in the northeast to meet prospects. I even flew to Australia to continue dating a girl that I had met just once in Queens.

It was only after I had given up hope of ever finding someone that I met my future wife. I had returned from a particularly bad date and fell asleep crying on the floor of my apartment. I said, “Whatever will be, will be; I’m giving up my search.”

Somehow though, when I let go of the desperation, the shidduch, the match came to me.

Likewise, when I was in my thirties and early forties, with five mouths to feed and five day-school tuitions to pay, we were barely getting by. To supplement my income, I tried my hand at teaching, day trading, selling life and health insurance, and doing kosher supervision.

One day I was in the self-help section of the library looking for audiobooks when I came across something titled, “The Secret.”

It proclaimed that there was a law of nature that had been kept secret since the beginning of time and only the most successful people knew how to access it. They called it “the law of attraction.” That our thoughts and feelings are energy, and they attract or create what we think and feel.

The author, Rhonda Byrne, posited that if we’d just visualize and believe in our wealth, success, health, and happiness, they would come to us.

She advised starting with attracting something small.

Now don’t laugh; I had just learned that sunlight shining through blue glass onto water energizes the water in a very positive way, and drinking that water can help us actualize our desires. Well, how hard can it be to find a blue bottle of mineral water? I imagined procuring one. Friday afternoon, I went from store to store but could not find a blue bottle made of glass; they were all made from plastic. I let it go. That Saturday night my daughter, Menuchah, returned from an Italian restaurant, and she was holding a blue glass bottle in her hand. She said, “Tatti, we bought this fancy water at the restaurant, and I thought it was so nice that I brought it home.”

Cool, this was my first success in attracting something.

Yet, believe it or not, the blue bottle was not helping me have financial success! One day, I noticed an email from one of the contributors to “The Secret,” Dr. Joe Vitale. He just developed a new technique to help people achieve their goals, and he was seeking five volunteers to test this process out. We all had to submit a video of why we’d be worthy candidates. Luckily, I was chosen, and in no time, I flew out to Austin, Texas, for a fully paid seminar.

I explained to Joe that I was utilizing the law of attraction to achieve financial success, but it wasn’t working. He told me that while my conscious mind was thinking of abundance, my subconscious mind was focusing on desperation and need. My conscious mind is only working, sending out positive energy, part of the time. My worried subconscious is running all the time, so who’s going to win out?

If I’m constantly feeling worried, then that is what I’m projecting into the universe, and that’s what I’m going to attract.

Later, I found this same idea propounded in another book, “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch; “If, therefore, you beg and supplicate, there seems a much smaller chance that you will experience what you think you are choosing, because the Sponsoring Thought behind every supplication is that you do not have now what you wish. That Sponsoring Thought becomes your reality.”[1]

This now explains my suffering in my twenties and thirties despite my fervent prayers. In both cases, I was desperate, either for a wife or for money. My concentration on lack that my subconscious thoughts were emitting prolonged my suffering.

The rabbis actually have an insight into this as well. They say, “אין בן דוד בא עד שייאש מן הגאולה, the Messiah won’t come until the Jews give up on any hope of being redeemed”. As long as we’re desperate for redemption, it won’t happen, as those nervous energies keep positive things away.

I was actually thinking of this rabbinic teaching after that bad date when I was crying on the floor. I told God, I’m done. If you want me to get married, it’s going to be on you. When I finally let go of my urgent need to get married, I allowed the redemption to come to me.

In 2014, one year after meeting Joe, realizing I must leave my current synagogue and join a larger congregation to meet my financial needs, I visualized the thrill and joy of speaking before a 200-family congregation. Within no time, I noticed the advertisement on Jewishjobs.com for Manetto Hill Jewish Center. This is why I’m standing before you today.

Therefore, the first step in benefitting our country is to remove the desperation and anxiety from our hearts. This is key. We kick “Chicken Little” out the door and have faith in ourselves to be able to make positive change.

What then is the next step? If the problem is friction and division, the answer is in recognizing our innate oneness.

And I believe this comes from having a new understanding of God’s oneness.

שמע ישראל יי אלוקינו יי אחד

Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, God is One

We’ve always understood God is One to mean that God is everywhere, infinite, and indivisible.

Yet, it is also Jewish belief that God is within each one of us individually. In Chapter 2 of Genesis, it states:

The LORD God formed the human from the dust of the earth. God blew into its nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.

Let’s ponder what’s happening here. God creates the body of a human, it has all the necessary parts, blood, bones, and organs, but it’s not yet alive. It’s only when God breathes into this body does it become a living human being.

The Zohar, the main work of Jewish mysticism notes: “He who blows, blows from within.” Metaphorically that means from God’s inwardness and innermost being. Thereby, God placed a spark of Godself into the soul of every person. The language of the Kabbalists is הנשמה שהיא חלק אלוה ממעל.

Our soul is a part of God.

So God is One, yet there is also a little division of God in each one of us. The One Energy that is All Energy, the One Being, individuates Itself into many different parts. Believe it or not, even the Torah alludes to this, “Let Us create the human in Our image, and after Our likeness.” Life is the process through which God creates Itself, and then experiences the creation. Rabbi David Aaron calls this “The Secret Life of God.”

Rabbi David Paskin’s song, Shema, is one that we regularly sing on a musical Shabbat:

I am one and

You are One and

We are One together

So I witness to the world,

Adonai Echad, Echad, Echad

This duality of God being both indivisible, yet in each one of us, is a Divine mystery. But let me ask you, is it any more of a mystery than what we find in Quantum mechanics: Schroedinger’s cat, Heisenburg’s Uncertainty principle, or the duality of matter: particle or wave? We live in a world of contradictions, yet, this enigma, God being indivisible and divisible, is the most meaningful and personal.

Let’s contemplate its implications:

If God’s in or with me personally, and God’s in or with you, and with Republicans in Texas and Democrats in California, then we’re all connected, we’re, so to speak, interwoven with each other. God is the Hand, and we’re the fingers.

We are All One. There is only One of Us. We are not separate from God, and we are not separate from each other. Everything we are doing, we are doing in concert with each other.

To make a change in our world, we need to act as if we are all one. To see everyone as us, just having a difficult time. To see everyone as us, just wanting a fair chance. See everyone as us, just having a different experience.

Now I know you’re all thinking, the rabbi has really lost it now, the medium speech in 2016 was one thing, but now, he’s gone too far!

Well, what’s the alternative? How has viewing us all as separate beings and separate races in a dog-eat-dog world worked out for us?

Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Therefore, this year, let’s take two steps together.

Let’s remove the desperation, anxiety, and worry from our hearts. I know it’s not easy, but it only continues to attract things that perpetuate that state.

Then let’s start viewing everyone as an individuation of God, especially the people with whom we disagree! We’re all interwoven. We’re all connected. And we all have an entitlement to freedom, opportunity, and happiness. We’ll also end up being more generous, for we’ll understand that what we give to another, we give to ourselves as well.

While I’m on the topic of giving, you’ll notice your High Holiday donation card in front of you. Now, MHJC has just moved from a fixed membership price to a “Give from the heart” model, so I know you’ve already given what you’ll feel is proper. Yet, even in the best of years, the membership fees never cover our full expenses; we always rely on other forms of fundraising. We are trying this new model of membership to be able to provide meaningful Jewish experiences and connections to all Jews in our area. Help us do this. When we give or provide to another, it’s as if we’re giving to ourselves as well, for we are all really one. You’re not giving your money away, it’s like investing it in ourselves.

Therefore, please give generously.

This year, let’s remove the anxiety and worry from our hearts and see ourselves as connected to each and every person. May 5783 become a year of healing for our planet and unity in our country, Amen. Shana Tova

[1] Walsch, Neale Donald. The Complete Conversations with God (Conversations with God Series) (p. 20). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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