Monthly Archives: December 2017

Reflections as we enter the six weeks of Shovavim


In order to give us real free will Hashem has designed a soul in a body that has neurology based on its perceptions and learning in time and space.  Our neurology responds to our senses and forms impressions in our mind, and our interpretations of these impressions become beliefs.  It is incumbent upon us to comprehend our condition so that we may properly use free will and the emunah of our soul to create true beliefs and impress these upon our mind and bring them to our hearts.


It is said that we are all intended to be bale teshuva.  Perhaps we can understand how by understanding the purpose of our life, to refill our minds with upgraded beliefs.  When we submit our natural impressions to the wisdom of Torah and choose to have a relationship with Hashem through unifying His Name (and thereby completing our soul and the world), that submission of impressions and choice to cling to Hashem are the effort that is our service to Hashem.  Success is up to Hashem.  What does success look like?  Some would say clarity, others taanug/pleasure, and those who are well versed in Torah who have success may reach a level of ruach hakodesh.


How can we begin a journey when our starting point might be to trust in our own beliefs and education?


Have you ever noticed that no matter how old we get, we still think of ourselves as we were as, perhaps, young adults?  We are shocked to look in the mirror.  The vitality that we feel identifies as we did when we are youthful, albeit we may grow in wisdom.  Our soul does not feel aged as we approach senior years.  Hopefully, however, our hearts are able to retain more Simcha and less worry, as we see Hashem’s Omnipotence and comprehend what our life purpose has been and continues to be, each one unique, yet each one in relationship to Hashem’s Will over our natural impulses.


At the root of our confusion comes our impulses that get triggered when something from the outside does not confirm our image of ourselves, confronting us.  What happens then?  Our brain neurology begins to design where the danger is coming from and sends danger signals to the heart that blow through our body in what feels like an immediate moment.  We are triggered!


Let’s analyze that perception that our image of ourselves has been confronted.  Did we not get something we want and believe we deserve?  Did someone take an action to which we feel insulted or disrespected or unloved?  Something else?


What we are trying to hold in this analysis is that wordless impulse.  Does it rise up?  Does it blow through us?  Do we feel sad?  Does it leave us longing for something to gratify us that we believe we need?  Pausing here to comprehend the impulse, we can then describe it out loud to Hashem – remember our primary avodah is to have a relationship with Hashem and use free will and the emunah of our soul to create true beliefs and bring them to our hearts.


When we view ourselves as souls who have access to physicality for the purpose of completing our soul and the world, bringing these impulses to an analysis of their nature so that we may cry it out to Hashem makes sense.  Our physicality is naturally blocking the truth – that all there is in the world is Hashem, Who is the only Being that actually lives, Who has all the power, and Who only does good!  Thus, even when we do not understand, turning to Hashem in gratitude for our lives activates the emunah that can, if Hashem deems it, bring us inner joy and completion.


What about what triggered us?  Who is going to address that?  When we remember to serve Hashem in the moment, and when we do His Will, He does our will.


The feeling of lack inevitably triggers the natural egoistic thinking that develops as a soul in a body in time and space.  The ego can be upgraded into an eternal identity when it is willing to let go of its local perspective and realize that what Hashem wants is better for us than what we think we want.


What is actually happening in this upgrade to our ego?



At the root of our ego is a broken shard from the world of tohu that thinks we exist independently and that it is imperative that we exist.  This is what needs to be brought through Torah to rectification.  Rabbi Aryeh Nivin teaches us that in order to be successful, we have to “speak its language” meaning the language of fallen (local perspective) imagery.  Rabbi Doniel Katz also teaches this, that we affect the unrectified midda (impulse) by first connecting to chochma and providing alternative imagery that now can sink into the midda.  Using our imagination to develop counter-imagery based on Torah “speaks” the language that an unrectified midda might be able to acquire from.


Now that unrectified midda, that impulse, that our neurology is prone to perceive based on outside stimulation has a chance to move from ego-based to eternal based.  What makes the shift?


Rabbi Shalom Arush in his message of gratitude, shows us a way to turn what fills our corrupted negative thinking into a small light, a small ner tamid…and that is a choice to express thanks and gratitude.  Gratitude for our suffering recognizes it is all from Hashem (emunah) and our choice to do so, our free willed choice to do so, finds a Torah principle to build an image from that then relaxes the grip corrupted thinking has on the midda.  The midda can acquire Hashem’s mercy and, in the same place where we experienced constriction, can instead shine Hashem’s attributes of mercy.


Rabbi Moshe Genuth talks about completing our souls in terms of submitting our will with emunah to Torah, thereby creating an inner vessel that is a conduit a hollow, to transmit Hashem’s Mercy like a pipe, where we experience this higher state called nothingness as taanug.  When we use our ratzon to nullify the false sense of autonomy out of love and awe for Hashem, we unify our soul and through that vessel of nothingness, we experience the pleasure that man is created for.


The key ingredient in developing the imagery to filter to our middos is that it be 100 percent Torah.  Any variation from that is just another false belief that will not bring about the completion of our soul or the completion of the world.  Learning Torah and understanding Hashem’s 13 attributes of mercy become our priority then, for it is in so learning that we may free ourselves from the natural grip the ego has on us that makes us so vulnerable to constriction, pain, suffering and error.


This is a lifelong journey.


As we enter into Shovavim, the six weeks where we read about the exile and redemption, may we each find an area to purify our beliefs and try to free ourselves from the grip of constricted thinking.  And may we soon see redemption.

A Teshuva for the 10th of Teves


Let’s go to the actual moment of the challenging reaction.  We are in the moment, face to face with two ways of interpreting the situation.


There is a loud, booming, scary interpretation telling us the same message we have listened to for our entire lives about the possible danger, the reason, how we are lacking what we want, how much it would be better if the other person would just understand and give us what we want and the fact that they are not giving to us what we want this second simply just lumps them into the same category of offenders that have been causing us pain over and over again  And what a disappointment this is!  And how sorry we feel for ourselves that again someone has let us down!  And on and on and on.


The designer of this thinking is our animalistic inclination that naturally runs things unless we re-design its images by using Torah principles.


Yet getting ourselves to listen is just as hard as dealing with a two year old!


How can we possibly get a re-designed image into our mind well enough that our natural imagery lets go?


At some point in our life, we will come to realize that going with Hashem is better than making this same mistake over and over.  The pain of the designed images that the natural animalistic side draws for us, which we feel neurologically, which has automatically been affecting our thoughts, speech and deeds until now, eventually is seen.  And then we can say we want to change.


We start by saying sorry for all my past mistakes in thinking.  Then we ask for help to change our thinking.


After that, we need to draw on the Torah principles, mitzvahs, understanding of how Hashem is the only Being alive and that actually exists and that we (whether we recognized it or not until now) are made only in His Image (from His Name, made in the image of Elokim, from the world of justice) so that we can complete our soul (to His Name, yud k vav k, rachamim).  We make this exchange with our simple request (because Hashem ultimately makes the exchange within us, we make the effort but success is up to Him.)  We use of our power of free will to hold steady (in devekus to Hashem, with love for Hashem, with awe that this IS hishtadlus) and speak out loud and visualize alternative imagery to replace the presenting arguments coming from our natural thinking with truth from the Torah that we can cling to and that can then generate a different reaction.


And that is our moment of teshuva.  We ask Hashem to please forgive all of what we have done stemming from our natural thinking.  Imagine all the legions of thoughts and actions and words said before this moment when we see the futility in it.


A key ingredient here is the emunah that Hashem is One.  Without that, how will we affect the designer of our natural imagery to let go and instead align with the truth that Hashem is One, that we are wholly made by Him and under His total domain, and that there is no future in our animalistic designs because He Desires that we emulate Him?  What makes this shift so difficult is our neurology.  The designer of our natural thinking IS our neurology.  We have a vessel that needs to be brought through the mikvah of chessed and emunah to serve instead as a neurology that will be filled with the light of Torah and reveal THAT over our natural reactions.  Here is where we are grateful to be alive.  Thank you Hashem for this moment of life so that in this moment I can do something that will create an eternal benefit for my soul and make a repair to the world.  Thank you for the challenge!!


Those natural reactions, which stem from unrectified powers in the world, are the way Hashem makes us – each one imperfect – so that we can use our experience of life to complete ourselves and improve the world by infusing His Compassion into the elements that compose the powers.  We do that through the simple words I am sorry.  I wish instead to reveal You.  Please help.  I regret it.  I made a mistake.  I wish to use everything to serve You.


If we can see these words as true, sincerely, the next step is to envision the Torah principles – peace, Ahavas Yisrael, compassion – and what that would look like.  Next comes identifying what is blocking those images from fruition in our hearts?  Is it anger/fire?  Is it wind/honor?  Is it water/desire?  Is it dust/habit, sadness?


Let’s say it is fire.  Fire can also bring light and warmth that is beneficial.  So we ask Hashem to please help us lower the fire, and we think of a chessed/water that will quiet the fire, or a humility, an adjustment with wind, that will blow out some of the fire.  Then we can see the storm inside lessen.  And it sinks into our hearts because our natural design of imagery IS WILLING to accept that what Hashem wants is better than what it wants.  In the end, we have to really be sick of our imperfections.


May this walk through of a moment be inspiring and helpful and may we all strengthen ourselves in emunah to fully comprehend that we are all alive only because Hashem is the only being that is Alive Who gives us an experience of life so we can complete for ourselves an eternal benefit.  May we further submit to His Will and choose willingly to redesign our neurology to reveal His Compassion.  The soul of man is the candle of Hashem.


And may we shine His 13 attributes of mercy into the world, into our lives and families and communities, radiating His Compassion into the world with full love and awe for Hashem for the experience of life given to us.  May we comprehend and choose this!

An understanding of what Hashem is asking of us when we are challenged

In tonight’s translation, the message from Rabbi Asher Freund is closely associated with a shiur given by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti regarding our thinking, our challenges, and our choices.

For more translations from Rabbi Asher Freund material, click here

For Rabbi Jonathan Rietti shiur on thinking click here

And for this translation, which opens wide an understanding of what Hashem is asking of us when we are challenged,  listen below

The world is created for each of us – we have the power to control our inner world and affect existence

The entire world is created for each individual person.  For you, for him, for her, for me, for them. 


Each one of us is a world unto ourselves.  Can anyone really understand or feel what it is like to be an other, that is, someone other than themselves? 


Would you agree that even WE don’t fully understand ourselves?  And if yes, then does that not help us understand the complexities of understanding each other?


If we can agree on this point, then the next question is how can we have meaningful relationships with others in a world designed for each individual yet no one can fully comprehend another?  How really can we be loving, giving, nurturing beings that emulate Hashem?


Do you see the question? 


We are made in Hashem’s Image, and He is the Creator of every detail of our inner world and circumstance.  He is thinking up absolutely every moment of every life and every moment that any object or circumstance has physical expression.  If Hashem did not think and utter it into existence, it (or we) would simply NOT exist.  Yet He makes us in His Image and gives us a Torah and tells us to emulate His Attributes of Mercy.


What I am suggesting is that we notice the playing field that Hashem intends for us to have dominion over.  If we do not have dominion over anything that exists in the world of time and space – that is, if we do not have the ability to truly affect it with our own understanding and choices, how can we understand the thirteen attributes of mercy that we cry out all Elul, how do we understand the time between Passover and Shavuous when we are attempting to correct our middos, the sefiros that compose our souls? 


The place that we have 100 percent control is in our choice to recognize that we are here to have a relationship with Hashem Who is the Almighty over absolutely everything and that the playing field is our effort to cry out to Him pleading that we may be worthy to remove what is concealing His Light in the moment.  We wish in every moment to find something we can do to aggrandize Hashem and bring out His Mercy flowing to us, rather than fulfill our “me” oriented distortions of what is good.


In other words,  we receive a stimuli through our perceptions and, if we take a look at the world and think Hashem is asking us to repair something within the world itself, directly, through an action, we may actually be overlooking the playing field.  The playing field is to comprehend deeply our reaction to the stimuli, to our perception, and to put ahead of everything else a yearning to flow His Light into our hearts, speech and deeds, thereby completing our souls and repairing the elements we overcome to do so.  When we do battle with the resistances we experience stemming from anger, fear, insult, hurt embarrassment and more, we are recognizing that our will and ego have been placed in conflict with an experience of everything Hashem does is all good.  Nullifying that conflict through beseeching Hashem and recognizing THAT NULLIFICATION as the effort that transforms and completes us is the playing field.  Our effort to do so IS our eternal identity.  Success is up to Hashem.  It may take a long time for us to come to an understanding of how Hashem designs our personalities, circumstances and role, but if we understand the playing field, at least we have the beginning of a perspective.  The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Hashem, the awe that is required to comprehend is Absolute control over every thought, object, circumstance and moment.  There is, in fact, only Hashem that is actually alive.  We are having an experience of life because He has designed our consciousness towards this goal.


We can dominate the world when we view that domination coming through the triggers we feel based on our perceptions and the effort we make to emulate Hashem in our inner world by quieting the powerful reactions and affecting our hearts towards lovingkindness.  We can then understand how each person in the world with our unique universes created for us is really being given a tremendous gift by being alive. In this way, we can best show others that we understand each other as universes who are seeking to bring Hashem’s compassion into the world, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not.  Nothing that happens CAN be personal from another person.  Everything that happens IS coming from Hashem designed for us to approach the playing field.



We are being given an opportunity to shine Hashem’s compassion into this world over the natural “me” that sees the world as a place that we can directly act upon, the natural way of seeing the world that confuses us and conceals Hashem. 


May we all choose the playing field that we are designed to have 100 percent control over and continue our life journey with this upgraded understanding! May we grow each day in our understanding of our lives and the world that each of us is and how best to affect the world through correcting the images that affect our hearts by reaching first to the wisdom of the Torah, prayerfully beseeching Hashem to help us complete our souls and the world in the process. 




Making the effort is enough to align ourselves with Truth – strive for it!!


 When we watch a playoff game, or any team sport, when the “home team” wins, everyone in the stands feels like they themselves won. It feels like -because it is the home team, then everyone in the whole hometown can take credit – each one is the winner.  It is fun to watch the game and see the home team ahead….we feel more confident and happy!  For a moment, or a day even. Or maybe for longer.  But eventually it wears off.


What pursuing holiness means is to bring a joy that does not only not wear off, but continues for all eternity.  When we remember in this world of time and space that there is Hashem Who is One and who is all that lives, all that exists, all that has power, and fills all the worlds, and we are grateful to Him even when we experience moments of challenge, anger, fear, resistance, failure, loss, despair, poverty, illness and the variations thereof, we are making out of the material of our lives and circumstances a completeness to our soul and to the world.  We all have deficiencies, some of us more than others.  Many of us have had obstacles added to our paths, such as abuse, neglect, ridicule, improper and unhealthy upbringings, and more.  What does NOT change, however, is that we have the potential to develop a relationship with Hashem through which we can complete our soul and the world.  Why?  The reason is because WE do not create the completion, Hashem does.  We merely TRY to make the completion!!  This is urgently important to understand because many times we give up.  When it comes to spirituality, we are trying to bring out a reflection of Hashem over our natural reactions and conditioning.  In order to reach our hearts, we learn Torah and use the wisdom of Hashem to help us attach our imagination to Torah.  That imagination then creates thoughts from the lovingkind pathways of the Torah that, if Hashem finds us sincere, can influence our hearts for improvement and completion. 


Having the emunah becomes the key ingredient.  So it is imperative to understand that we automatically have it from being alive, because at all times our soul that is attached to Hashem and knows it is vitalizing us.  We may not sense it at all though.  It may be completely silent in the face of our conditioning and circumstances.  This is why learning Torah is taught as the antidote to our inclinations toward the “me” perspective, towards our animalistic natural urges.  When we learn Torah and speak Torah and pray, we bring Torah to the intellectual part of our mind and can visualize an alternative to the images that our natural imagination pastes together from its limited sampling of life. Yet most of us for most of our lives are locked into that imagery and it is really a miracle when Hashem helps our heart let go and instead we experience the pleasure of what it means to be connected to Him, recognizing our nothingness, nullifying everything that we thought we were, our firstborn child – our ego, our natural sense of identity as independent and necessary.


We want a new light in the world because it will be a utopia.  But it won’t be like the home team winning.  Each one of us must be on a path to recognize the truth and make a sincere effort to affect our hearts.  Just trying is enough, because success is up to Hashem, but try we must. The area of trying needs to be in this area of realizing the opportunity in every moment, even terrible moments, to seek out Hashem and turn the powerful images we naturally experience into powerful actions that reveal compassion and mercy and love and Torah, emulating Him – connecting to the Only Being that actually exists and lives.  No person is without imperfections.  The design of man is to be imperfect and lacking so that we participate in our own completion and the completion of the world through the holiness we can generate.  When our hearts know this is true deeply, our hearts let go of the imagery that is focused on “me” and move towards aggrandizing and emulating Hashem, connecting ourselves to the truth.


We are not really losing anything in the world of time and space should we choose to shift to this way of thinking.  Doing so is a teshuva that we will never regret.


And may a new light shine in the world and each of us be grateful that we remembered while we have free will to make this shift and affect our very hearts.



Through our inner world we can really remove constriction for all

Neurologically, when we perceive something that hurts or inflames our senses, it takes about 90 seconds for the stimuli to complete its impact upon our system. Then the perception is gone.  Nevertheless, our ability to stay angry or afraid can continue for far longer than 90 seconds…even decades or a lifetime.  The reason is that we have a memory of it and we re-think the event and restart the upset, over and over and over again.


Rabbi Doniel Katz in his elevation project uses a term called a middos machshava cycle.  A midda has no words.  It is an impulse, a reaction, something that we sense.  In order to clarify itself, it grabs our thinking, our machshavas, and we contemplate it until we feel that we have properly described it.  Usually we have come up with a very fair and just description of the impulse, and now we take the next step towards what we are going to do about it in the world of action.


If we proceed without further consideration, it could be that we have taken an impulse that came to be rectified within us and instead we might try to correct something in the world which we feel is the cause of our upset.


Rabbi Akiva Tatz teaches us that if we have a characteristic that needs to be rectified and we do not uproot it, then we have not fulfilled our mission.  Uprooting it means from within our hearts, not from the circumstances in the world that brought it to our attention.


So how do we change our impulses, especially our negative ones, that are heartfelt, flow through our bodies like wind through a tree, and pain us terribly?  Rabbi Shalom Arush suggests gratitude, thanking Hashem.  We are to cleave to Hashem, to go to a place of love and awe and acceptance, understanding He is orchestrating everything and we connect to Him through love of Hashem, through gratitude.


The Ramchal teaches us that when we have a challenge, we are experiencing a power in our inner world through which we can evoke a positive or a negative influence in the world.  This point is actually our real point of free will, to decide if we wish to create a positive influence or add to the concealment of Hashem’s love and mercy in the world.


When we are in this space, our intellect and Torah learning speak to us yes!  But very often, every cell in our body feels like it is tugging back, resisting with our own life force, the truth of Hashem’s love and mercy and compassion.  The Bilvavi, Rabbi Ittamar Schwarz, teaches that our inner world is ours – it is for us to build our eternal identity.  It is 100 percent up to us, and we can, indeed, come to a place where we can be silent and connect to Hashem.


How can we speak to our hearts so that we can really choose to reveal Hashem in this world and not resist and follow after our eyes and hearts that seek resolution in the externalities of this world rather than rectifying our inner world?  How can we speak to our hearts so that our hearts will let go of our machshavas, of our thoughts, and rather submit to the truth of Hashem’s Oneness and compassion willingly?  Through integrated understanding, daas, where our imagination clings to Torah, and our emunah is strong, we can bring love for Hashem into our hearts, and this is the truth of the world and can dissolve the presenting negativity.  We can “send away the mother bird (presenting constricting circumstance) and keep the eggs (the light animating the negativity, the Shechina in the constriction) for ourselves.”


An effect of understanding this is to see the spectrum of viewpoints along the line of our soul.  The more we come to cling to Hashem and trust that all there is in the world is Hashem, the more ability we have to dialogue with our hearts when experiencing resistance.  Why?


Most likely, whatever is triggering our resistance is coming from an event or person that is also experiencing a constriction or pain.  That person’s upset triggers my upset and in reality, it can be a conflagration if acted out.


However, if one takes a moment to arouse love for Hashem, a person can at least breathe and realize that what is happening is that two souls are being confused by constriction, and that in this moment of constriction there is access to the actual power that constricts and that with proper prayerful beseeching, Hashem can be revealed for both parties who are suffering from the same force, then we have the beginning of achdus and unity with Hashem.


We can now thank Hashem for the opportunity.  We can now beseech Him in prayer that we wish to have His Love revealed in the world, not concealed and to please help us, that we are pained and afraid and upset but that we thank Him and are grateful that He is giving us the opportunity to open a channel into which a revealed light can shine, should He find our teshuva acceptable and remove the constriction from the force affecting all of us.  For it is not another that is causing the constriction, the matter stems from Hashem Himself Who desires for us to complete ourselves as well as the world.


The love we have to do this, is water, and water puts out fire.  The words of prayer we have are wind, and wind can blow out fire.


Alternatively, wind can spread fire quite destructively as we are seeing in California.


So it is up to us – shall we visualize for ourselves the use of wind and water to quell fire into light that shines or shall we follow middos that grab our thinking and seek to quiet their pain through fixing the external world, possibly through speech and friendships, that could collaterally inflame and damage?


We have real free will.  What we choose is what we build as our eternal identity.  Our prayer and love for Hashem are real forces (wind and water) that we can channel beseeching Hashem to peel back the constrictions involved all together so that all involved can feel and experience His Compassion and love, that each of us rise to being able to shine in that very place of pain, His love and mercy instead.


And may this new light in the world give Hashem nachas and bring a revealed world.