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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 4, 2006 / 10 Menachem-Av, 5766

Feeling Totally Alive

By Rabbi David Aaron



The secret to daily exuberance and vitality




“You who are bonded with the Lord, your G-d, are alive, totally, today.”

                       — Deuteronomy, 4:4

G-d wants to give us the greatest pleasure — His presence in our lives; to feel connected to Him. We are therefore, commanded, "To love the Lord your G-d, listen to His voice and bond to Him because He is your life (Deut 30:20)." In other words, you should love G-d because "G-d is your life": the very life force within every fiber of your being. Loving G-d is, therefore, synonymous with loving life. The Torah teaches, "You who are bonded with the Lord, your G-d, are alive, totally, today" (Deuteronomy, 4:4). The more connected we feel to G-d the more alive we feel. How can we know if we are truly bonding with G-d? It's when we feel totally alive; when our entire being is filled with a phenomenal vitality that we know we cannot honestly call our own or refer to as my life.

We feel G-d's presence when we realize that our willpower, wisdom, insights and love are really not ours but His and experience ourselves as merely serving to channel His powers into the world. In this state of connectivity we feel the joy of purposeful and meaningful living.

However, G-d cannot give us this great gift of His presence, unless we want Him in our lives. We must first know in our hearts that G-d's presence is, indeed, the greatest gift we could ever hope to receive; that it is pure ecstasy. Torah tradition teaches that we give G-d pleasure, so to speak, when we want to receive what He wants to give us.

Our problem is that we often get distracted from what's eternally real and pleasurable and pursue temporal things. Not only does this not give G-d pleasure, it causes Him, so to speak, much pain.

There is an odd verse in Bereishis (Genesis), appearing just before the generation of the flood, which says that G-d was "saddened in His heart." The commentator Sforno explains that G-d is sad when we are not ready or interested in receiving the goodness He wants to gives us. G-d wants to give us a connection to Him and shower us with His loving presence. But we do not want it. Instead, we want money, property, clothing, sex, fame and power. This is similar to the sadness and pain a nursing mother feels when her baby does not want to suck. As the saying goes, "More than the baby wants to suck, the mother wants to nurse." When a baby does not want to nurse from its mother, the mother experiences intense emotional and physical pain.

However, when we want what is truly worth wanting, we give G-d pleasure and enable His blessings to flow into our lives. We then connect not only to G-d's presence but also to our true self because our true self, the soul, is only interested in G-d. This is how King David so eloquently expressed it:

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire none on earth. As for me, G-d's nearness is my good." — Psalm 73:25-28

"My soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You." — Psalms 63:2

"To G-d alone my soul waits silently, from Him comes my salvation." — Psalms 62:2

"Yes, I will bless You all my life, in Your name I lift my hands. It is as if my desire is sated with fat and abundance, when with joyous language my mouth gives praise." — Psalms 63:5-6

In other words, to praise G-d and recognize His glory satiated King David like abundant delicacies.

The soul is not attracted to things, but rather to the presence of G-d manifest within them. Let's use a work of art as an example. When we see a magnificent painting, we are not attracted to a canvas smeared with paint. Rather, we are attracted to the beauty of G-d that is channeled into the world through the painting. But we often get confused and think it is the painting. We see a gorgeous person and we feel drawn to him or her, not realizing that it is not the person who is gorgeous but rather G-d who is gorgeous. Beauty is an attribute of G-d, and this person is only the conduit for that that beauty.

This is the goal of Torah living — to empower us to clarify and awaken our soul to desire want what we truly want and what is truly worth wanting. We study Torah to know G-d's will. We prayer to internalize G-d's will and we live the commandment to embody G-d's will. Torah life is a complete daily strategy enabling us to attuned our will to G-d's and thereby channel His blessings into our lives. For instance, G-d wants healing to be manifest. When we want and pray for G-d's healing to be manifest and seek to live healthy lives, we align our will with His will and the truth of G-d's ever-present healing becomes more manifest in the world, through us and our prayers. G-d wants the Jewish people to be redeemed. When we want and pray for redemption and actively contribute to the well being of our nation, we align our will with G-d's will and the truth of G-d's perpetual redeeming becomes more manifest in the world, through us, our prayers and our deeds. This is our service to G-d.

RESTORING OUR GODLINESS
The true meaning of wrong doing is an act of self-betrayal. The Talmud teaches that we cannot do wrong unless a spirit of insanity enters us. Indeed, we have to be out of our minds to transgress G-d's will; who only wants the best for us —the joy of connecting with Him. Therefore, when we do wrong we lose ourselves, at least temporarily. We become estranged from our G-dly essence, and we are no longer at home with our true selves. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, G-d asked them, "Where are you?" Likewise, when we do wrong we put ourselves into a state of personal exile; we become strangers to ourselves and lose our vitality.

When we transgress G-d's will, we violate our G-d-given potential. We experience a schism between who we are and who we ought to be; we feel fragmented and conflicted. Divorced from our inner self and from G-d, we suffer psychic pain and feel spiritually homeless and eventually lifeless.

Jewish mysticism metaphorically describes sin as taking holy sparks of ourselves and throwing them into exile. Teshuva — penitence — is the retrieving and redeeming those sparks.

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a great Jewish thinker of the 20th century, describes redemption as restoring our sense of personal adequacy. When we sin, we must first ask G-d to forgive us because we have violated our relationship. Then we must ask G-d to pardon us of the consequences we should pay. But wrongful acts also take a toll on our self-worth. Our failings cause us much loss of self. When we do wrong we are not only being disrespectful to G-d but also to ourselves.

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The prophet Hosea (14:2) calls, "Return, Israel, unto G-d, for you have failed in your transgressions." Hosea did not say, "you have fallen," but rather, "you have failed." Rabbi Soloveitchik explains this to mean, we are not just sinners, but we are failures. Our sins have made spiritual cripples out of us. We failed existentially, not just religiously. When we do wrong we wrong ourselves. When we do bad we end up feeling bad about ourselves.

The story of Esau is a good example of how transgression causes us to feel like failures. When Esav returns from the field and sees Jacob brewing a bean stew, he says to him, "Pour that red stuff down my throat because I am tired" Genesis 25:30). The commentator Rashi points out that the Hebrew word for pour — halitani — is a term use for describing the feeding of a horse. In other words, Esav referred to himself in a derogatory manner. Rashi also highlights that Esav said that he wanted the stew because he was tired rather than hungry. Quoting a Midrash, Rashi explains that Esav was tired because that whole day he was busy raping and killing. In other words, sin exhausts a person.

Behaving in ways that contradict our Godly inner-self is exhausting — sapped us of our life force. A person may work in a comfortable air-conditioned office, but if he feels that his work does not fit him, he will feel exhausted. On the contrary, acting in ways that befit our Godliness brings us vitality. It is likely that Esav was tired because he was depressed. When we behave in ways that are contradictory to our divine soul, we feel inadequate, depressed and tired. It is at these times that we do insane things like Esau did when he ended up selling Jacob his birthright for a pot of beans (Genesis 25:31-34).

The secret to daily exuberance and vitality is making His will our will. In others words: You who are bonded with the Lord, your G-d, are alive, totally, today

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JWR contributor Rabbi David Aaron is the founder and dean of Isralight, an international organization with programming in Israel, New York South Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Toronto. He has taught and inspired thousands of Jews who are seeking meaning in their lives and a positive connection to their Jewish roots.

He is the author of the newly released, The Secret Life of G0d, and Endless Light: The Ancient Path of Kabbalah to Love, Spiritual Growth and Personal Power , Seeing G0d and Love is my religion. (Click on links to purchase books. Sales help fund JWR.) He lives in the old City of Jerusalem with his wife and their seven children.





© 2010, Rabbi David Aaron