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Jewish World Review
Are you on a spiritual journey or ego trip?
Rabbi David Aaron
The subtle challenge of a truly Divine-centered life
Torah teaches that when we observe the mitzvos (religious duties), when we perform the commandments, we are rewarded with arichas yamim, loosely translated as "long life" but specifically meaning "long days." By filling our day with real substance every moment, we make our days long. Perhaps you have experienced a two-day event that was so meaningful that it felt more like a week. This is what happens when our days are so full.
The son of a friend of mine died at a young age from a terminal disease. Knowing that he would die before he reached 30, he told his mother, "Mom, I might not live a long life, but I will live a full life." This is the point: It is not about long life, it is about full life. You cannot have a full life unless you are fully engrossed in what you are doing right now.
The problem is that we are distracted and divided. And especially the modern world often pulls at us from all sides. There are people who cannot eat without reading the newspaper and talking on the phone at the same time. Wait a second: If you are eating, then eat! Enjoy every morsel, now it is time to eat. There is the time to talk and the time to plan. What are you doing now?
The Torah tells the story of when our great sage Abraham sees three strangers in the distance. As they approach, he runs to greet them and brings them into his tent. The Torah is very specific in telling us that he runs, he gets, and he brings them this and that. The Torah does not waste words and could have simply said, "And Abraham ran out and performed the act of ushering in the guests." Instead, the Torah gives us a play-by-play description of what Abraham did for them.
According to one of my teachers, the Torah wants us to understand that Abraham was fully immersed in every move he made. The point was not about how to feed the guests. It was about Abraham thinking about their needs at every moment and serving to channel G-d's loving presence into the world with every move he makes.
ONE OF A KIND
Revealing the divine attribute of kindness was one of Abraham's great contributions to the world. Abraham was the epitome of kindness. He had a tent that had no walls it was just doors so that he could have maximum visibility of any stranger in the vicinity, run to him and say, "Please come in, have something to eat, have something to drink."
The Midrash relates that after Abraham's guests would thank him for his hospitality, Abraham would simply say, "Don't thank me. Thank the Master of the World." If the guests weren't willing to thank G-d, Abraham would say, "Then pay me." When I first read this Midrash, I found it very strange. It sounds like some plot to bring people to G-d-consciousness by being nice to them, but only in return for their payment with faith.
Abraham, in fact, was brilliant. What he was really saying was this: "If you really don't believe in G-d, why would you think that I would do anything nice for you without any expectation of payment in return? Realize that you are valuable to me because there is a G-d and you are an expression of His very Divine Self. Therefore, I love you and care about you regardless of what you do, without any expectation of anything in return. I love you simply because you are. Love and care flows naturally from my heart to you because I am an expression of G-d and so are you. If we exist, then we are divinely valuable and should be treated in a divinely valued way.
TO SERVE HERE NOW
Dedicated to a life in service to G-d, Abraham invested all his energies to make the loving presence of G-d known on earth. He wanted a son to be the heir to his spiritual mission and continue his service spreading the truth of the G-d of love. Miraculously at a very old age Sarah conceives and they have a son Isaac. But G-d then asks Abraham to sacrifice his long awaited son. Imagine what must have gone through Abraham's head. G-d, do You know what that will do to everything I have done for You all these years? My whole mission will be destroyed. Your name that I have worked so hard to promote and sanctify on earth will be desecrated. Think of the headline on the front page of the Canaanite Times. Abraham Phony! Embraces Idolatrous Practice and Sacrifices His Son.
This story reveals the true meaning of service. G-d is asking Abraham to serve Him by giving up his life long service. In this case Abraham's service to G-d is to sacrifice his service to G-d. This is the ultimate test of true service. If you are really concerned about doing the will of G-d then simply do what He asks. G-d is saying to Abraham, "I know you're a big Rabbi and you are spreading My name on earth and I know this is going to destroy everything, but that is what I want." So this is the greatest test. Did Abraham truly dedicate his life to the service of G-d or was his mission really just an ego trip in disguise? If Abraham truly worked for G-d than he accepted that whatever the boss says goes. Abraham understands: I do not own this world and I am not the Master of history. I just work here serving to infuse this world with G-d's presence according to His will.
This is the subtle challenge of a truly G-d centered life. Am I really on spiritual journey serving G-d or just another ego trip?
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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