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In this issue

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

We don't serve an egomaniacal deity

By Rabbi David Aaron



“Behold you have sinned against G0d. And you your sin will find you.”

                        —   Numbers 23:23

THE PROCESS OF 'I'-DENTIFYING

If G0d were the sun each of us would be a ray of His divine light. The goal of the spiritual disciplines of daily Torah (Bible) life — study, prayer, meditation, and the performance of mitzvas (religious duties; plural for mitzvah), is to serve G0d and, thereby, become one with our true essence. Through these practices we experience our self an aspect and individualized expression of the Timeless Universal Self — G0d.


The 20th century philosopher Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan explains in his book Inner Space that in order to feel this powerful truth, we must learn to disengage our inner self from its outer trappings. In other words, we have to get in touch with our soul as distinct from our persona, thoughts and feelings.


The goal of disengaging the self from the outer trappings is to realize that you are not your thoughts, your emotions, your body, your money, your career or your property. These things are part of your outer persona, but they are not the inner you. You would still be you if you lost any of these things. Many people fear, however, that if they were stripped of these externals, then they would end up feeling like nothing.


There is a powerful scene in Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.), where the author describes how the Nazis would line up the Jews to select who would go to the gas chambers and who would go to the work camps. A Nazi commander would stand at the front of the line, holding up his hand by the elbow, and with one finger, he would simply point left, right, left, right. One man's little finger determined whether a person would live or die.


Unfortunately, many people think 'serving G0d' is submitting to an egomaniacal deity who dwells in heaven and demands, 'You must serve me! Obey my commandments and do them with a smile! Or else I will punish you.'


Frankl was sent into a room with others, where they were ordered, "strip, take everything off and throw it into a pile in the center of the room within two minutes!" The Jewish prisoners frantically undressed and threw their clothes in the central pile, fearful of running out of time and being killed. At the end, all they were left with was their naked existence.


Frankl, however, stood still holding his manuscripts, which contained a lifetime of research. That little cache held everything that he had ever accomplished in his psychological research. Holding his life's work, he approached the German officer and tried to explain that his possession was worth nothing to the Nazis. At first, the officer seemed to listen compassionately, but then yelled, "Throw it into the pile!" Frankl frantically persisted, "You don't understand. This is my life's work! It's just meaningless paper to you." But the Nazi just repeated, "Throw it into the pile!" Frankl obeyed the order. He, too, was left with only his naked existence. All he was is that he was.


Imagine the tragedy of his loss. But also imagine the potential spiritual growth that was available to those who went through such a challenge. Sometimes, very painful experiences offer us tremendous spiritual elevation. Frankl addresses this concept in his book, relating how many people in the concentration camps became remarkably spiritual. Those who were more religious and spiritually oriented, Frankl explains, lasted longer than those who had big physiques but lacked inner strength.


Frankl writes that after everyone had stripped the Nazis gave out concentration camp uniforms, which were previously worn by someone who had just died in a gas chamber. As Frankl put on the torn, dirty prison uniform, he reached into the pocket and found a tiny piece of paper. He took it out and saw that it was "the Shema," the Jews' daily declaration that G0d is the absolutely one and only reality. This little piece of a prayer book that another Jew had managed to keep was Frankl's exchange for his collection of manuscripts. Frankl realized that when he gave up his life's work, he got the Shema.


To me this means that when Frankl was stripped of his persona and left to confront his naked soul he was empowered to discover his true identity — identification with the source of all self worth  —  the one and only everlasting G0d. And that connection no one can take away from you.


LIBERATING THE "I" FROM EXILE

Who are we, after all? Are we our work, or are we eternal souls? If we fear that we become nothing if we let go of our persona, then we are in a state of spiritual exile. If we have always defined ourselves in terms of our career, property, social status and what others think of us, then we are not our own person. Our soul is then in exile. We are trapped in our thoughts, our feelings, our body, our money, our social status, and everything else that makes up our transient character. The soul is lost in the ego and we will feel estranged to our true selves eternally connected to G0d.


The goal of Judaism — whether it be Torah learning, meditation, prayer, or living the mitzvas — is to release the soul from its exile —to empower us to free ourselves from the chains that bind us to transience and mortality. We need to reclaim our self —our individual "I" and redirect it to its source, the "Ultimate I." When we do this, we experience the mystical meaning of the first commandment heard at Mt. Sinai 3,500 years ago: "I am" is G0d your Lord, who took you out of Egypt." This is the true path to personal empowerment, spiritual liberation, inner peace and fulfillment.

ANCHORED AND CENTERED IN G0d

Judaism refers to G0d as the "Rock of our Lives." In other words, we are truly strong and stable only when we anchor and ground ourselves within G0d — who is the bedrock of all consciousness. Judaism also teaches us that we are each created in the image of the divine and that our goal is service. In other words, that each and every one of us is an individualized expression of G0d and serve as unique channels for His presence into this world. This is our purpose and our ultimate joy.


We naturally want to experience the truth of who we. We seek a connection to a greater whole because we are connected to a greater whole. The spiritual disciplines of a commandment-driven life enable us to consciously center and anchor our self in G0d and live in service. They empower us to disengage from the outer trappings of our persona and feel at one with G0d through the joy of service.

COMMANDMENTS   —  THE ETERNAL AND INTERNAL REWARD

When the Jewish people received the commandments from G0d at Mt. Sinai they understood the difference between freedom from oppression and freedom to expression. When they left Egypt the Jewish people were only freed from Egyptian slavery but only when they accepted the commandments were free to be themselves — individualized manifestations of G0d; serving as channels for the flow of divine presence into the world. A Torah life is all about freedom and self-actualization. It is not about changing who you are but being who you.


Even when you are freed from your disorders or addictions you are still not yet free to be the total you. To be all that you can be you need to know who you really are, who is your eternal root, what is your divine purpose and service on earth.


Living the mitzvas empowers you to connect with G0d and be your true godly self. At first you may feel that obedience to G0d and the disciplinary life of mitzvas is submissive and restrictive. Ironically, however, submission and obedience to G0d becomes a source of empowerment and freedom. Through the mitzvas you can experience G0d as the essential power within you; seeking to become expressed through you. At this point, you no longer experience the commandments as acts of obedience, but rather as the free expression of your true inner divine self as an aspect of G0d.


In other words, after we make G0d's will our will and obey, we ultimately realize that His will is actually what we, in our deepest of depths, truly wanted all along, because our will is an expression and ray of His will. We, in essence, are individualized manifestations of the Soul of all souls.


The Kabbalah teaches that when we do not live the mitzvas we are as if cutting the ground from beneath our feet, cutting our self out of the bigger picture. Our life becomes one big rip off when we rip ourselves away from G0d. We suffer a self imposed spiritual exile. However, living a life of service is a homecoming and reunion with G0d. We feel plugged into the Source of all life and energized in everyway.


Unfortunately, many people think "serving G0d" is submitting to an egomaniacal deity who dwells in heaven and demands, "You must serve me! Obey my commandments and do them with a smile! Or else I will punish you." In actuality, to serve G0d means to experience complete connection to the source of all life and channel divine presence into the world. Serving G0d is like the dance serving the dancer, the song serving the singer, the speech serving the speaker.


Fulfilling the commandments — mitzvas — is not about collecting merit points to be cashed in after we die, an understanding like that may have worked for us when we were five years old (how else could our parents and teachers have explained it to us?). However, as adults we need to understand that commandments profoundly transform our life experience —-empowering us to feel plugged into the source of all life, awareness, freedom and creativity. Many people resist a lifestyle dedicated to serving G0d only because they don't understand that G0d is the source of all being, all energy, all values and ideals.


To serve G0d means to embody and channel into the world G0d's love, wisdom, understanding, kindness, justice, compassion, beauty, truth, peace, etc. When you act mercifully, you are serving to make manifest the source of all mercy. When you act intelligently, you are serving to make manifest the source of all intelligence. And when you serve justice, you are serving to make manifest the source of all justice. You experience the joy of ultimate meaning when you make your life a means to an end greater than yourself. But when you make your life the be all and end all then that is the end of your life.


The mitzvas are not simply ways to earn reward and avoid punishment. Rather, they express our true divine essence — who we really are and who we are part of — in the language of human behavior.


When we behave in disaccord with the mitzvas, we block out G0d's presence from our world. Conversely, when we behave in a way that expresses G0d, we become a channel for G0d's presence and fill the world with blessing.


When we betray G0d, we are ultimately betraying ourselves. It is for this reason that when Adam sinned, he and Eve ran and hid behind a bush. As the Torah relates, G0d called out to Adam and said, "Where are you?" The question was rhetorical. What G0d was really saying to Adam and Eve was, "Where are you? You betrayed yourself."


Our wrong doings are self-betrayals. They not only fail to manifest G0d in the world but they also prevent us from expressing and experiencing who we really are. All wrongdoing is based on being someone we're not, whether we know it or not. We will not be punished for our sin but by our sins. Nor will we be rewarded for our service but by our service. Being who we are; experiencing our connection to G0d is paradise itself.

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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.





© 2005, Rabbi David Aaron