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December 2, 2014

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

Transformation in the true reality: The Battle Between Body and Soul

By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski





http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Man's soul is totally spiritual, a Divine entity which G-d gave to man. This soul, which strives for spiritual delights, is housed in a physical and essentially animal body, whose strivings are anathema to the soul. Yet, the only way that the soul can reach its coveted position in the eternal world is via the mitzvos, religious duties which can only be performed by a physical body.

The soul wishes to direct the body toward its goals, whereas the cravings inherent within man's animal body are in direct contradiction to the soul's aspirations; hence there is a fierce struggle between body and soul, a struggle in which man is engaged throughout his entire lifetime.

In order to assist man in his task of fulfilling the mitzvos, RaMCHaL (d. 1746 ) discusses the middos (character traits) which are conducive to man's mission and those which detract there from.

A somewhat different approach is taken by chassidic philosophy, which states that G-d wished to have a presence in the physical world. Again, we are at a total loss to understand why G-d would wish this, but as pointed out earlier, we cannot understand anything about the nature of G-d's will.

The Divine presence in the earthly world is brought about by the performance of mitzvos. Since the latter requires material objects, these mundane objects are transformed into spiritual items of holiness. Similarly, when one utilizes the energy gained from eating food to perform mitzvos, the food which enables this performance is elevated to holiness.

Since a person cannot function optimally without proper clothing and shelter or without the funds to acquire the necessities of life, everything that he does can be transformed into objects or acts of holiness, and this brings about the Divine presence in the physical world, which is the ultimate purpose of man.

In Tanya, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (d. 1812 ) states that man's purpose is to discover the truth of all existence, which is that everything in the universe exists only because of a spark of Divinity within it. He points out that there is a tendency for all things to remain in their natural state unless there is a strong enough force to drive them from it. For example, the natural state of a stone lying on the ground is to remain there by the force of gravity, unless lifted by a force that exceeds the gravitational pull. If someone throws the stone high into the air, it will continue to rise only as long as the force of the thrower exceeds the gravitational pull. Once this force is exhausted, the stone returns to rest on the ground again.

Since there was nothing in existence prior to Creation, the natural state of the universe is nothingness. It required a force to bring the world into existence, and this force was the command of G-d for everything to come into being. If this force were ever exhausted, the universe would disappear into nothingness again. Creation was thus not a single historical incident, but is essentially an ongoing process.


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Rabbi Shneur Zalman points out that whereas an object fashioned by a craftsman continues to exist after it has left his hands, this is because the material from which the object was formed was in existence without the craftsman, and he merely altered its shape. This is different than the universe coming out of nothingness, which requires a sustaining force to keep it in existence.

Within everything on earth, from the largest to the most miniscule, there is a spark of Divinity which maintains it in existence. This Divine spark is concealed by the physical object it inhabits, and if man's perception were pure, he would see this Divine spark. The physical objects thus mask the reality of G-d's presence in everything.

Since everything is totally effaced in the Divine presence, the only true reality is G-d, but in order for us to function as mortals, we see the objects as though they had an independent existence. Man's purpose is to penetrate the cloaks of concealment and recognize the true reality. Thus, Rabbi Shneur Zalman says, the last phrase of the verse in the Torah which states that "G-d is the Lord in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other," (Deuteronomy 4:39) should better be read "there is nothing else." The only true existence is G-d.

It is related that the chassidic master, Rabbi Mendel of Rimanov, was walking with his disciples, when they came across a crying child. "Why are you crying?" Rabbi Mendel asked. "Because we are playing hide and seek. I hid myself, but none of the children is trying to find me." Rabbi Mendel turned to his disciples and said, "Can you imagine the anguish of G-d, Who concealed Himself within the physical world, but no one is trying to find Him!"


The kabbalists state that "It is the intent of the good to do good," and inasmuch as G-d is the ultimate of goodness, He created the universe in order that there be recipients of His goodness. This, then, is the purpose behind Creation, and man's purpose is to be the recipient of that goodness. This ties in with RaMCHaL's position, because the greatest good that man can attain is to be in the Divine presence in the eternal world.

However, since something that is not earned cannot be fully enjoyed, and receiving undeserved reward may actually be uncomfortable and would therefore not be the greatest good, G-d designed the world in a manner that would enable man to earn his reward.

This approach requires a profound trust and belief in Divine benevolence. As we witness the enormous amount of suffering that occurs on earth, we may find it difficult to believe that man was created to receive Divine benevolence. The suffering and atrocities inflicted on people by others may be explained by the fact that man has free will, and that G-d does not intervene to prevent evil people from acting out their evil intent. However, there is also much suffering that is not due to human free will, such as painful and incurable diseases, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other "acts of G-d" in which we are hard pressed to find any good. Yet, our highly spiritual people did just that, as exemplified by Nachum Ish Gamzu, who was able to accept all suffering as being good (Talmud, Taanis 21a).

Few of us can reach the level of faith and trust of Nachum Ish Gamzu, but we may be capable of understanding why we cannot do so.

Think of this scenario: A person who has never heard of physicians, medical treatment, and surgery, happens to wander into an operating room. There he sees a helpless person lying on the table, surrounded by masked people, one of whom appears to be suffocating him by covering his nose and mouth, while the others are cutting him open and appear to be dismembering him. Enraged by this unspeakable torture, he may attack this "team of hoodlums" in order to save the "victim." He has no way of knowing that what he perceives to be pure evil and torture is actually a lifesaving procedure. Likewise, with our limited human perception we cannot see any good in the happenings which appear to us to be evil rather than good.

The mystery of human suffering cannot be satisfactorily resolved. The Talmud quotes Rabbi Meir as saying that Moses wished to understand this, but G-d did not reveal it to him (Berachos 7a). According to one opinion in the Talmud, Moses wrote the Book of Job (Bava Basra 14b), where this vexing question is discussed, and all explanations for why bad things happen to good people are rebutted.

It has been said that if one believes in G-d, human suffering does not need to make any sense. If one does not believe in G-d, nothing makes any sense.

There are variations on the themes of the purpose of Creation and that of human existence in the Torah literature, and the common denominator is that man can achieve his ultimate purpose only by following the Divine commandments. This is the Jewish answer to the question raised by exercising the unique human capacity of searching for meaning in one's life.

In Dearer than Life (Mesorah Publications, 1997) I pointed out that for any thinking person, a life devoid of meaning is intolerable. We can thus see the inadequacy of the appellation Homo sapiens as defining man. A person may have superior intellect and may have acquired an enormous fund of knowledge. He may even have composed important works, but if he lacks an ultimate transcendental purpose, and sees no goal in life other than personal gratification, he is lacking in an important component of humanity. We therefore have the Torah concept of mesiras nefesh, of willingness to give up personal gratification in pursuit of the ultimate purpose of life.

It is the willingness to endure self-sacrifice for a higher goal that gives life meaning. The Talmud relates that when Rabbi Akiva was being tortured to death, his disciples asked, "Master, is this the desired goal?" to which Rabbi Akiva responded, "All my life I have aspired to this" (Talmud, Berachos 61a), by which he meant that it was not the act of martyrdom per se that gives meaning to life, because many people who led rather inane lives accepted martyrdom when their loyalty to G-d was challenged.


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Rather, it is the aspiration to offer oneself up for the glory of G-d that makes life purposeful. It is this aspiration which indicates that one has assigned the participation in earthly activities to its proper place, and that one indeed has an ultimate, transcendent goal.

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Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. is a psychiatrist and ordained rabbi. He is the founder of the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh, a leading center for addiction treatment. An Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, he is a prolific author, with dozens of books to his credit, including, "Twerski on Spirituality", from which this was excerpted (Sales of this book help fund JWR).

Previously:


Man's mission: We are alive, obviously, for a reason. What is it?

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